One of the things that drew me to this congregation was that they had an active and lively Sunday morning Bible study. Though attendance varied, I heard that it was not uncommon to have forty or fifty people stay after the first service for the study time. My former congregation, a much larger one, had a hard time generating half that many.
I looked forward to leading the Sunday morning Bible study as well, although (I will admit it now), I started to find the schedule intimidating. Every single week, there was worship at 9:00, Adult Bible Study at 10:00 and another worship service at 11:00. I looked around for different kinds of Adult Studies we could do. This church does NOT take a break in the summer, so I jumped right in with a study of worship, and began the year with a 10 week video and Bible study of Grace. We also studied hymns for Advent and Faith Practices during Lent and Easter.
I'll tell you what, it was challenging to do the preparation every week and also to find good study resources.
And then summer came. We decided to have one worship service during the summer. We decided to have Bible study before worship, instead of after worship. And someone suggested that instead of a series, as we had been doing, perhaps we could do something different every week. That seemed like a good idea, but again, a lot of preparation.
Someone ordered a couple of pamphlets: one, on the life of Paul, and another one, on favorite Bible passages. After a couple of false starts, I decided that we would use the Pamphlet on the life of Paul, and use selected portions of Acts, until we ran out of time.
There were no video supplements. There were no workbooks. There was no "Leader's Guide." There was just this pamphlet with some of the exciting things that happened to Paul in it. Every week, I looked at the pamphlet, chose a couple of Bible passages, and on Sunday morning, those of us who happened to be in attendance read the Bible, asked questions and had a conversation.
On Saturday night I spent a little time studying the Scripture passages I had chosen. Not a LOT of time. I wasn't trying to study so much that I would impress everyone with my superior Bible knowledge. Just a review of the narrative, a little bit of commentary. There were still times I ended up saying, "I don't know. I'll check that out by next week."
There were no bells, no whistles. It was just us, and the Bible, and our questions.
And you know what? I had a good time. I felt energized by our conversation together, by what we were discovering as we studied the Bible together. We discovered that when we studied the book of Acts, all kinds of contemporary issues also arose: persecution, immigration, evangelism, other religions, whatever was happening in the world.
As much as I enjoyed the ten week study of Grace, and the study of worship, and Faith Practices, this was the most fun I had had all year. It is the thing I love to do the best: reading the Bible with other people. It is not Standing Up and Lecturing People About the Bible (which has its place, and I can do that, too, but it is not my favorite thing).
It is just this simple conversation, where I ask people: what did you notice in this passage of Scripture? What questions do you have? What stuck out for you? What do you think God is saying/doing here? We all wrestle with the questions, and their meaning for our lives, together.
Together. Deep down inside, I think this is how the Bible is meant to be read: together. Maybe it's just two, or maybe three or four, or maybe a whole congregation, listening together. Somehow it happens though, when we read and ponder, wonder and wrestle together, that our lives are enriched and transformed, again and again.
Just us, the Bible, and our questions. That's how God changes us. That's how God is changing me.