Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bible Study

Jesus on the Emmaus Road
I'm in a weekly Bible study not associated with any particular church, although it's held at a church and strongly advises participation in a local church.  It's been around for 50 years or so.  Each year the course covers a different book, or books depending on the study.  Rather than a topical study, we examine each book, chapter by chapter through a 4-step approach: 
Answer daily lesson questions on your own.                                                                                                Discuss your insights in a conversation with members of your discussion group.
Listen to a lecture that explains the passage, key principles from the lesson and the relevance of the Bible's truth to today's world.
Read lesson notes that further elaborate on the passage.

Both the notes and the lecture will often various interpretations of a scripture or a doctrine if it's commonly discussed. 

This is my 2nd year.  My friend had attended 2 or 3 prior years, desperate for spiritual input, a few years after leaving the former church and she was getting so much out of it, I finally had to try it for myself!  Last year was the study of Genesis and this year the book of Matthew.  How appropriate for someone like me who feels like a first grader again (after realizing what we had been taught for years may be 'slightly' off.  Cough) to start with the first books of the Old and New Testament.  Anyway, I'm loving this consistency of opening my Bible (and Bible Gateway App) in the morning, looking up scripture, aswering study questions after a few days of reading study notes and praying about whatever the Holy Spirit highlights for me that day.  As any student of scripture would know, you do so at your own risk because it eventually shines a light on your heart in ways you don't usually see coming.  Sigh. I mean, Clap! 

I feel really good about this expository type of approach to the Bible.  After years of not taking responsibility for my own spirituality, it's like finding water in a dry and weary land.  Too bad churches wouldn't use this method for weekly corporate services, but then again, maybe some do.  In my limited yet lengthly experience, the pastor has opted for a topical approach more often than not.  Not saying topical study is wrong - I love following a word like faith or fear through the Bible using a Strong's Concordance and jotting down the verses that will help me later.  We even have a Naves Topical Bible sitting in our bookcase.  But when the pastor-preacher-teacher chooses a topical presentation over expository methods most of the time, doesn't it give more opportunity to promote his or her interpretation of scripture which can easily lead to manipulation or personal agenda? 

In lecture style teaching with no audience participation or accountability, we the listeners take in what's given, often without question, because it's easier than doing the work of follow-through.  Just listening makes it so easy for us to go on our merry way till we come to sit and listen again, entertainment style, next week.  Don't we realize we are thus giving one man, or woman, the power to spoon-feed his thoughts and beliefs to us?  If we were to have a question, or beg to differ, how would that scenario play out?  How well would it go if we were to go up to the pastor at the end of the service, or write him an email during the week, and say I think you may be off the mark here? 

All that to say, this in-depth study of the word in a non-denominational setting has been slowly restoring me to spiritual health, if I ever was spiritually healthy in the first place.  In taking my spiritual temperature at this juncture, I can see how the Word is at least bringing me back to life spiritually.  I'm still prone to steer clear of organized church which is so socially unexceptable in the Christian Community across the board these days.  And yes, I am tempted to put my hands over my ears so I won't run out screaming when the teacher in the main session at Bible Study plugs the local church and how important it is .  If she only knew what a trigger that is for some of us.  And hey, if a church exists that didn't threaten to TAKE ME OVER hook, line and sinker with its own agenda-vision-projects and meetings, I might be open to participating once again in an organized community.  But for now, I'm loving the freedom of my 2 sweet friends and I studying together each week (with a little lunch follow-up after), relearning the heart and soul of the God we've chosen to follow; and that is Community enough for me right now.