Why not Start a Bible Study?
It was a quiet Thursday morning when I awoke to do my morning devotions. Don't think me the super Christian because of this; it wasn't a pretty sight. I rolled off the bed like a primary school child, one hand clinging to my sheets and the other fingering through the pages of a tattered bible. I was half-blind, drunk with sleep and had morning breath that could kill a small bird. Probably the furthest time from which I would expect God to speak but He was there and He wasn't silent.
I had a burden on my heart that morning for the truth of God's word in the lives of His people. I knew many who laboured over:
- Studies (*add your degree/education here*)
- Jobs (“I hope my list of extra-curricular activities on my resume is long enough...”)
- Women (“Only 2 years older than me? I can live with that...”)
- Men (“Only 2 years younger than me? I can live with that...”)
- Health (“This KFC Real Deal will be the death of me...”)
- Fitness (“2 laps around UWI? – Lord, take me now...”)
- *Insert further labours here*
But what place did they give the word of God in their lives? What place did I give it in my life? This troubled me.
As important as it was though, it was not my only burden. I was a post-university student with a steady job, a fiancé and very much involved in church ministry. At face value, it might have appeared as though everything was in line. But on the inside, I was personally burdened by what I would say now was a desire for true togetherness with Christian brothers and sisters.
So sincerely, I prayed to God for help- and he answered.
“Why not start a Bible Study?” The thought floated along a river and dumped into an ocean of good reasons why I should not. What will we study? Who will come? Where will we meet? Will they think it interesting? At the very worst, we would sit around a hard wooden table on uncomfortable chairs and get eaten by mosquitoes, while no one except me said a word for thirty minutes straight. Yet even if those things happened, perhaps just as likely, the Spirit could begin or continue to work. There was a sense of God’s leading that I could not shake. I contacted some people who had expressed a desire to study the word of God more and that evening, about six of us met over Luke 19:1-10 and a pot of soup. I didn’t imagine God would relieve both of those burdens through this one avenue. Being a Christian for several years now, when I thought God could not ‘catch me off guard’ I was genuinely surprised, and full of thanks.
Studying the Bible is for every believer (and unbeliever, if they’re honestly searching) at any and every stage in their Christian walk. It’s one of those tools in the shed that has been tested and proven. Sadly, it’s often the last tool we use.
The major focus of this blog post is not how to conduct a Bible study. No need to re-invent the wheel. For some helpful guidelines on conducting one, check out Intervarsity’s website here: http://www.intervarsity.org/bible-studies and https://urbana.org/go-and-do/missional-life/taking-manuscript-study-back-campus#prep.
Note: Personally, I’ve used the “Manuscript Bible Study” format that I learned at Urbana 12. There, I sat in a room of over 300 people, met in small groups of 6-7 persons and discussed God’s word in a way I had never done before. The studies were fresh, authentic and presented by experienced personnel who made it insightful and edifying. I’m writing this post in the hope that by sharing briefly what studying God’s word in a small group has done for me, you would feel led to start a study group among your peers.
Seeing things at eye level
Passages that I’ve read several times become clearer as I saw them at ‘eye level’ and from different, but equally valuable perspectives. During one study, we were ankle deep in Matthew 18:21-35 (the parable of the unforgiving servant). Jesus was talking to Peter about putting limits on forgiveness. As stated by one attendee that day, “the denari of which my brother/sister requires forgiveness is absolutely nothing compared to the thousands of talents worth that God has forgiven me.” Studying this passage helped me see the magnitude of my own forgiven sin before God. We were there playing out the passage in our minds, looking at the vast difference between what each servant owed, feeling grieved over the one who was blind to the enormous debt he was forgiven of and thankful to God for His Son who took our debt of sin on Himself. It was a simple but deeply significant time of study and fellowship.
Sharing in close bonds of fellowship
In a small group, we couldn’t help but get involved in each other’s lives and indeed, we wanted to do so. Caring for Christian brothers and sisters allows us to share something of what I’ve read in Acts: being of one accord. It’s a togetherness that I’ve only experienced where Christ is the centre of a group. I see that same study group now and think of them as family. We care about each other’s lives and celebrate each other’s victories; I have gone to them with my prayer requests and I often pray for them. Studying God’s word in a small group is nurturing a unique type of fellowship in our lives.
Being surrounded by others who share a heart for the word of God has granted me great joy. Never have I more enjoyed meeting with believers to hear how the word of God affects their hearts and guides their thoughts, molding and shaping them as clay in a potter’s hands. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing when He chose an intimate circle of twelve to be the start of Christianity. God can use such a small group to nurture and disciple believers into close bonds of fellowship, to serve as support for when the torrents pound and the wind tosses about. Just as importantly, the word can be firmly planted in our hearts as the go-to tool for life’s various struggles.
As a final recommendation, I want to tell you that our group has never felt pressured by numbers. The aim here is not to start a church and experts recommend that groups of this sort contain their numbers to about ten to twelve persons. However many you decide to study with, keep God’s word at the group’s centre. Where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there. Happy studying!