Most Bible studies I’ve attended have required an “expert” who has studied the passage in advance, written questions and have led the others through these questions with the hope of using them to unearth the Main Point of the passage. Such an approach has great merits (correct Bible handling skills can be developed, the focus remains on the main thrust of a passage etc) but relies on someone who is willing to step up and be a leader.
What can we do if our small group leader gets arrested and we can’t rely on them?(Or if you’re not in that sort of church/country, what do we do when someone forgets to prepare or you’re in a situation where no one wants to lead or feel qualified to lead?)
1) Pray. You’re needing God’s help to not just understand the text, but more significantly to believe it. A non-Christian will often understand what’s being said: his problem is that he won’t believe it. Pray knowing that you’re not trying to twist God’s arm into doing something he doesn’t want to do – instead pray knowing that God delights in answering requests like this.
2) Read. Chose a book you’re wanting to study (for those who have experienced the arrest of a leader, why not chose Philippians?) and as a group read through a large section of the text. For an epistle this might be a couple of chapters, a gospel make take 3-4 chapters, for Old Testament narrative go for 5-6 chapters. (Think about what you might normally study and multiply it by at least 3).
3) Think. Spend some time thinking about the passage on your own. Highlight any verses that you particularly like (and think about why you like them). Highlight any verses that you don’t understand and think it’s particularly important that you do understand it.
4) Share. Take it in turns to share the verses you like, explaining why you like them. Share the verses you struggle with – if others understand them, let them explain the verses. If no one understands it, don’t worry – keep reading, there will be plenty that you do understand and need to listen to.
5) Question. Here’s a list of questions to ask any passage of the Bible – they’re based on the type of things the Bible itself tells us is in the Bible:
- What did you learn about Jesus?
- What did you learn about yourself?
- How were you corrected and rebuked?
- How do you need to change to be a man/woman of God thoroughly equipped for every good work?
- What did you learn from the Scriptures that will help you endure and be encouraged?
- What did you learn that will teach you to do works of service to build up your local church?
- What have you learnt that helps you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind?
- What has helped you love your neighbour as yourself?
Not every passage will give answers to all these questions, and each passage will have it’s own focus, but every passage should answer some of these questions. Focus on where the passage is taking you.
6) Pray. Both for the things you’ve learnt from the passage and for each other. As you’re sharing your prayer requests expect that the passage you’ve just read will give wisdom to how you handle the things you’re concerned about and want to pray about. Let God’s word shape how you think about what’s going on in your life.
By reading through a large passage you’re being fed a lavish banquet. Enjoy what you can understand, don’t argue over what you’re unclear about. You’re purpose isn’t to understand every aspect of the passage (even if you chose one solitary verse, you’d fail to understand it’s depths!) but to feed on the food Jesus is giving you. Over time as you study more and seek to obey it you’ll understand more, and as you read large passages week by week you’ll be corrected if you have any wrong ideas.
If you’ve tried using something like this, let me know how it went, what works, what doesn’t etc.
Above all – don’t let the absence of a leader, or fear of not understanding prevent you from opening the Bible and reading what it says!