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
3. Sound Doctrine
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?