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.
Not 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?
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?