5 Things I've Learned from Studying the Bible Together
One of the greatest blessings we have as believers is studying the Bible together. In fellowship with one another we are reminded of things we didn't yet know, we're enriched through conversation, and encouraged that we are truly part of a family. Of course though, there's more. In looking back over my life, writing this was a fun exercise for me to see 4 things God has taught me through studying the Bible with others for almost three decades now. Yikes!
Studying the Bible with other believers has been a gift I've been able to experience since I was little. There are little movie clips in my memory throughout my life that have impressed on me the importance of gathering together and opening His word.
One of my earliest memories of studying the Bible happened at a place that greatly shaped my faith, summer camp. While there I realized there were older, cooler, college-age counselors who believed everything I had learned at church. I remember one counselor whose shirt read, "This world is not my home." I realized she really believed that! In our daily Bible study time there were silent moments of girls not wanting to answer with fear of saying the wrong thing and the honest questions me and my cabin mates had as pre-tweens when we did speak up. At camp I learned the importance of prioritizing time together to study His word.
While camp remained a constant every summer in my life, my family went to a church with a great youth group and soon I was in a Middle School small group led by a couple older women. Older as in, they were young Moms. Today this is a term I'd be fine with having placed on me! I remember laughing uncontrollably on the couch with my best friend. There were small group sleepovers, trying on clothes and dancing to the latest hit song. I don't remember what we studied during these years, but I do know even then it made a huge impact on my faith to know other peers who believed as I did. Through these times I learned that studying the Bible together is fun.
Then there was High School. During these years my faith matured and I studied more with our church congregation and at youth group. I was also called to step out and not just be a participant, but to lead. I led a Bible study in my public high school because I wanted others to know about Jesus. We met before school in the Biology classroom and sometimes at my house. I can't really remember exactly what we studied, but I'll tell you I remember some kids went because their Mom's wanted them there and others just had lots of questions. During my high school years I felt pretty alone in my faith, so these times of sharing the gospel were absolutely for others, but it blessed me too. We had a group name, LOFT, for Living Our Faith Together. Catchy, no?! I learned that studying the Bible with others is a worth it.
Then, there's college. While I did attend a Christian college studying the Bible in a small group was still very important. I led some girls younger than me in a small group and it was oh so fun. Don't worry, we had a name too. Better than Nugs-- as in our group was better than the Dining Common's chicken nuggets. I didn't make this name up and take no credit for it's silliness, but that's what we called ourselves and yes, t-shirts were made. Everything I already knew about small groups rang true. Studying the Bible together was worth it, it was fun, and it was a priority. Our times together showed me that in Bible study we gain accountability that matters as we get to wrestle with our questions, fears, anxieties and hopes together all around the Word.
In the years since graduation there have been two primary modes of studying the Bible with others. First, I've been able to be a part of home groups all based around our church. Many churches have these as a way to make a church feel smaller and if you're able to do that, I highly recommend it. I've also been able to be a part of Community Bible Study, an organization worldwide that would have a group likely near you!
Over the past several years I've also had the privilege of leading a smaller group of women in study's truthfully, as an act of obedience to something I believe God has called me to do. I was hoping there was a study already going that I could join in, but when I learned there wasn't, I stepped up and said yes to leading. We've studied some amazing books, a post for another day, and have learned a lot. I've learned that studying the Bible together in these years takes sacrifice. Sacrifice because it's now time spent preparing our home and preparing our time together. Sacrifice because when my world feels full, I'm called to not look to my interests, but the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4) Sacrifice because when I'm tired I'm reminded to not stop meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing. (Hebrews 10:25). Sacrifice that makes this season a bit harder, but because God has shown me all the other blessings and because I know it's what He's called me to, it's a sacrifice worth making.
There will be seasons for you in studying the Bible as well. It's ok if they look different than mine. Most likely they will. I share my story that He's written of studying the Bible in community to show you He is always working, always teaching us, and always growing us. If you've got little kids, pray now that they'd connect with a small group of believers to study the Bible with. If you're older, find a group through your church or in a trusted online community. If you don't know where to start, pray. Ask that God would open your eyes and give you wisdom that you too would have the blessing of fellowship when we study the Bible together.
Throughout the last several years of studying the Bible together Colossians 3:12-17 have been the verses I go back to when I think of group Bible study. Starting in verse 12, "Therefore, as God's chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience..." Verse 15 goes on to say, "And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."
I love these verses because they show us the posture of our hearts and they also call us to action. Go study the Word with other believers friends, or if you're new to the Bible, ask your church to be connected to their small group ministry. It's a gift that'll bring you far more than the 5 things I've learned. The ways He'll bless you through it are endless.