One of the reasons the Discovery Bible Study (DBS) method is so powerful (and so attractive when it is used): group participation.
The 4 questions commonly used in DBS (what does it tell you about God, people, what is there to obey, and who will you share with) are aimed at immediate application.
When you have one teacher’s perspective on the Scripture, it’s usually aimed at a larger group (e.g. a pastor for a church of several hundred or thousand, or a speaker at a conference). Thus the ‘lessons given’ are usually very broad concepts, and applying them to our personal life can be problematic.
In a ‘seeker-driven church,’ the public sermons are often aimed at people who are newer to the faith; people who are older in the faith can struggle without material that fits their situation.
The people in a small group, however, are often closer in life situation to you.
When we ‘go around the circle’ and share what the Holy Spirit is prompting in us for each of the questions, the things we see and the things that we apply have a greater chance of helping someone else in the small group–because they are closer in life situation.
Plus, of course, we get the chance to week after week follow each other’s stories, share with each other, encourage one another, and build each other up.
Gathering together in a larger group for corporate worship is powerful. But Discovery Bible Study in a small group can bring a completely different and equally important dynamic of shared spiritual life–and that, passed on, can be very attractive to seekers.
One error that we can make, which can short-circuit this, is to try to replicate the ‘corporate church’ experience in the ‘small group’ setting. We do this when we have one teacher rather than group participation, or when we are unwilling to sit in a bit of a silent moment and wait for the next person to respond. Group participation, being the church together, is critical–so let’s encourage our small groups not to take ‘easy ways out.’