We Should Study God’s Word in Community and Expect Significant Outcomes
Have you ever been part of a group Bible study? Over the years I’ve experienced many, but they always felt lacking. I never stuck with them for the long-term, preferring to study the Bible with just me and the Holy Spirit.
It should be much more effective to study the Bible in a group environment, where everyone works together to understand the text, sharing insight with one another. But I always felt something was missing.
The reason is that these gatherings for group Bible study invariably treat examining God’s Word as the goal, and not a path to something better. They read the text, discuss it, and leave having a smug satisfaction that they’re better off for having done so.
Yet aside from intellectual discourse about the text, nothing else happens. Frankly, they usually forget any new insights as soon as they leave.
This isn’t to dismiss the benefits of community Bible study. It’s to urge us to adopt a grander expectation when we gather for community study. We must look beyond the cerebral gathering of knowledge, and seek spiritual benefits beyond that shallow endeavor.
Here are things that could and should result from group Bible study:
Reform our Behavior
Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the Bible can cause us to change how we act. If we allow it to, group Bible study can reform our behavior. It can evoke a change, a personal reformation—even a group reformation.
Provide Mutual Encouragement
As we seek to allow Bible passages and lessons to change our behavior, we can encourage one another. This is a huge benefit of studying the Bible in community. Yet too often the opportunity for encouragement isn’t part of the group Bible study practice. But it should be.
Studying the word of God in a group setting provides the potential for us to worship God. Yes, some texts—especially some of the Psalms—overflow with praise. Most any text allows us to worship God, if only we’ll let it.
This can happen when we study the Bible in community, but in my experience it rarely does.
The purpose of reading the Bible isn’t the stuff information into our head. I suspect that most Christians already know more about the Bible than they’re applying to their life. Additional Bible study does nothing to change this.
We need to apply what we’ve already learned before we learn more. We need to put God’s word into practice. This requires being intentional. And as we seek to apply the Word of God in our personal lives, we can encourage one another as we do—back to the second benefit.
See how these outcomes from group Bible study all connect with each other? But to realize these benefits, we can’t do group Bible study as we’ve always done it. We need a fresh approach.
We need to move beyond the intellectual discourse of the Bible and embrace the practical use of its words. Then we can take to heart Paul’s words to Timothy that the Bible teaches us, rebukes us, corrects us, and trains us in right living.
This is to equip us for service to God, (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Group Bible study can do this.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.