I've been a part of my Bible study group for about 4 years now, and I really like it. I've attended some Bible studies at church before, but never really connected. After I got married, my mom invited me to the one she attended. It was just her, three coworkers, and their boss's wife. The boss's wife moved away, and the group changed a little. And more people started attending, and the group changed a little more. At one time we met in each other's houses (which I liked, because it was cozy and felt like we had something in common with the early church.) The hostess would fix dinner for everyone, and a good time was had by all. Then we moved to a room at my mom's church (which also used to be my church.) This worked well for a couple of reasons. It took the burden of preparing dinner for everyone off of a single person's shoulders. It provided consistency in location. And the facilities are more accessible. I think that in a way, it allowed for us to be a more open group, too. My mom works at a Christian bookstore, as did almost everyone else in our group when it really started taking off. Sometimes, customers get invited. I think it's easier to invite a stranger when you say "we're meeting in this room at the big church in this part of the town", rather than "this week we're meeting at this person's house. Here's their address."
Most of our studies have been workbooks over the years. Here are the ones I remember off the top of my head.
- Duty or Delight
- One In a Million
- Remembering the Forgotten God
- Gospel Revolution
- Live in the Word
I've made some new friends through the group, which is great. We've done some service projects together, and fun things like Thanksgiving dinners and baby showers.
One recurring theme in Bible study is, obviously, the importance of the actual Bible. And over the past few months, we've had some good discussions about this. It has popped up several times over the years, but has been coming up more frequently over the past few months. When you think about it, these days we have a lot of opportunities not to read our Bible. Like at church, a lot of times verses are projected onto a screen, and looking them up for yourself is a suggestion. Or in my case, I've attended Christian schools for a grand total of 8 years of my primary and secondary schooling. That includes Bible classes and chapel. As an adult, who has read most of the Bible (honesty time: I get bogged down in the last few books of the Old Testament and have a tendency to skip them), there are things that I was told in school that I now know aren't true, aren't Biblical. For example, I had a teacher who, for two years, stressed that our salvation isn't guaranteed, because John 3:16 says "whoever believes in Him SHOULD not perish", not "WILL NOT perish." That's pretty scary stuff for an elementary school student to hear. Of course now I know that that's not true (and I wish I could tell my childhood self to tell my parents about "learning" that so they could talk to me about it when it happened.) We assume that people in authority, like teachers and yes, even pastors, know better than us so we should just take their word that the Bible says and means certain things. That's dangerous. We want to have an actual relationship with God, right? So why would we always rely on a middle man to tell us what He's saying? But I digress.
This year, our Bible study group is reading through the Bible chronologically. It's something I've tried to do in the past, but a project that's always failed. I'm really glad that I have these built in accountability partners in my Bible study group, and a weekly get-together to talk about what we're reading, too. For those that don't know it, chronological reading is reading the Bible in the order that things happened. For example, instead of reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in that order, you would read, say, the story of the resurrection of Jesus in all of those books, on the same day. Or, instead of reading the book of Job right before reading the Psalms, you would read it while reading Genesis, because that's when that story took place. Things make more sense if you read them in order, which I think is worth the tiny annoyance of flipping back and forth sometimes. We do have a workbook that a lot of us are using, as a reading guide and for thought provocation (there are discussion questions and stuff in the book, too) but that's definitely not a requirement.
One thing we're doing differently this year is hosting an online group, as well. Reading through the Bible is going to take a whole year, and that is a big commitment- not only to read, but also to attend Bible study meetings most weeks. When my mom first started reading through the Bible several years ago, she actually did it through a blogging group. She wanted people to have the opportunity to talk and express themselves throughout the week, and also to include some of our friends who aren't able to participate regularly. For example, my aunt is going to participate, I believe, but she is a CPA so she is so extremely busy until tax season is over that she can't attend meetings right now- but she can still do the reading! Or one of our friends is unable to get out in cold weather because she can't breathe in it. She doesn't have to miss out on all the Bible study fun because now we have the online group. And then there are a few people who would like to join us but can't, because of distance (like, my mom has a friend in Texas who is doing the reading, and does so every year. Or we invited my aunt in Georgia.) It's just an extra way to stay connected for those who are doing the study.
And I'd like to invite my bloggy friends to participate, too! If you're looking for a bit of fellowship or have been thinking about starting a year-long Bible reading but have been struggling to find the motivation, we might be the group for you! We aren't too far into the year yet, so there's not a lot that you would need to catch up on. Last night's discussion ended with the introduction of Rachel and Leah, so that's about where we're at in the reading. If you're interested in joining us, we'd definitely love to have you. Just reach out on here or on facebook. The group is closed (and "secret"), which at first may sound a little strange. If everyone is invited, why is the group closed? Well, it isn't closed to keep people out, per se, because everyone is invited to join in. But we do want to protect the privacy of what's shared there, like prayer requests or even if you want to tell the group something personal that God has revealed to you in your reading. And because the group has changed so much in the past year or two, we have some new people coming in (who have no idea who we are, other than what we've said in the past 2 weeks) and we want them to feel open and safe enough to share things. Right now, the group contains just those folks we know are participating in the study, rather than every one of our past Bible study attendees. I realized after we had several people who joined us for a visit or two that perhaps not everyone is comfortable with having their personal prayer requests disseminated among a group of people (in this case, an email list) that they don't know and maybe have never met. All of our Bible study friends, though (past and present) are really nice people, and we've established a lot of trust and shared with each other in the past. This is just us testing out a new way of staying connected in this particular study. We are still sending weekly prayer request emails and other updates to what we would consider our "whole" group, but the facebook page gives our newer friends the opportunity to share semi-privately if they feel so inclined. I hope that our friends who haven't been with us for a while, or maybe aren't able to participate here at the beginning, will be able to join us soon! It would be nice if everybody got to know each other. :)
I'm really happy that we're doing our Bible study this way this year. I am excited about finally reading through the Bible all the way, and even though we've only officially met once (the first meeting was at dinner), we're already sharing some good insights!