Have you ever forgotten that you had something? I don’t mean that it was stashed away in a box in the garage, out of sight and out of mind. I mean it was in plain sight but you forgot about it. Then, you meet someone who is excited about this thing that they have, and you discover it’s the thing you have. You used to be excited about it. You used to want to show it off. What happened? This is what happened to me the first time I read Haverim by Paul Gibbs. I got excited again for something I had lost sight of over the years; a passion to help others study God’s word so as to transform their lives and the world around them. That’s the promise of Haverim.
What got me was not the “how” of Haverim Devotions, though it is tremendously cool and I will come back to it. What got me was the “why.” The “why” was so provocative that I thoroughly checked out Pais, the ministry of which Paul is for founder. I read through the entire site. I even asked if I could attend one of their annual conferences even though I wasn’t a member of the ministry, and they let me come. Paul’s “why” resonated so strongly with what I was thinking and processing as the pastor of a church that it was like I had found the only other person who spoke my language in a crowded room of aliens, except Paul had an accent (he’s British and that makes me love him all the more!). The bulk of this review is about the “why.”
Do we have a maturity problem?
Paul observed many of the same trends that I had. People in our culture and churches are becoming less and less Bible literate. He goes on to call the time we are in the “dim ages” in contrast to the “dark ages.” In the dark ages no one could read a Bible for themselves. They had to rely on priests to read, teach, and interpret. We face a similar dilemma today.
In fact, many of us are more likely to know the words of Max, Bill, Rick, and Francis than we are to know the words of Matthew, Mark, Like and John”1
Paul then quotes Hebrews 5:12
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (NKJV)
At this point I think I put the book down and exclaimed, “Finally! Someone else gets it!” You see, I had been noticing something about the upcoming generation but hadn’t seen enough to feel like I could speak authoritatively about it. And then Paul said it.
As a larger number of millennials join [Pais] fewer and fewer are coming to us from churches that have equipped them with a passion or a process to discover the Word of God. They love to worship but they do not know how to study. 2
It would make for a compelling case study to interview people who join Pais as an apprentice before they go in and after they are done.
What we’re doing isn’t working
We know how to draw people, but we’ve lost sight how to equip them. Equip them for what? Building God’s Kingdom. This is the thing that sets Haverim Devotions apart from typical Bible study. It isn’t an academic, get smarter about the Bible approach. When one says “Bible study” that’s what comes to mind. I myself, along with other expository Bible teachers have said that the church doesn’t need more Bible studies, meaning we don’t need more head knowledge. Instead, we need to be about our Father’s business. We need more Bible obedience. Only, it isn’t an either-or scenario. One leads to the other, but we’ve disconnected them somehow.
Haverim bridges this gap.
Paul really nails this one.
Something isn’t working. By that, I mean the purely invitational approach that first brings in a crowd through a great presentation, and then follows up with optional Bible studies for those wanting to fill in the blanks on a worksheet. That idea is compromised, incomplete, and shortsighted. 3
I actually wrote in my margin, “Oh snap!” Why? Because I tried to introduce Haverim Devotions to the small groups ministry at a church I used to work at, and they opted for a fill in the blanks worksheet. I don’t work there anymore.
Another thought along these lines.
The church once again becomes a training center. Not the place to simply come and learn, but the place to come and learn how to go and teach. 4
In other words, Haverim Devotions doesn’t teach us what to think, but how to think. What’s more, it equips us with a way to share it with anyone.
These are the “whys” that I love. These speak to me.
So What Is It?
This is not a new program, it’s an old process. This is not something to be packaged and distributed, it is something that is to be a shared experience.
I’m not going to share the details of what it is or how it works. I’m hoping you will buy the book using my affiliate link at the end of this article. To me it’s more important to know the big picture “why” along with the “why” that Paul provides for each of the steps. Here is where it comes from and what it looks like.
Haverim Devotions is based on an ancient Rabinnic process summarized in the acronym PRDS, pronounces “pardes.” It’s a Persian word meaning a walled orchard, park, or garden. It’s where we get our word “paradise”. Specifically it is a “garden of knowledge”.
There are four steps to the process.
- P’shat, or the Intended meaning.
- R’mez, or the Implied meaning.
- D’rash, or the Interpreted meaning.
- S’od, or the Inspired meaning.
If you go into it just expecting more head knowledge, you will certainly get it, and that’s where it will end. If you go into the garden with a desire to encounter the Living God, you will get that, and that’s where it will begin.
Isn’t this just Inductive Bible Study?
Yes, and no. There are many parallels to the processes. In fact, Paul is not the first person I heard refer to this Bible study process. But he is the first to make it accessible to anyone.
Each step builds on the other. You have the opportunity to build a basic Bible study library which every Christian can (and should) have right on their smart phone these days, much of it for free. You need this for the Intended meaning because you are looking at it at face value. Who wrote it? When? Why? From where and to whom?
Next you connect the dots to other scriptures which helps you see the interconnectedness of the entire Bible. That’s probably my favorite bit.
Then you try to get in the heads and hearts of the people in the passage. Put yourself in the story. Why did they do what they did? Why did they say what they said? You can even put yourself in the position of God because He is a “character” in every verse.
Lastly, and this is what sets it apart from Inductive Bible Study, you give room for the Holy Spirit to speak. He may speak to you. Or, He may speak through you to someone else in the group.
All of these steps are described in detail with examples, tips, and resources. Perhaps the most important piece in all of this is that Haverim means “friends who study together.” The Bible is primarily meant to be read and lived in community with others. You can do this on your own, but it is so much better done in a group.
Wrapping It Up
Granted this hasn’t been a traditional book review. But then this isn’t a traditional book. To me, it’s more about the conscience than the content. It’s about getting back to the role God’s word is supposed to play in the lives of God’s people. Not just a text or rule book to live by, but a message to live out and into which we are to invite others.
Of course, Paul says it best.
When will we all agree that we need large, attractive churches, but designed from the foundation up with an approach to the Word of God that can go viral? When will we commit to a study of the Scriptures that helps the saints understand the heart of God, not just His rewards? When will we create, promote, and teach a form of Bible study that can be passed on by the average Christian to their neighbor? When will we even see that as important?
When will we redesign our programs to produce the kind of people who will participate in the mission Jesus had in mind?
When will we be able to truly believe in all that we do? 5
Amen, and amen.
The Website – https://haverimdevotions.com
Pais Movement – https://paismovement.com
Paul on Twitter – https://twitter.com/paulcgibbs