On Bible study, part 3

A couple of weeks ago I began a series of posts outlining four primary objectives we seek to emphasize in our particular Bible study group. Having a clear vision of what we want to be about and what will motivate our study of God’s Word provides focus and helps us keep the main thing the main thing. As I’ve told you in the previous two posts in this series, I’ve borrowed from Susan Hunt’s list of foundational principles of ministry to women as described in Women’s Ministry in the Local Church. I’ve adapted her list somewhat and I’m grateful for her commitment to Scripture and to the local church.

The first three foundations were the Gospel, Truth, and Sound Doctrine (all linked to the previous posts in this series). All three are rooted in the authority of Scripture, as is the fourth motivation I will discuss today. In fact, we could say that ultimately we have one primary objective: to know and study God’s Word, period. From God’s Word we marvel in the glory of the Gospel; through Scripture we understand the truth and learn sound doctrine. In other words, all four of the motivations I am listing are borne out of and sustained by the diligent and careful study of Scripture.

You may think that an obvious point. I mean, hello? we are a Bible study group; what else would we be about? Perhaps I am being too careful here but the fact is I am both saddened and terrified by the subtle tendency I observe in our current Christian culture–with its plethora of Bible studies and tools and numerous other resources–to find ourselves studying the study rather than studying the Bible. Or, worse yet, being enamored with the Bible teacher over and above the Word he/she teaches, which seems to be particularly tempting given the many video studies currently available, what with their professional production quality and gifted communicators. Do not hear me say it is the fault of the authors, the production team or the video teacher. It is within us, in our flesh, to exchange the truth of God’s word for the lesser. And it is precisely because of this tendency within me that I am so careful.

So, as I facilitate our study, I will do all I can to point us to the study of God’s Word. I will read and apply myself to the wise instruction of the author of whatever workbook or study guide we are using but even as I do so I will hold it up to the Truth of Scripture. I will seek after the one thing of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord as I study. I will ask the Lord to grant me a greater hunger for His Word, that it will become as necessary to me as food and water and more precious to me than thousands of pieces of gold and silver (Ps. 119:72). May He open our eyes so we may see wonderful things in His Word!

So, that being said, let us turn to our fourth foundation:

FOUNDATIONS FOR BIBLE STUDY

1. The Gospel

2. Truth

3. Sound Doctrine

4. Community

Our group is a diverse one, comprised of ladies from two different churches and a variety of ages, backgrounds and stages of life. I love it (love it!) but because we are so eclectic, I try to be intentional about developing a sense of community. In our first meeting together, as we went around the room to introduce ourselves, we also told one good thing and one bad thing that had happened to us the week before. Each week we do some similar exercise, be it sharing something we learned or a list of favorite things. It’s no doubt silly but I think it also important. I like knowing which Bible study member’s daughter got engaged at the top of Sears tower; we also learn about our individual struggles and joys, the sorts of things we might not ordinarily share with a group of ladies we don’t know very well.

Why is this important enough to be included alongside the seemingly weightier elements like doctrine and truth? Because sound doctrine on its own, apart from relationships that reflect that doctrine, becomes academic. In that case, knowledge for knowledge’s sake would become primary. As we asserted before, sound doctrine is critical; so is the formation of relationships that reflect the application of that doctrine in real, ordinary, often messy, lives. It’s a balance, to be sure. We could easily fall into the trap of making all we do under the guise of Bible study purely relational; then of course we have not truly had Bible study at all.

In Titus 2, Paul instructs the older women to “teach what is good, and so train the younger women…” (v. 3-4). As we said before, our intent is not to debate who among us is older nor to be offended at Paul’s use of the term; rather, we see that it is the Lord’s plan that women engage with other women, teaching what is good. And what is good? Sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). How is it taught? In the context of relationships. We seek a similar framework in our little group: women discipling and encouraging other women by sharing their hearts and lives. We love the Lord Jesus; we rejoice in the glorious gospel of grace; we desire the glory of God in all things; we seek the knowledge of the Lord through the study of His Word; we want His Word to radically transform our real, ordinary lives. The application of these truths is what we seek to share as we develop a sense of community. It’s discipleship and as such it’s an important element of our study group.

I’d love to know what you think. By no means do we consider our list exhaustive or even the best possible summary of what ladies’ Bible study can and ought to be about. Do you have a similar vision? What principles guide and motivate your group?

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Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

7 thoughts on “On Bible study, part 3”

  1. This was a great post, friend. I'm going to lead a Bible study for college women this summer, and am really looking forward to it. I need to go back and revisit Women's Ministry in the Local Church before we start…to remind myself of our goals.

  2. I love this list because it puts right priority on the righteous things of God. One aim I strive to do in teaching the Bible is to effect the specific training up of women for the servanthood of Christian leadership, first in their families and also at their own churches. I believe that a sound Bible study based on Biblical principles should result in that pebble to ripples event of seeing women prepared for spiritual leadership in the areas God calls them to serve. I think your point about women discipling and encouraging one another is a significant piece of how such leadership begins. The "Lord, please feed me that I might feed others," prayer that comes from studying His Word and responding to His call on our lives to serve. Thanks for writing this series. You've been a blessing again.

  3. OMGoodness. You just filled in a big blank for me and I (in all honesty) only skimmed this post. The relationship is what we're about. And I have always wanted it to be about the Word only. No time for small talk. C'mon people, get serious, get over yourselves, and get on God's Word. That was my mantra. I've been better and have grown in the area of leading relationally. Now I get it even more! Thanks!

  4. Lisa, Thank you so much for this! I have a special appreciation for this post as I was asked to head up the Women's ministry in our new church plant. I can really use your ideas here! Our church is barely 6 months old and growing quickly. We have women who are new Christians and others who have been praying for a church like this for years (myself included!!!) You really echoed my sentiments here:"I am both saddened and terrified by the subtle tendency I observe in our current Christian culture–with its plethora of Bible studies and tools and numerous other resources–to find ourselves studying the study rather than studying the Bible. Or, worse yet.."We're starting out slowly with monthly meetings that I'm teaching and are studying the attributes of God which I'm doing my own study and hand out notes for. The women have a 30 min teaching session with everyone, then we have tables of 8 with a mature facilitator that leads their table discussion of the lesson and prayer time. That time provides for the personal touches you mentioned that are so important. So far, it seems to be a good plan and as time goes on we'll stud books of the Bible and other topical studies – To be perfectly honest, I've never liked or even participated in Women's ministries even though I've been active in churches for almost 40 yrs. But this, I pray will be different than what I've seen in the past- I don't want to study "books" – even good ones. I don't object to using a really good Bible study guide, but I will definitely steer away from any poplular women's Bible study leaders. Even the better ones. I really want the women to get acquainted with using commentaries, words studies, concordances, Bible dictionaries, etc and get really excited about doing their own study. Have a blessed day!

  5. OMGoodness. You just filled in a big blank for me and I (in all honesty) only skimmed this post. The relationship is what we're about. And I have always wanted it to be about the Word only. No time for small talk. C'mon people, get serious, get over yourselves, and get on God's Word. That was my mantra. I've been better and have grown in the area of leading relationally. Now I get it even more! Thanks!

  6. I love this list because it puts right priority on the righteous things of God. One aim I strive to do in teaching the Bible is to effect the specific training up of women for the servanthood of Christian leadership, first in their families and also at their own churches. I believe that a sound Bible study based on Biblical principles should result in that pebble to ripples event of seeing women prepared for spiritual leadership in the areas God calls them to serve. I think your point about women discipling and encouraging one another is a significant piece of how such leadership begins. The "Lord, please feed me that I might feed others," prayer that comes from studying His Word and responding to His call on our lives to serve. Thanks for writing this series. You've been a blessing again.

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