Back to Bible Basics
A no-frills approach to Bible engagement in Charlotte, N.C. is spreading God's Word beyond the four walls of the church.
March 22, 2017Print this article
“I really made a mistake,” thought Mark Gott, a Christian attorney in Charlotte, N.C.
Gott had invited one of his colleagues to help start a Bible reading group for law professionals in their city. Only she wasn’t just any colleague.
“[She was] actually a judge who presides over some of my cases,” Gott says. “She never replied.”
For two long days, Gott worried that his reputation as a lawyer was in jeopardy. That’s when the judge stopped him in the hallway.
She was in.
Thanks to Gott’s leap of faith, he and his colleague now lead a thriving Bible reading group for law professionals in the Charlotte area. But the experience taught Gott a valuable lesson.
“It’s easy to do ministry in the context of a local church,” Gott says. “It’s a lot harder in your workplace.”
While sharing God’s Word in his workplace hasn’t been easy, Gott says the unique format of his reading group has made all the difference.
The “Bible Cluster” that Gott helps facilitate is a no-frills approach to Bible engagement that’s gaining traction in Charlotte. By emphasizing communal reading rather than formal teaching, Bible Clusters provide a safe space for seekers to explore God’s Word, often for the very first time.
And with support from American Bible Society’s financial and prayer partners, a ministry called Charlotte Awake is training new Bible Cluster facilitators to help spiritually curious people encounter the power of God’s Word beyond the four walls of the church.
The genius of this approach resides not in its novelty, but rather in its simplicity.
“At the heart of Bible Clusters is a focus on encountering God in his Word,” says David Ingrassia, the stewarding pastor of Charlotte Awake and one of the leaders behind the Bible Clusters movement.
To help participants seek God in the pages of Scripture, Bible Clusters eliminate many elements found within traditional Bible studies, most notably, a leader who teaches through a curriculum.
“We remove the middle man,” says Ingrassia. “We go straight to the Word of God to let God speak for himself.”
What results is a weekly small group in which participants do three simple things.
“They read the Bible, they talk about the Bible, and then they close in prayer,” says Ingrassia. “In that process, they’re encountering God through his Word. That’s the key to the whole thing.”
But maintaining this simple formula is no simple task. That’s why Bible Clusters rely on group facilitators to keep discussions focused on the text of Scripture and to ensure that everyone can safely voice their thoughts and questions.
Gott knows firsthand that this isn’t always easy. Fostering honest discussion about the Bible—especially among new believers—means biting your tongue when somebody voices an opinion you disagree with.
“We really have to rely more on the Holy Spirit and trust those in the group,” Gott says.
But Gott insists that the benefits of this open discussion far outweigh the challenges.
“I’m seeing different flavors, if you will, of what the Church is,” he says. “What unites us far outweighs what divides us.”
To train believers like Gott in the art of running a Bible Cluster, American Bible Society’s financial partners have come alongside Charlotte Awake to produce an online video training module for new facilitators. In addition to growing this vibrant ministry in Charlotte, the online training materials make it possible to scale Bible Clusters well beyond the Carolinas.
“People don’t even have to come to Charlotte Awake to get Bible Clusters.” says Ingrassia. “Every believer actually becomes an ambassador of the gospel, because now they can engage at work … in their neighborhoods … at home. There are no barriers to this.”
For now, Ingrassia is happy to see this Bible movement changing lives in his hometown. One of his favorite testimonies comes from a banker who felt comfortable enough to bring his Hindu coworker to a Bible Cluster.
“By the time [the Hindu coworker] left, he could see through the people, the love of God, and through the Word, the truth of God,” says Ingrassia. “Those were the first steps of evangelism.”
Through the faithful support of American Bible Society’s financial and prayer partners, everyone from lawyers to bankers to students to retirees are more confident than ever sharing God’s Word in every sphere of life. Bible Clusters aren’t reinventing Scripture engagement, but they are injecting fresh life into the Church’s 2,000-year-old mission.
“This is a way in which everybody can engage in the mission that Christ gave us—to make disciples of all nations,” Ingrassia says.
To equip leaders in the U.S. with the power of God’s Word, visit ABSRecord.com/Bibles
Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.
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