House Church tip: Study the bible together
One of the things our house
church does well is study the bible together. Over the last
several months we’ve tried all sorts minor adjustments to bring the
best combination of text, observation, discussion and application. We
apply what Mennonites/Anabaptists call a community hermeneutic and I
think it is a very useful and powerful way to honor the scriptures that
is well suited for our culture. Philosphically we believe that we
understand the scriptures better together this way. We believe
that the Holy Spirit works through individuals as members of a greater
body much more effectively than in solitary individuals. One way
to ensure that any given study offers a little something for everyone
is to include everyone in the process of the study. By starting
with the text together we honor and uphold the text as the main
authority rather than any one person’s interpretation.
Engaging in the process is usually very simple. What I like to do
when I lead the dicussions is find a minimum 2 different bible texts on
a subject. I copy the text in to a word processor and double
space the text and print them out. So far I think the best
combination is to have about two or three texts. Think up a
couple of questions that will force us to think through an
application. One simple question to ask is “how does this compare
with your experience.”
During the study time have people spend time with a pen and the
text. Have one half or one third of the group look at each
text. They can write notes, circle, underline, write questions,
draw lines connecting things. This is an important stage.
Some people learn best from solitary study and some from discussion and
debate. By providing both kinds of environments you ensure a
wider range of people will come away having learned something.
When people are done they share their observations and that is usually
enough by itself to spawn a great discussion. It it can be
amazing how much life a group of eyes can bring to a text.
It is also important to for people to have the freedom to be
different. You may encounter some really strange theology
sometimes but through this process the people learn how to discern and
interpret. It is important that people feel comfortable and they are
not in “church mode.” We eat together almost every meeting.
Eating together has a very positive impact as it puts people at ease
and people seem more able to be themselves.
After encountering this for the last several months it has become a
little more difficult to sit through a traditional sermon. It
really does seem odd that we get one person to study the bible,
interpet, apply and share these observations with a large group
of people who can neither question or respond in any way. After
expericing an alternative this seems like a very poor way to
communicate biblical truth and challenge.
I won’t deny that Jesus Came Preaching he also came to join the party, tell stories,
share, discuss, debate, model and demonstrate His love and power in
visible tangible ways. There is a time and a place for people to
command the attention of an entire group and proclaim. However by
making the sermon the center piece of every gathering we elevate one or
a few people above the rest impeding the natural function of the Spirit
working through the body. More and more I’m becoming convinced
that Paul was right when he wrote in 1Cor 12 that the Spirit works
through the entire body and all are needed and valued.