Many folks on Facebook and Twitter asked how the first week of our “Love Wins” book discussion went at church – this seemed the easiest way to keep everyone up to date. I may or may not continue with weekly updates, depending on your interest in the topic, so let me know in the comments if this is something you’d be interested in reading once a week for the next five weeks.
About five minutes before nine, a couple walked in and sat down. Then three or four more people came in. Then two more couples. We pulled another table over. People just kept coming in – soon we had 18 people around three tables.
Enough people to stone me, or at least start a good sized riot in our small town of Gap.
I had decided that since a lot of people hadn’t started the book, I would use week one to lay down some ground rules for discussion (some of which were proposed by you wonderful folks last week). We talked about two separate Bible verses and then reviewed three “rules”:
Romans 14:4 – Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.
Isaiah 55:8,9 – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Rule 1 – Do not interrupt. Everyone will be allowed to finish their thoughts.
Rule 2 – This class is not your personal forum to convince us about whether or not you feel Rob Bell is correct. The purpose of this class is for each of us to personally explore scripture and ask questions in the context of this small community about heaven, hell and salvation. If you use this class as a soap box, you will be asked not to return.
Rule 3 – Be nice.
As we started talking, we also introduced a fourth rule – no one is allowed to say “Rob Bell thinks” or “The Bible says” without having a page number from the book or a scripture verse to back up their claims. These issues are difficult enough to discuss without folks quoting (or misquoting) out of context.
Then a few people shared their initial thoughts:
“Rob Bell is a universalist and believes everyone is going to heaven. The Bible says only a select few will be saved” (this is what brought about Rule 4).
“Ever since I came back to church, I find it hard to believe that God would send my old friends to hell. They’re good people. That’s why I’m here – I want to see what the Bible says about this stuff.”
“I read the first chapter of the book and it brought a lot of questions to my mind. Sometimes he made me so mad I had to put the book down. But that’s what makes a good book, isn’t it? Something that makes you think. Something you might disagree with sometimes.”
All in all, a productive and peaceful beginning to what I think will be an intriguing six weeks.
What do you think? Would you be interested in a discussion group like this? If you go to church, would your church encourage or discourage an activity based around “Love Wins”?