Friday, December 02, 2011

Book Review: Iron Sharpens Iron

One of the features of most evangelical churches is some sort of Bible study/fellowship group/small group/cell group, call it what you will. In our new parish we don't currently have anything like that - yet! But how to go about starting a fellowship group? What are the essential principles? Where would you start?

As I've moved from team ministry to currently being without colleagues, I'm finding that more of my reading is targeted towards ministry, and particularly towards learning those things that I'm not very good at. Thankfully a recently publish book by Orlando Saer is just what was needed when considering fellowship groups. The title may not suggest it, but the subtitle surely does: 'Iron Sharpens Iron: Leading Bible-Oriented Small Groups that Thrive.'

Saer has been involved in small groups for twenty years, and this little volume is the distilling of wisdom, both his and other people's, in an easy to read format. Straight out of the trap, he deals with the burning question - why small group Bible study? With a few careful warnings about how the 'vertical can be pushed out by the horizontal', 'the message sidelined by the method', and the 'pooling of ignorance' in Bible studies, he then outlines the positives - simple, but essential things: small groups are a good place to listen to God, to speak to God, to care for one another, and to reach the lost.

There are also chapters on leadership qualifications, motivations and goals; some practical tips on managing the group - the life cycle of a group was very useful in our situation of seeking to begin to plan for a new group; preparing for the meetings by studying the Bible and devising questions (my weakest point); leading the meeting by fostering the right atmosphere, dealing with the noisy people (and the shy people!), and working together; and the topic of prayer, care and personal nurture.

The chapters aren't too long, aren't patronising, and give the right balance of encouragement, support, and drive to get going (or continue) in small group settings. The Bible input is spot on, always helpfully explained, and the illustrations he uses are first class. You'll have to read the book to discover what a long distance engagement, the Inca Trail and Emperor Penguins have to show us about small group Bible studies!

This will be most helpful for those in church leadership seeking to set up a new batch of small groups, or as a good resource for training and equipping small group leaders. It would also be useful for any member of a small group to see how they can play their part in their group, and be praying for and encouraging their leaders. I highly recommend this book!

Iron Sharpens Iron is currently available at the Good Book Company website for £5.

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