Everyone has a unique story, childhood, and background. And as LifeGroup Leaders, we get to see this played out regularly in the life-giving conversations we have with our LifeGroup. When differences come up, we navigate them with empathy and curiosity, finding common ground and celebrating that diversity makes us better followers of Jesus.
But sometimes when people have differing perspectives on Scripture or beliefs, it can be tricky or challenging to know what to do. And if we’re studying the Bible together, these moments could come up frequently. When they do, it’s important to have a plan so that you can respond—not react.
If incorporating Scripture into your LifeGroup is something new, start by having a conversation with your group. Set expectations, and consider sharing the different church backgrounds of the people in your group. After all, different experiences, denominations, and interpretations are going to be present in your group, and it’s better that everyone is aware of the diversity of thought in the group.
So how do we approach the Bible together when we have different perspectives and backgrounds?
- Start with the core beliefs you agree on. These are the truths that are essential to our belief in Jesus. These beliefs include the truth that God is our ultimate Creator, that the Bible is God’s Word to us, the salvation is a free gift to us that we must accept, and more. Our essential beliefs are the foundation we build our faith on—individually and with others.
- Begin these discussions with prayer. Taking time to pray together is a great way to reconcile different perspectives and beliefs. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide your conversation, and ask that He would bring unity and truth to your time together. Empower the people in your group by asking a different person to pray each time you’re together.
- Ask open-ended questions that invite conversation. When people have differing interpretations, it’s a great opportunity for discussion. And these discussions help us grow as followers of Jesus, so approach these conversations with openness and curiosity. Some great questions to consider are things like:
- Tell me about how you came to that perspective.
- I’ve never thought of it that way. Can you share more about that?
- How did you come to that perspective?
- When you hear that passage of Scripture, what thoughts and feelings come up for you? Why do you think that stands out?
- What do we think is the greater context for this passage?
- Who was writing this? Who were they writing to? What does that tell us today?
- How does this passage inspire us to live and love more like Jesus?
- What did you learn about God from reading that part of Scripture? Where did you see His character on display?
You can also share what you’re learning personally and encourage others to share what they’re currently learning, too.
It’s best to encourage your LifeGroup to ask questions out of curiosity, not to defend existing beliefs.
4. Spend more time listening than talking. As you’re exploring God’s Word together, there could be moments when you disagree with a belief or interpretation that’s being shared. And you may not be alone in that feeling. So lead the way by listening before you ask questions. In fact, it’s best to encourage your LifeGroup to ask questions out of curiosity, and not to defend existing beliefs. Like Pastor Craig has often said—our goal isn’t just to be right. Our goal is to be loving.
Your LifeGroup doesn’t need to agree on every detail and verse in the Bible to be united in Christ.
5. It’s okay if you disagree—in fact, it’s probably inevitable! Your LifeGroup doesn’t need to agree on every detail and verse in the Bible to be united in Christ. Unify around the core, essential beliefs, and don’t sweat about the nonessentials. Instead, focus on having a healthy conversation that challenges everyone to seek God more.
6. If you get stuck, look to Jesus. Look at the words He says, but also look at the way He lived. Jesus was patient and gentle, even when He shared truth that was difficult to hear or contradictory to the culture He was in. Different perspectives can stir your faith and bring you closer to Jesus as you find clarity and truth together.
Remember that as a LifeGroup Leader, it’s not your job to have all the answers or to know all the “correct” interpretations of the Bible. Instead, lead the way in embracing the many perspectives that are present in your group. It’s a beautiful picture of God’s Kingdom and the many people He has invited into it.