Bible studies—as I use the term—are groups of people actively engaged in mutual examination of the text of Scripture. Bible studies differ from sermons, classroom lectures, and informal instruction in that they primarily consist of group discussion. Bible studies can be terrifying, because you never know what people will say. There’s always inherent potential for losing control of the discussion. And for this reason, many people fear them.
But though it’s unscripted, the discussion doesn’t have to be uncontrollable. Though open-ended, it doesn’t have to be directionless. Though interrogative, it can still be powerfully declarative.
Bible studies have something going for them that few sermons or personal quiet times can achieve: Interaction. This is the chief advantage of Bible studies.
Because of interaction, we can identify what part of the teaching is hitting the mark. We can adjust on the spot to make better use of what’s connecting with people’s hearts. We can jettison whatever is unhelpful in the moment.
Because of interaction, we can measure how people are responding to the text. We get a good idea of what to follow up on in personal conversations.
Because of interaction, we can see the fruits of faith or unbelief. We can often gauge where people are in their walks with the Lord as we see them directly interacting with his word.
Because of interaction, we can directly address difficult topics. Some issues are considered impolite for pleasant conversation, but they may find safe harbor in an engaging Bible discussion. For example:
- “What are some bad spending habits that we should repent of?”
- “How can you be a more Christ-like father or mother?”
- “Last week you mentioned how stressed out you were. How does today’s passage speak to your stress?”
- “What does Jesus say about how to receive eternal life? How would that affect your life if it were true?”
Because of interaction, we get VIP access to the greatest show on earth: the softening of human hearts. Sometimes we’ll see people change their minds or their convictions over the course of a single discussion. At other times, it will take place over weeks or months. Sometimes we’ll simply see the change in attitude or character, and the changed person won’t even be aware of the difference yet.
Because of interaction, we can multiply our ministries. Through discussions, we can teach people how to study the Bible for themselves. We can train assistant leaders who will eventually lead their own Bible studies. We can coach people in particular skills like small talk, asking questions, listening attentively, or sharing vulnerably.
Because of interaction, people often feel respected and appreciated. This encourages higher levels of commitment and risk.
Because of interaction, we can better understand and help others to feel understood. God, who knows all things, chose to interact with Adam and not merely declare truth to him: “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9). Jesus, who knew what was in the heart of a man, chose to interact and draw out others’ thoughts: “Are you asking yourselves what I meant?” (John 16:19).
As we consider further how to lead effective Bible studies, let’s not lose sight of our chief advantage.
Question: What other benefits derive from the interactive nature of Bible discussions? I appreciate your interaction on this topic!