Saturday, June 2, 2007

Neighborhood Bible Studies

by Zoe Elmore

In the fall of 1998, a neighbor and I both had a vision from God to begin a bible study in our neighborhood. We began praying and building bridges of friendship with our neighbors. Our hearts were committed to providing a place where people could investigate the scriptures, encounter God, and mature in their faith through small group bible studies.

After three months of prayer and intentional bridge building, our neighborhood bible study group began. Within that same group, which has been meeting weekly since January 1999, there are different denominations represented as well as different levels of bible knowledge. But together we have experienced first hand the joy and life-changing power of studying God's Word. Here are some tips to guide a neighborhood Bible study:
1) Start with small groups since they are conducive to adults learning in a safe, comfortable environment where people feel free to ask questions and share their personal discoveries of Biblical truth and its meaning and application to their lives.
2) Share leadership so that everyone owns the group and is responsible to study, participate and develop skills to guide the discussion according to the group's agreed guidelines.
3) Stand on the authority of the Bible. The authority in these small group discussions is God's Word, not a study guide or the discussion leader. The consistent study of Scripture in a time of general Biblical illiteracy will lead people to build their understanding of the gospel story and enable them to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior, and to become mature believers.
4) Rely upon the effective work of the Holy Spirit to bring people to Jesus Christ as Savior, understand the gospel, trusting in Christ for salvation and to keep growing in him.
5) Acknowledge human dignity where all people are created to worship, serve, and enjoy Christ. God is committed to the value and dignity of all people as they study God's Word, giving them freedom to question, probe, and accept or refuse God's offer of salvation.
6) Use informal discussion, not lecture. The objective is to discover the facts, meaning and the life application of each passage.
7) Let the Bible speak for itself. This avoids the temptation to quote outside authorities such as pastors, books or movies; and it keeps religious jargon out of the discussion.
8) Avoid tangents, keeping the group focused on studying the passage of the week.
9) Be courteous. It is important to respect the different cultural and religious backgrounds represented in our groups.

These guidelines follow the inductive study method, where study questions guide you to God's Word as the sole authority for salvation and guidance, versus the deductive method where a teacher or lecturer guides you through the material. Our group has experienced success with this method as we encourage one another to expand personal discovery, and to apply biblical truths in our lives.