This is a practice we have not only engaged a few times in our large worship gatherings on Sundays but is one we embrace throughout WCC’s missional communities (Life Connections groups) once a month.
Dwelling in the Word is a spiritual practice of reading and dwelling in the biblical text with an openness to be formed and transformed by the living Word. This practice is a unique way of allowing God to speak to us both individually and then communally. Dwelling in the Word values listening deeply to God and to one another. We read for spiritual formation by coming to Scripture and allowing the text to engage our lives and address us, as we are encountered by the God who still speaks.
In an information saturated culture, we must know that there is a difference between approaching God’s Word through informational reading and formational reading. Many Christians are unfamiliar with approaching God’s Word for formational reading, so it may be new and perhaps awkward at first. But as we dwell in God’s Word in community, we open ourselves to what God may be saying to us in and through a text. This has been the testimony of many in our Life-Connections groups.
Five Insights for Why We Practice Dwelling in the Word:
- We dwell in God’s Word to gain new insights and understandings — not seeing only what we heard or read about a particular text or what we think we know about it.
- We read and listen to the Scripture text aware of God’s presence — not reading quickly and unconsciously.
- We desire to be shaped by God’s Word — not control God’s Word based on our desires, wants, or needs.
- We become humble servants of the text — not masters of it.
- We benefit from and need a variety of ways to approach God’s Word. The Spirit of God has the power to transform our lives in whatever way we approach the Scripture. Dwelling in the Word within the context of community invites the Spirit to penetrate to the innermost being of our personal and communal lives. It is here that God desires to dwell.
There are three basic “moves” to practicing Dwelling in the Word:
Move 1: Choose the Text.
► A Scripture passage is chosen to dwell on for an extended period of time with the hope that it informs and transforms the way we live in our neighborhoods, networks and third places.
Move 2: Dwelling in the Word begins by Preparing to Listen
► Before the passage is read, remain in silence. Invite each listener to remain aware of what word or phrase that could captures each hearer’s attention. Feel free to use one of the questions below for reflection.
- After reading the text aloud allow a few moments of silence following the reading to reflect on a word, phrase, or question.
▪ What word or phrase catches your imagination?
▪ How does this text read us and our world?
▪ What is God doing in this text? What are God’s followers doing in the text?
▪ What is God saying to us through this passage? How are we being changed or transformed in our personal and communal life?
▪ What does following Jesus look like in the text?
▪ How does this text inform us about what following Jesus looks like for us here and now?
Move 3: Read the Scripture text again. After reading followed by a few moments of silence, draw back together as a community or family
► The reader invites each person to share with what we call “a reasonably friendly-looking person-stranger” for a few minutes. In larger community this should be someone they do not know very well or do not talk with regularly.
► Invite each one to take turns listening attentively and carefully to the other. Listen the other into “free speech” regarding their questions and reflections of the text. Listen carefully so that each can share what they heard the other share.
- “Free speech” means we are not trying to correct one another’s reflection. We are simply allowing people to process Scripture while trusting the Spirit to work.
- This a practice in listening and in speaking; listening both to God and one another
► After sharing in pairs, each person will introduce their partner and what they heard shared about the text (meaning, challenges, etc.).
► Together everyone listens to identify if there are any common themes or particular reflections that were significant for all present.