Collective Bible Study
I’m not sure how far back in history the collective bible study goes. By collective bible study I am referring to the formal study that is typically held on each Sunday morning and some week night. You could possibly say it goes back to the first century church being that in Acts 2 we read of them being devoted to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
At some point down the line, or again maybe always, it was decided to spend some time apart from the collective worship to study the word of God together. Today that pattern and tradition continues with most if not all the churches meeting at least for a bible study hour and a worship hour each Lord’s Day.
What then is the goal of having this specific hour of study? I think we all agree that each individual has a responsibility of studying God’s word daily in whatever time is best for them. Surely 2 Timothy 2:15 would apply to the individual when Paul tells Timothy to remind them to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
Collective Bible Study Should Be…
A Place of Learning. Obviously the collective bible study should be a place where everyone comes together with the intention of learning. While that sounds obvious sadly we too often find ourselves approaching the collective study as nothing more than something we have to sit through and learn little to nothing. Maybe you’ve studied the particular book or subject many times and approach it not thinking there is much more for you to learn and as a result reject any new concepts or views and therefore limit your readiness to learn. We must always approach scripture with the intention of trying to learn something more from God’s word.
A Place of Encouragement. The collective bible study should always be a source of encouragement. When speaking of the varying spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, many of which dealt directly with teaching, Paul said that all were common good (12:7) and so that the church may be built up (14:5). The collective bible study isn’t a place of competition or insisting on one’s own way. As each participates in the class, comments should be fashioned in a way that builds up and encourages the whole class. While difficult topics must be taught and studied, it can still be done in a way that all are being built up.
A Place of Sharing. The collective bible study should be a place of sharing. In a lot of ways the collective bible study is an opportunity for everyone to come together to share what they have read about, meditated about, and prayed about from God’s word that week. In order to accomplish this demands we all spend time studying before we reach the collective setting. And we should be able to share with one another without fear of judgment or murmuring. That means that all conduct themselves and their comments in a way that invites others to share rather than intimidating them.
A Place of Growing. The collective bible study should be a place of growing. We’re told by Peter in 2 Peter 3:18 to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” Growing is like learning in that we must be open to learn something new or a new perspective but it can’t stop there. Growth requires action. We can all sit and intellectually grasp the concepts and truths being taught and even have good discussion but until we put those things into practice there is no real growth.
A Place of Unity. Finally the collective bible study should be a place where we seek and find unity. In 1 Peter 3:18 Peter says “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” Sadly at times the collective bible study can become more of a place where others argue and debate trying to outdo the other. Classes are high jacked by those wanting to bring up all the ways and issues that divide the Lord’s body rather than ways to find unity. The only time in scripture we are told to outdo one another is in showing honor (Romans 12:10). We should all come with hearts and minds ready to participate and speak in a way that draws us closer together and not cause strife and division.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:15-16)