Time to time we hear the jesus a gospel of love studies in Christian small groups are shallow. I have often found that whenever people speak of deep teaching they usually mean mystical, speculative, or heady kind of teaching such as eschatology (end times teaching) or speculative typology or debating heavy theological issues, all of which tend to expand the mind but not enlarge the heart.
The thought behind this challenging statement is that, somehow, bible studies that are taught lecture-style are more spiritual than guided bible studies which are opened up for discussion and where everyone gets a chance to share.
Whilst it is true that gifted teachers have been placed in the church this does not negate the fact that God has given to every believer a measure of His grace and an experience of the truth which is at work in their daily lives. Guided bible studies facilitate experiencing Christ together. Shared understanding brings greater comprehension of truth, whereas lone rangers tend to end up in error.
Look carefully at what Paul prayed for the Ephesians:
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19 NKJV).
Experiencing God’s love and truth demands an environment where it can be understood and experienced collectively.
One of the ways this works through guided bible studies is in the monitoring of bible truth application (see Lk.6:46; Jas.1:22; Matt.7:24-27). Here’s the crunch! Teaching, no matter how rich or deep, is without value unless it is applied to our lives. THE WORD MUST CHANGE US.
For this reason:
*We don’t always need to know more, but we do need to grow more.
*We don’t always need to learn more, but we do need to learn how to get that which we know to work in our lives.
This is where spiritual growth in small groups takes place. I may hear a challenging bible study but who knows one week later if that word has been applied in my life? In the context of Christian small groups where discussion takes place this can be done easily.
Let us say, for example, a group has studied the passage in Deuteronomy 6:1-9. This passage deals with the role of parents instructing their children in the ways of the Lord. Some in the group may have been of the opinion that this is the duty of Kids Church. Others haven’t even given much thought to it. Now they know it is a responsibility that falls upon their shoulders. In a group situation, two things can be done:
1. Suggestions may be made as to how to apply the Word.
2. The following week and subsequent weeks, the group may invite individuals to share ways in which this word is being applied in their situation.
The result is that everyone benefits from the participation of the others in the group.
The charge of shallow teaching in discussion-based bible studies is without foundation. Through guided bible studies, not only do we participate in inspirational bible studies, we also get to experience Christ together.