The Deeper Connections small group studies are in-depth DVD studies which connect the Bible to everyday life. There are three different studies available and focus on the prayers of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus and the parables of Jesus. Each DVD contains 6 lessons in which Jarrett Stevens (college & singles director at North Point Community Church) hosts as well as sets up the lessons in the Holy Land then is taught by respected Bible scholars and teachers. The teachers are Dr. Ben Witherinton, Dr. Matt Williams, Dr. Michael Wilkins, Dr. Mark Strauss, Dr. David Garland, and Dr. Gary Burge. They are in a contemporary location which they tie into the teaching or act of Jesus.
Each sessions teaching is broken down into three segments with small group discussion time (from the participants guide) in between. The teaching is (intentionally or not, I'm not sure) segmented much like the NIV Application Commentary. First, the group is taught what the original meaning of the text was. This is called the Bible connections segment. The teacher shows how the original audience may have felt, or what cultural meanings would have been understood by them, which we today may not always be aware of. The next segment is the bridging point where the teacher digs a bit deeper and helps the hearer make the connection between the people in Jesus' audience and the people reading the text today. This is called the going deeper segment. The last segment shows the contemporary significance of the text. Here the teacher puts application and lays out a challenge for the audience of today from the text. This is the connecting the Bible to life portion.
At first I thought this would be much like the Faith Lessons series by Ray Vander Laan (which is quite good). This is because Jarrett Stevens is on location in Israel and giving some background, a little reminiscent of Faith Lessons. However, it is totally different - in a good way. I am very high on the NIV Application Commentary series & and am very excited that this small group study follows the same type of pattern. I feel it does a great service to understanding the text as well as being able to glean application for our current situation.
The teachers are all highly respected and soundly evangelical. They make their lessons digestible without dumbing them down. My hope is that Zondervan continues to produce more in this series.