As part of our church consultation work, we often send “spies” into small groups that are designed for Bible study and fellowship, in that order of priority. But, our spies often see that the hour of “Bible study” often passes with little attention to the Bible. Here’s why that’s problematic:
- Many people who attend will spend no more than this hour deeply in the Word for the entire week. If we miss the opportunity to teach them the Word, that’s on our shoulders.
- If we believe the Bible is God’s Word, we must make it first. Simply saying, “The Bible is God’s Word to us” means little if our work with the biblical text is shallow, unclear, or abbreviated.
- Giving the Bible full attention during the hour teaches the prioritization of the Word. Many folks will follow our lead in their own lives if one hour of Bible study is actually much less. We need to model for them our uncompromising commitment to the Word and its study.
- We can model for others how to read and apply the Word. This goal is, in fact, one reason small groups exist. We can’t model Bible study well if the Bible study “hour” includes only 15 minutes of actual study.
- God’s supernatural Word given to us through men is just that: it’s supernatural. It’s “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Nothing else, including great fellowship among group members, can make that promise.
- Many people are looking for a word from the Lord. Many people come to a group genuinely wanting to hear something from God. They’re not interested in all the news—and gossip—of the day. They want to hear from the Bible.
- Teaching the Bible helps steer us away from self-centeredness. Some small group leaders we’ve seen teach the Bible for a little time, then move to talking about their week, their difficulties, and their burdens. Others impress with their knowledge. Some drop names. When you stay focused on teaching the Bible, though, it’s tougher to go in those directions.
- If you call the hour “Bible study” but then spend most of the time every week doing something different, your nomenclature is wrong . . . if not deceitful. If it’s not really going to be much Bible study, change the description and purpose of the group; or, if the group is supposed to be solid Bible study and application, then make sure that’s what’s occurring.
What are your thoughts? What experiences have you had in small groups?