“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” ~Acts 2:42
Obviously, we can glean numerous benefits from corporate Bible study time with other believers, but I want to focus on the 3 main purposes I think we join together. Some people come looking for networking opportunities, others just want to find a safe place to dump (free counseling session anyone?), and still others want friendship without accountability.
“Everyone says they want community and friendship. But mention accountability or commitment to people, and they run the other way.” ~Timothy Keller
As a Bible-study leader for the last five years, I have seen trends: people start off our studies with enthusiasm, “I have missed this; can’t wait to get started on this study,” but by the fourth week, our numbers have dropped. And by the end of an 8-week study, we may be at half the capacity. I realize doing homework requires discipline, but our level of commitment saddens me. What’s more, I’m concerned with the percentages of Christians who daily (if not even weekly) study their Bible.
In a recent Relevant article, statistics on the various generations showed that over 30% of Millennial Christians don’t believe the Bible is inerrant and reliable. Generation X-ers (my generation) isn’t much better: about 29% believe the Bible isn’t trustworthy. Only 17% of millenials will read their Bible 4x a week. So, we know that the younger generations don’t fully rely–or even trust–the Bible, but do they even know it? Have they read it through and grasped its intent?
More than any other time in history, we have the honor to access and study God’s Word–a light unto our path. But, more than ever, we seem apathetic to the privilege.
- So naturally, our first propeller for coming to Bible study should be Bible study. Emotions, experiences, preferences, circumstances and the like must all take a backseat to the Scripture. What does God say about…? Know that first and then discuss it from a biblical standpoint. Find out where God stands on a particular topic and align yourself with His perspective.
- We also meet together to exhort our fellow sisters (or brothers) in Christ. Living in community isn’t just about authenticity and acceptance (though those things are important). We are here as weapon wielders, preparing for our battles (Eph. 6:12); so as iron sharpens iron, we help refine one another (Prov. 27:17), admonishing and encouraging one another toward wisdom (Co. 3:16) and good deeds (Heb. 10:24-25). We seek not to condemn but to challenge. We hold our Body accountable, not to cast stones but to help pull one another back into the light–out of the pit. Galatians 6:1-2 says that, “… if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
- In addition, we devote ourselves to prayer (Acts. 1:14), knowing that when 2 or 3 are gathered in His name, He is with us (Matt. 18:20). James 5:16 encourages us to “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” We pray at all times (alone, privately, corporately, silently and aloud), knowing that our communication with God gives us perspective, peace, insight, and deliverance. Ephesians 6:18, Daniel 9:18, Ps. 5:3
“Satan will always find you something to do when you ought to be occupied about that [regular, prayerful Bible study], if it is only arranging a window blind.” –Hudson Taylor
One does not hear God’s word of grace in the Scriptures unless he has decided that this is the word he really needs and wants to hear. He must decide that as he hears he is prepared to submit to the voice of God, to be judged by it and to have it challenge all that he knows and intends. He must understand that what he hears the Bible say can change his very life. Therefore, he cannot come to the New Testament as the disputer, the wise man, the judge over the word of God. He can come only as the child who needs to be made wise by the Wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:18-31).