How much are you getting from your Bible study? Are you being challenged? When you get together with friends or a small group, what kinds of questions do you ask each other?
Do you want more from your Bible study?
I did not grow up in the Church so I didn’t have anyone to tell me what the church tradition or denominational stance was. I have a degree in English Literature, so I used the same principles to study the Bible. I bought a study Bible and read the beginning pages on how to study Scripture; I followed the cross references, read books, listened to several perspectives, searched commentaries and concordances and dictionaries. I asked ‘why’ and ‘where’ and ‘what for’ and ‘so what’ a lot. I debated with peers, was confused and prayed a lot, joined several Bible studies and tried a couple of different churches.
Ladies, we should be demanding more from our Bible study.
Let me ask you this: Why do you study the Bible?
□ To learn more about the Bible
□ To learn more about God
When the focus is simply on memorization, on rote regurgitation – head knowledge, then we’re missing out on so much! Studying our Bibles is important, we’re called to meditate on it day and night, but the purpose of all that mediation is to know God better. You might be able to recite the entire book of Romans, but do you know the heart of God? Do you know God’s character?
The Problem With Book Studies
I have worked through more studies than I would care to number that ask asinine (maybe that’s too strong – how about ‘pointlessly simple’) questions such as search the text for fill-in-the-blank answers – the same kind used in elementary school reading comprehension tests.
*in my best caveman voice* Yes, Lisa can read.
Questions that encourage rote responses promote a shallow and immature faith that won’t stand up under social pressure, persecution, or help you explain why you believe what you believe. A shallow faith is eviscerated in a university lecture hall, through a death in the family, or a health crisis.
Bible Study vs Book Club
A typical study: Women get together and chat, they fill-in-the-blanks, eat. They don’t go off-script or search out anything beyond the Sunday School answer (answer keys provided – helpful :/ ). Over 20 years of attending ladies Bible studies in various formats and churches, and there were many times I never even brought my Bible. I didn’t need it.
Studying the study books is not a Bible study – it’s a book club! Women devour these small 6 week studies, let’s-just-skip-the-personal-questions, and pat themselves on the back for putting forth minimal effort! (Obviously, I’m being slightly facetious.)
The Last Two Hundred Years
Here’s a quick history lesson (readers digest version – stay with me). The Modern Era stretched from 1750 – 1980 and brought the printing press, the Bible was translated into everyday language, and the focus in Christianity turned to individuals reading and interpreting the Bible for themselves.
Modernity was characterized by absolutism. Everything was black or white, right or wrong. So, if Joe read the Bible and interpreted it one way, he starts a new church (over 300 denominations were created in these years) because if he’s right that means no other church is teaching the gospel correctly ergo everyone else is wrong. (If you’re inclined to read more this is a great resource from Equip Magazine.)
Churches reacted by becoming isolationist in that they dictated what their people studied, how they gathered, what was taught. And there’s wisdom in this, but in a world where everything was black or white – good or evil – churched or secular, these skim-the-surface study guide books were the only way to keep more than one denomination happy (aka – sell more books).
In order to have a growing and mature faith, you have to dig deeper where life gets messy, answers stop being black and white, and you might have to agree to disagree.
It’s time we aimed a little higher IMHO. Through the fire, right!
I really really love my pastor, and I have learned a lot from him, but I haven’t agreed with every single thing he’s said. Admittedly I haven’t asked him directly, but I don’t think he expects me to.
A lot of women hear something from someone they believe is a more mature believer than they are and accept it blindly. Sadly, the problem with this is (remembering the church is full of imperfect people and we’re married to imperfect people) that many are misled, manipulated, sometimes abused or taken advantage of because they don’t question what’s said or the motives behind them. Test everything against Scripture and study context.
Don’t settle, my friends. I believed I was the only one who yearned to get together with other woman and just open our Bibles and see what God would teach us through the Scripture and each other (and eat banana bread). But I’m not alone and neither are you.
It’s important to have a couple of mature believers in the group to make sure things don’t go off the rails and get all crazy-train-legalistic. It’s important to have the freedom to ask a question and have someone say – I don’t know, let me answer you next week. This doesn’t have to be the definitive study you do on that topic or book of the Bible. Each time you study the Bible, you’ll get something new out of it. God’s Word never returns void.
There are a few really good guided Bible study books out there, but most of the time what I get out of them is the door they open to deeper personal study and the discipline of studying every day. We are privileged in North America to have so many seminary-trained leaders and gifted preachers, and it’s important to know what theologians and seminarians think about particular issues or passages we’re studying, but we neglect studying the Bible on our own at the peril of our faith.
Next week I’m beginning a study with some friends on the book of Acts. Go hard or go home, right. 😛 If you’re interested in seeing the process I go through to study on my own, let me know in the comments. I’d love to share that with you if there’s interest.