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Six Tips for Dwelling with Philippians

Here’s how other Philippians study groups have fit the project to their settings.

Here’s how other Philippians study groups have fit the project to their settings.

  • Be flexible. Groups have used both Paul for Everyone: the Prison Letters and Dwelling with Philippians but in different proportions. Both books divide Philippians into 16 segments, and Third Christian Reformed Church in Lynden, Washington, did a 16-sermon series. Calvin College and Hope College in Holland, Michigan,suggested a ten-week study to fit their academic calendars. Monroe Community Church’s summer series was shorter.
  • Notice patterns. Celebration Fellowship compiled a chart, “People in Prison put Philippians in Perspective,” that listed word repetitions in Paul’s letter, such as prayers, pure, preach, pleasing, power, peace, plenty, and purpose.
  • Memorize the text. Tom Kok, pastor of Third CRC in Lynden, delivered each week’s text from memory. He challenged the congregation to memorize and tell the Scripture for the day. “Two people took me up. It was fun to have them speak the Word from their hearts,” Kok says. He spoke the book of Philippians from memory as the message for the series’ final evening service.
  • Get creative. Kok had done a 16-sermon series on Philippians in a previous church. He says, “Dwelling with Philippians awakened sensitivities to the text that I hadn't had before.” Third CRC created congregational refrains from Philippians 1 and 2. Kok used written poems as prayers. The congregation especially liked singing the poem “Always Rejoicing, Ceaselessly Praying” after a study group member discovered it matches the tune of “Morning Has Broken." Another member wrote seven poems based on Philippians 2:5-4:23 and shared them in the church newsletter.
  • Re-use resources and methods. Wright’s book includes Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, so several Calvin College groups that formed for Philippians went on to dwell with Ephesians. Because Dwelling with Philippians has 40 pages of indexes, you can easily find resources relevant to Ephesians, other books of the Bible, or themes such as eager hope. Dwelling color codes content best for praying, reflecting, professing, praising, or Scripture reading. While writing a congregational prayer, you can skim for green font or shading to find songs or hymns—which reminds you that singing can be a way of praying.
  • Expect God’s promises to come true. Most Christians know Philippians as a letter of love and joy. “We heard a striking call to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the name of Christ, firmly refusing to let the kinds of things that might ordinarily drive people apart drive us apart. We’re moving from two—very stylistically different—morning worship services to a single morning service. We’ve been led by the Spirit to understand more and more our call to be involved in the community and to have a unified voice as we live out the reality of the gospel here in Lynden. I hope Philippians will resonate in folks' hearts as we do the hard work of living in unity so that our witness might have the power Jesus intended it to have,” Kok says.

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