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My office phone rang one afternoon. When I answered it, I was delighted to hear the voice of a friend who pastors a rural congregation in northeast Iowa. Our conversation centered upon the revitalization of the local church. We chatted about worship styles, staffing for growth, youth ministry models, spiritual gifts discovery instruments, and fresh approaches to stewardship. As the lively conversation drew to a close, my friend and colleague asked a pointed question. He said, "My congregation has limited human and financial resources, so if you could suggest only one thing that a congregation might do in order to be transformed for effective ministry in the twenty-first century, what would it be?" Without a moment's hesitation, I replied, "Disciple Bible study."
My quick response was surprising even to me. In my work as a local church consultant, I typically resist offering simple, quick-fix solutions in response to complex, long-term situations. However, my most recent pastoral experience convinced me that the Disciple Bible study program is an effective tool for opening the Bible to the congregation and, thereby, God's instrument of transformation in the life and ministry of the local church. Confident that it could be multiplied by pastors using such resources as Kerygma or the Bethel Series, my story celebrates the varied and plentiful fruits of Disciple Bible study at the Colesburg United Methodist Church over the past six years. At the risk of sounding like a sales person for the United Methodist Publishing House, I share my conviction that the method of this God-inspired resource is leading to a new reformation as the Bible is made accessible to the people, resulting in their transformation and, ultimately, the revitalization of the ministry of the local church.
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