Iron Sharpens Iron: Leading Bible-Oriented Small Groups that Thrive by Orlando Saer

iron-sharpens-ironA refreshingly short and easy-to-read book on leading bible study groups (link to the book on Amazon). The book is helpfully structured and easy to read. It contains some material that will be familiar to those who have already read the Growth Group material from Matthias Media.

The title of the book is a reference to Proverbs 27:17 that says: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Here are my notes and idea summaries from each of the chapters.
Chapter 1 Small is beautiful
Pitfalls of growth groups:

  • The vertical pushed out by the horizontal: they can turn into little more than social groups.
  • The message sidelined by the method: members can become addicts to one way of encountering God.
  • The blind led by the blind: meetings can become simply opportunities to pool ignorance.


  • The New Testament abounds with instructions to Christian believers to do things to ‘one another’. For example, we are to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16), to pray for one another (Eph. 6:18), to carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) and to work with one another in evangelism (literally ‘with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel’, Phil. 1:27 KJV).
  • A good place to listen to God: each can help the others study the Bible.
  • A good place to talk to God: each can pray for the others in an informed way.
  • A good place to care for one another: each can carry the others’ burdens.
  • A good place from which to reach the lost: members can work together to advance the gospel.

Chapter 2 – preparing for leadership
Its leadership qualities rather than details that have the biggest impact in your life
Suitability for christian leadership depends on an all-round godliness of life.
Leadership is for those with a proven record of practical godliness and doctrinal orthodoxy.
Leadership can be approached with wrong motivations and misconceptions.
Leadership involves setting goals for others.

Set a high bar like Paul
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Col. 1:28-29)Chapter 3  Managing the group
Stages (like an airplane)
  • Taxing
  • Takeoff – food, welcome input and discussion on the group
  • Climb – social events, model vulnerability
  • Cruise  – functioning well, develop leaders, weather turbulence
  • Descent – inevitable? New members, new leaders?
  • Land – avoid crash
Chapter 4 Map out the study
Lead the group to new discovery like finding a hidden city!

What does it say? – be prayerful, reflective, inquisitive. What is intention e.g illustrate, exhort, instruct etc
What does it mean? – chief point and scaffolding points
What does it mean for me? -

  • truth to be believed
  • attitudes to foster – feelings, heart attitudes
  • behaviour to be modified
    • Alert
    • Bold
    • Concrete
Pinpoint the main point – what do I want the group to come away with??

Be creative about the method. Direct questions are one way, there are others… Address questions, summarize, reenact… Keep your nose in the text. Use questions to lead to the heart of the passage, don’t squeeze out everything.

Types of questions

  • Kickoff question – goal oriented and engaging
  • Probing – dig deeper
  • Context
  • Summarise
Chapter 5  leading the meeting

Crib sheet
Keep asking questions
Identify and handle all the different roles
Develop trust, harmony, loyalty

Chapter 6 Prayer, Care and Personal Nurture
Like penguins, keep each other warm – Christian fellowship
Model the behavior/set the tone/set the pace e.g. model vulnerability, decision making process,
1:1 – Colossians 3:15. Putting to death via sniper fire
Work hard but play hard

What’s Best Next by Matt Perman

WhatsBestNextI found this book very helpful in pulling together all the good parts of different productivity systems and combining them in a way that keeps the gospel and working out it’s implications as the primary focus of our lives.

The book is very systematic and detailed, with helpful summaries and action points for each chapter.

If you’ve read much Steve Covey, David Allen and Scott Belsky, you will find a lot of his productivity theory familiar. I was able to skip over some bits that I’ve previously read and already benefited a lot from, from the other authors.

A few things I found particularly helpful:

  • schedule my whole week, and not just 9-5, so that I can actually give prayerful thought to how I can plan to do good
  • no man has a right to be idle. Be productive, so that I can do more good
  • integrate prayer in all aspects of productivity and planning
  • serve up (those above me in authority), and serve down
  • if you have the planning and architecting of your life right, at any given moment, you can ask the question ‘what’s best next’ and proceed in that way
  • planning my week is about maximising myself

You can buy this online from Amazon. Here is the table of contents.

Some of my notes and key take-aways:

The book is all about combining theology and time management.
Productivity is about

  • effectiveness (not efficiency)
  • character (not technique)
  • God and others first
  • engagement (not control).

Measure productivity by results not activity
Focus on outcomes, not activities

This is about doing all things in the best way to the glory of God.

We need to learn how to work and be effective in a knowledge economy, where work is not defined, and we need to manage ambiguity and overload.

Do the RIGHT things, not just more of the wrong things in an efficient manner

The most important reality is a person, not a principle.

Being productive is maximising my stewardship of time, talents and resources.
It is in the mundane things we do everyday that we serve God and others
God wants us to do good works (Matt 5:16), so be productive to do as much good as I can

Be abundant and liberal in doing good
Be useful! Be joyful in obedience
Love is the guiding principle of productivity. Put others first
Character manifests itself in action (By their fruit…)
Let all your debts be motivated by love

Get everything out of your head in prayer
Only secure people can serve (i.e. justified by faith)

Decide what really matters, and then do it.
Do one thing at a time, and do first things first

What is my purpose – overall reason for existence – glorify God and enjoy him
What are my principles – the things I would live and die for
What are my core beliefs – gospel
What are my life goals – the things I really want to do and God wants me to do

Create a structure and routines for my week
Time is like space, it gets filled up, it needs to be managed well
To get more done, reduce – schedule to 70% and focus on getting each thing done.

Delegation is great because it’s also an act of love to empower others

Pray, pray, pray as I plan.

If I find I am procrastinating too much, maybe I am doing the wrong job?

Don’t spend all my energy climbing the ladder only to discover I am on the wrong ladder!

Be proactive – intentional, planned, prepared – about doing GOOD!

  • who will I intentionally seek to bless this week
  • what opportunities do I have
  • what blocks or risks are involved
  • what do I need to do to prepare today

Christian love disposes Christians to be public spirited – Jeremiah 29:7

Be creative, competent and audacious in doing all the good you can in the world

Make being useful the main design and ambition of your life, so that the world would be better for us having lived in it.

The Viral Gospel: How Finding Your Person of Peace Accelerates Your Mission

viral-gospel“In this new eBook, missional leader Alex Absalom offers a thorough explanation and exploration of the “Person of Peace” strategy that Jesus used throughout His ministry.”

A short, free, and intriguing e-book on the idea of the ‘Person of peace’. I’d never heard of this particular evangelism and missional strategy before. It’s biblical basis largely appears to be Luke 10 where Jesus sends out the 70 disciples on mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Continue reading “The Viral Gospel: How Finding Your Person of Peace Accelerates Your Mission” »

The Complete Evangelism Guidebook: Expert Advice on Reaching Others for Christ

I c51ggcFnmT8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_an’t remember how much I paid for this book, only that I picked it up for cheap from a Koorong stand at Belgrave Heights Men’s Convention a couple of years ago.

From a brief glimpse at the back cover and contents, I could tell it was a pretty good deal – over 70 chapters of practical advice from nearly 60 evangelism experts covering a whole range of considerations and tactics and statistics and apologetics and types of people and angles to consider… Continue reading “The Complete Evangelism Guidebook: Expert Advice on Reaching Others for Christ” »

World War Z review

I am a big fan of zombie apocalypse fiction, and the whole post apocalyptic genre in general. I don’t understand why, and I’ve continued to avoid self analysing too much. But I agree it’s a strange genre for a Christian to be enthralled by. I’ve seen all the movies and the TV shows, and so this was my first Zombie novel. I picked it up for cheap from Amazon for my Kindle as some light holiday reading, which indeed it was. I hear there has been a movie made, and it’s entertained me enough that I will no doubt watch the movie at some stage, although I’m in not great rush. Continue reading “World War Z review” »