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

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