I became a runner when I was twenty-one. I tried running several times before, but it never stuck. I would go out for a run by myself, start way too fast, and give up with a painful side stitch after only five minutes. It was incredibly discouraging. Everything changed the first time I tried running with a friend. My friend forced me to run slowly. Huge help! We also kept each other entertained with conversation. Before I knew it, we ran six miles without a side stitch in sight. I was hooked. I’ve been a runner ever since. Running in community changed how I experienced running. In a similar way, reading the Bible in community can profoundly shape and benefit the way we engage the Bible in general.
When it comes to engaging with the Bible, many of us believe that reading or studying alone is the gold standard. Engaging the Bible privately is a wonderful way to grow in love for God, but it’s not the only way. The Christian faith is personal, but it isn’t private. Our Bible reading need not be private either. The New Testament contains dozens of “one another” commands and one of the most common is to encourage one another. Since the Bible commands us to encourage one another every day (Hebrews 3:13), it makes all the sense in the world that we would engage the Bible with one another. After all, what better source of encouragement could there be?
Grow in Scripture together
Like running, as we engage the Bible in community, we gain both momentum and perspective that can be hard to achieve when reading alone. Engaging the Bible in community helps lift the shameful feeling that we are the only one that has trouble understanding the Bible and often provides us with just the motivation we need to begin engaging the Bible more regularly.
There are at least two ways to engage the Bible in community that are particularly life-giving: read the Bible together and hear the Bible together.
1. Read the Bible together.
Start by asking a few friends to meet weekly or every other week, for at least an hour, in a place conducive for conversation. The first time you meet, decide on a book of the Bible that you will read together. Figure out how much of it you’ll try to work through each time you meet.
You don’t need to be a Bible expert to lead a reading group. The first time your group meets, establish a method of Bible study—certain questions, in a certain order. One way to go about this is by using the OIA method: observation, interpretation, application.
- Start with observation. Ask: what does this passage say or what is the author talking about?
- Next is interpretation. What does the passage mean? What is the author saying about what he’s talking about?
- Finally, apply the passage. Ask: what does the passage call me to believe, feel, or do? What if I can’t do it? How has Jesus done it perfectly? How can he empower me to do it?
After you read, ask and answer the questions out loud. Wrestle through them together. It’s OK if you don’t know “the answers”! The important thing is to work through the passage together. Conclude your time with prayer. Try praying through the passage—if possible, pray line-by-line for one another.
2. Hear the Bible together.
Hearing the Bible is so important because faith comes through hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). When we hear God’s Word and believe it, our trust in and obedience to Jesus are strengthened like muscles being exercised. The members of the early church did not all have their own copy of the Scriptures. Rather, they listened to the Word as they gathered together regularly under biblical preaching (Acts 2:42; 5:42). One of the best ways to engage the Bible together is to listen intently to Bible teaching when your church gathers and then discuss what you heard with a few friends from church. This may seem obvious, but consider how often sermons go in one ear and out the other. One of the best ways to grow your faith is by gathering together with some friends to apply the Word that you just heard preached.
A few questions you can ask one another are:
- What was the main point of the passage preached and what were some of the supporting points?
- Is there a particular way God is encouraging, correcting, or informing you through the sermon?
- How can we pray the passage and the sermon for each other?
As you engage the Bible in community you will find yourself growing in a love for God’s Word. The Bible will begin to shape your thoughts, your feelings, and your behavior. Most importantly, as you engage God’s Word you will see the glory of Jesus Christ. Knowing and beholding Jesus, will result in our becoming more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18)—and that’s one of the goals of engaging with the Bible. Enjoy the journey!
Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.
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