Another Stupid Bible Study

There are no wacky coffeehouses in Springfield.

I’ve been to some crazy little java joints in Kansas City and St. Louis with lots of edgy art, painfully miscellaneous furniture, parental advisory music, lengthy vegan menus, and baristas with tattoos on their faces.

This will never be the case in my city, because the Springfield coffee scene is owned by the Christians.

Bible StudyNot that my ideal hang-out necessarily includes trash art or vegan fare. But neither do I close my eyes and imagine a venue where every other table sports five open Bibles and two actual beverages. This is characteristic of the boilerplate Bible studies that have inundated Springfield’s caffeine-dealers with Christian college students, accountability groups, and Sunday school classes who’ve been looking for a change of venue.

Before I go any further, let me say that I’ve got nothing whatsoever against these people. And if they are benefiting from the experience, I say more power to them… they’re not bothering me. If I fear just one negative effect of their existence, it is the bible-study-stigma they create in the minds of millenials, post-moderns and post-Christians. I know this, because it happened to me.

And if I have zero interest in attending Another Stupid Bible Study, you can bet your Flanders-glasses that I don’t want to lead one.

Nevertheless… it seems my mind keeps wandering back to the idea. I can’t help but notice that there are a lot of people who really do want to work through books or passages of the Bible in a methodical way. Even more importantly, they want to learn how to interpret God’s words for themselves, and eventually show others how to interpret God’s words for themselves. Because, for anyone following Christ, doesn’t this sound like the essence of the command to “make disciples”? But at the same time, one sighting of a metal folding chair or a fill-in-the-blanks workbook, and they’re outta here. (Because I would be too.) It has to be conversational, it has to be open-minded, and it has to be altogether unique.

So I can’t get the idea out of my head… and this is where I need your help. The last thing I want to do is carefully piece something together based solely on my own stigmas and preferences and interpretations. So here are some questions for you, in case this sounds like something you maybe always wanted to jump into.

1) How important is conversation? Should everyone have a strong voice, regardless how unfamiliar he/she is with Scripture?

2) What types of passages should be addressed first and most often? Gospels? Letters? Narratives? Character Studies? Endtimes?

3) How important is it to learn new interpretive information from the facilitator? Do you want “teaching” mixed into it, or would you prefer something entirely dialogical?

4) How intensive should it be? Is it more preferable to offend intellectuals, or laypeople? How important is it to be able to jump in and out at will?

5) How Christian should it be? Should a Buddhist or Muslim or Atheist feel comfortable? or does this undermine the effectiveness of the discipleship process?

I do appreciate your input here. And for those living in Springfield, I plan to have an open forum at the Front Porch this Wednesday evening at 7:30 pm to talk over these ideas in person. In other words, Another Stupid Forum. Tempting, right?

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3 Responses to Another Stupid Bible Study

  1. Silvey says:

    As for a Bible study,

    Those questions are all crucial to what kind of Bible study you’re intending to create. The biggest factor in my opinion would be how much time do you intend to allocate because that facilitates what type of possibilities will happen in a small group setting whether in being accountable, coming to a better understanding of the Bible, or in having a deeper understanding of Christ. More fellowship based Bible studies where people are allowed to speak where they are after or before reading the Bible tends to create the most solid connection and attendance rate. I think a committed schedule of what you plan to read and a group conference on what people would like to read encourages a safe and inviting atmosphere. Also, is this a Bible study for Christians, non-believers, both, or Front Porch people? I think encouraging people to speak and listen is needed. Different areas of the Bible are going to affect people in different ways. A solid scope helps bring the group together whether it’s trying to understand God from the beginning, who is Christ, what is the church, what is sin, etc. Having that kind of scope helps to then pick which parts of the Bible since it is quite the challenge to consume the entire Bible in one group. It should not be a setting where people argue incessantly because that will push people away instantly and harvest arrogance rather than understanding. That’s a sure fire strikeout. It should be intellectual, and if people need to define what is intellectual than so be it. Having pithy disagreements usually will prevent people from opening up and being real about their selves and instead hide in pointless, fruitless conversation that leads to nowhere. I’ve seen that destroy studies when leadership disappears from stimulating an environmentally inviting presence. If you want good study, let anyone who wants to join in, but don’t let them take the reigns and go to town with it — smart leadership will prevent controlling methods that have no place. The Christians should be on task whether noticeably or not at keeping it in the right domain or at least relatively so. People like to babble about things and sometimes that’s good to air out stress and should be encouraged because sometimes shifting from 0 to 100 on spirituality is just poor exercising. As for how strong someone’s voice should be, if you really have solid Christians in the group, people are going to notice their perspective(s) and look to that when tough questions or unmitigated responses appear. People shouldn’t be discouraged to speak; no one should feel bad in a Bible study setting. And anyone in a Bible study setting should know that the focus is on God even when the book disappears and people start talking about the nonsense in their lives. The Bible is really just there as a hook for conversation.

    Oh, and no one should be trying to out due people with their impressive capabilities, thoughts, whatnot. These type of people will appear… and will be need to be guided toward humility.

  2. You need to be crystal clear on the objective you’re shooting for and then be true to that objective. And you need to have multiple ways for people to engage—different ways for different types of people and people at different “stages” in their faith journey. There needs to be some place where people who are open to the concept of Truth hear a “herald” proclaim that Truth with boldness. And there probably ought to be a few in there who are initially closed to that concept.

    Whether in a group setting or one-on-one, disciples of Jesus should always be speaking Truth in all its rich variety, with sensitivity to the “listener/s.” A dialogue remains “open” so long as the speaker does a good job of listening, before, during and after the conversation. The issue is not so much whether to speak in absolute terms, but how to speak. Scripture has several terms for this: preaching, proclaiming, teaching, instruction, along with more specific types (e.g., admonition, encouragement, exhortation). The biggest question we have to answer is, How open are we to letting God’s voice be heard in a conversation, assuming that Scripture itself is the foundational part of that (the Spirit serving in merely an illuminative and applicational role)?

    Those are a few thoughts, by no means thorough. :-)

    Peace…

  3. The Bereans were open to the Truth, but as any good inductive student would do, they searched the scrolls for themselves which may explain why Dr. Luke referred to them as noble-minded. This Greek word (eugenes, Strong’s # 2104 from eu = good, well génos = race, family) can mean “of noble birth”, but in context conveys the idea that these men and women were open-minded, unbiased and characterized by a willingness to learn and evaluate something fairly. This is the attitude we should have as we begin to explore a passage inductively. The moment we come to a passage and say “I know what this one means”, we are in “trouble”.

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