For several years I have been in a bible study with 3 or 4 other pastors. We originally met bi-weekly, now weekly. No one leads the study, but all come with a different knowledge set. We often look at the Greek (using an Interlinear!) to see what underlies the translations that we use. One of us likes to read the commentaries before coming; another of us is pretty good at Greek; I typically read the larger context books such as Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. We all contribute.
The most important thing about this study is how it has kept us grounded in the Word of God for our ministry. I can say truthfully that I would probably not still be in ministry if it had not been for this study. The first book we studied was the Acts of the Apostles and that taught me more than any of the church growth books I have read about what the church should look like and how to “grow” the church. Actually what it taught me was how to grow the Body of Christ as the instrument of God’s Kingdom. We took about 2 years to make it through the book of Acts. Then we went on to the Gospel of Mark and are now in the Gospel of Luke.
Several folks who have read my Lessons in the teacher’s books of the Adult Bible Study series by the United Methodist Publishing House have asked how I study the bible. While I study by myself as well, this is the format that we use in our weekly bible study. It has helped me grow in my discipleship as I have placed myself under the authority of and the teaching of scripture.
1. First the obvious – we begin with Prayer
2. We look at the structure of passage
3. Lay out as much background and original context as possible. Answer the question: What did the passage mean to the original hearers?
4. Clarify grammatical constructions/ word meanings.
5. Discuss theological concepts: What does the passage say about God, about Jesus, about humans?
6. What are current applications?
We try to get beyond “What does this passage mean to me?” Rather we ask “What is God saying to us?” We are looking/listening for a moment to hear the Word of God as if from God’s very lips; that “Ah ha” moment. Also note that we try to understand the original context before we move on to our own context.
The point of reading the bible is to come to know God and to let the scripture form and shape us into the image of God. That is what I have found happens when a faithful group of disciples meets regularly to feast on the word.
My prayer is that others will find this helpful.