Churches: What kind of Bible study do you really want your people in?

Last night I met with a young disciple who told me she believes in God, and she believes He has a plan for her life, but she doesn’t know how to discover that plan, so she asked for my help.

Bible Study
I happened to be on stage one Sunday, talking about a different way to study the Bible.

She told me her story. She told me about her search for spiritual answers. She told me about the churches she had visited, looking for a way to connect with God. Nothing seemed to “click” until she visited Living Springs, the church family I belong to.

In fact, the first time she was there happened to be a Sunday when I was on the stage. I was sharing about the Bible study I was having with my Jehovah’s Witness neighbor. My neighbor and I met together week after week for about two years, reading our Bibles, disagreeing with each other, arguing, joking, thinking, and praying for each other. I learned a lot through the experience.

The need to read

When this young disciple heard my story that Sunday, she thought, “That’s what I need. Bible study.” She had attended Catholic church as a child, but she had never read the Bible for herself.

So she signed up for one of the Bible studies offered at my church.

But it wasn’t what she thought it would be.

In that Bible study, she did not learn to study the Bible. She watched a video of someone teaching about the Bible, and she completed a workbook about what the video had taught. But at the end of the course, she still didn’t know how to read the Bible herself.

Lies about Bible study

Now, I fully believe that people like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Beth Moore are gifted teachers. And maybe there is a place in our churches for their professionally produced presentations.

But I worry about the prominence we give these video teachings. We promote them as Bible studies, when they are really more like motivational speeches. We feast on them for the spiritual nutrition they offer, but we rarely burn those spiritual calories in any kind of spiritual exercise.

But here’s what I hate:

I hate it when we advance the lie that these videos can make anyone a successful Bible study leader.

I have heard leaders in my own beloved church use this kind of sales pitch to encourage people to step up and volunteer to host a Bible study: “It’s easy. We give you everything you need. Just pop in this video and follow the study guide. Anyone can do it.”

Aargh! That is so many kinds of false!

  • Do we really want our Bible study leaders to be people who volunteered because they thought it would be easy?
  • Do we really believe it’s easy to lead a Bible study?
  • Do we really feel that efficient distribution of pre-packaged knowledge is what Bible study is all about?
  • And do we really want to demean the efforts of Bible study leaders who don’t depend on a VCR and a study guide, but instead carefully create an environment where people dare to ask real questions, confess real sins, express real doubts, accept real differences, and form real relationships with each other?

No, no, no, and no. God, no.

Truth about Bible study

The truth is, Bible study is hard. But not because the Bible is hard.

Bible study is hard because it’s counter-church-cultural. The idea of two or more average people meeting to read the Bible together and ask questions about what they’ve just read—that’s not popular in today’s church! This kind of Bible study can’t be packaged in a slick, off-the-shelf kit. There’s no fancy-schmancy two-minute promo to show during the offering. There’s no sign-up sheet or bulletin announcement or child care. So we don’t promote this kind of Bible study.

And that’s too bad. Because this is exactly the kind of Bible study we need more of.

We don’t need more Beth Moore. There’s only one Beth Moore, and only she can teach like she teaches. Her teaching is good, but it’s not really replicable. It’s entertaining to watch, but intimidating to follow.

What we need is Average Joe Bible Reader who is willing to talk about what he’s reading. Joe is not intimidating. We can follow him. We can do what he does.

He’s the kind of leader our churches should be investing in. That’s the kind of Bible study we should be promoting.

Truth about me

So I met with this young disciple last night, and we talked for about an hour—about the Bible, about church, about family. At the end, she called me Teacher, and she thanked me.

But I thanked her too. Because I got as much out of it as she did.

The truth is, I’m on the journey too. I don’t have all the answers. I have some, and I’m happy to share what I know.

But I need to keep learning too.

And an average person like me can’t do that alone.



2 thoughts on “Churches: What kind of Bible study do you really want your people in?”

  1. I feel very strongly about bible study!
    I was saved through bible study and have continued to grow , learn and lead through the ministry if coffee break inductive bible studies! In 1979 when I became a believer we had the Wednesday morning groups as we do now, but also had evening groups that were more co ed and in homes. Real bible study. Learning for yourself what the bible means to us today!
    The video led studies and the community groups are good. ! But neither if them is a bible study!
    Come to Coffee Break Wednesdays at 9-11:30
    Maybe well grow out into the evenings again !!? Leader training and support provided !

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