In these days of trials and trouble, I find that the topic of Bible study has come up several times in the course of regular conversation. Unprecedented times, I believe, have led many to turn to the source of truth, guidance, and comfort. With the shaking of the Church, I also see a renewed hunger for in-depth study. People just aren’t satisfied anymore with a study that gives them little time to interact with others or the ability to ask the hard questions.
Having lived in countries where Christ followers were in the minority and faced real persecution for proclaiming their faith in Jesus, I’ve relished the times with those aware of the privilege to have a copy of God’s love story to mankind. This is also one reason that my Friday Focus posts have been all about the words Jesus spoke in the later part of John’s gospel. We need to hear from the Source today — no commentary needed.
And yet, God calls teachers to help believers better understand the Word. Some of you might be that in your country of service or even here in the States. So, the question for us today is:
How do we teach the Bible?
If I am working with a person who has yet to accept Christ as Savior, the way I teach will look different from the way I work with believers. My role as teacher is more pronounced with the nonbeliever, because only one of us has the Holy Spirit to allow for insight and understanding. I don’t consider such a relationship discipleship or even “doing” Bible study. We’re reading the Word together, but my role is to help explain what it means and to see how God wants to use it to draw them to himself.
When working with believers, I prefer the title of facilitator. Though I may be the oldest believer in the group, have seminary or church training in teaching, I am still just one of a group of believers. The Holy Spirit is not more in me than he is in a two-week-old believer, and more times than not, I learn more from these babes in the faith when we study together than they do from me. It doesn’t mean I don’t guide the discussion or counter any ideas that don’t coincide with the Bible, but I work to be on equal footing with the others. Why? There’s a reason:
When I serve as facilitator instead of teacher, I’m giving each person value and the understanding that they too can lead a Bible study.
Wait a minute? Could I really be saying that? A young believer lead a study? Absolutely. Think about what the apostle Paul did. At the end of his first missionary journey, he and Barnabas returned to many of the cities where they had preached and taught, and after encouraging them, they “appointed elders for them in each church.” Now, in some of these churches these “elders” may have been under Paul’s teaching for a few months, maybe even a year, but think about the fact that they had no full book of the scriptures, as we do today. They had mostly verbal teaching that they would then rely on to keep the church growing and develop new believers. Wow, what a challenge that must have been. Still, Paul empowered them to carry on the work he and Barnabas had started, and that is what we are to do as well.
So, how do I teach with “just” the Bible?
Begin with prayer — before, during, and after. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to know which book to start with and to see the insights he’s wanting you to share with the group.
In a conversation today with a friend, we were talking about this very subject, and as she was speaking, I wrote down her directives to the women in her group, as they prepared to walk through Genesis, chapter by chapter. It’s worth sharing:
- In a notebook, write a summary of the chapter. This is great as participants can later go back and have a quick reference of each chapter in a particular book.
- What was your Aha moment as you read?
- Where did you see Jesus in this chapter? Yes, that’s right, we can see Jesus ALL over the Bible!
- Tie what you saw to a New Testament verse or passage, if possible.
- How can you apply what you’ve read to your life?
I loved these simple instructions. I might add: What did you learn new about God through this chapter?
As she told her women: If you have a question about something, Google it, but just make sure your sources align with God’s Word. Not everything on the Internet will be biblically based or sound, but it shouldn’t stop you from asking questions. Of course, this is where a good, prepared teacher comes in. You know, as you study ahead, that certain questions might arise in a passage. That’s when you do your homework, so you help in answering those questions when you meet.
If you take a chapter at a time, while I think it’s important to read the text, you don’t have to study it verse by verse. Take it in chunks to discuss or choose a select few verses to go deep on. You want structured interaction while being careful not to chase too many rabbits (I say too many, because rabbits do show up). Make sure your quiet ones are talking and not just a few dominant personalities.
Also, remember that application can happen in a variety of ways:
- Compare your present situation with the biblical situation.
- Evaluate your actions in light of the biblical text.
- Suggest new solutions to old problems.
Above all, leave room for the Holy Spirit to work and interrupt your plans. These are always my favorite times in any study group.
I pray that 2021 will be a year of deep diving into God’s Word for you and those you serve — to his glory and the building of his Kingdom.
Grace and Peace