“So you aren’t doing the new Bible study with us?”
During the passing of the peace – the meet and greet section – of worship is the worst possible time to try to hold a conversation. Had I enough time to consider my words, I would have said something like: “It’s about finding confidence by overcoming doubts, right? I’m a very confident person and I do not doubt that it would not prove very helpful at the moment. To be certain, there are one or two insights in every study, but so few and so far inbetween causes me to lose interest in the subject matter at hand.” Or perhaps, if I knew that this member would not take any offense: “I hate all women’s Bible studies with the fiery burning passion of a thousand suns. They do not teach theology, they teach pop psychology and self-help techniques. They do not teach parables, they teach anecdotes about ordinary people going about their day doing something when they realized something that I very probably will not relate to – like visiting circuses or sailing on their yachts. They are little more to me than a half-empty cup of luke-warm water in the midst of a week-long heatwave on a 100+ degree day when the air conditioning is out. I thirst for more and am not satisfied.” But with dozens of people trying to get to you to shake your hand, say hello in the midst of a conversation with another person, or holding their own conversations on all sides, it’s really difficult to say what you mean in only a matter of seconds when it takes minutes for you to form a coherent and well-crafted thought to say what you really mean.
At my last church, I was asked to help lead the high schooler’s study group, which consisted of three young women and the elderly woman who asked for my assistance. The first book that I looked at was ‘Designed to Shine’ it was about the autobiography of the person who wrote it, how their life steps away from the coast was sopping wet with ocean metaphors taught them about God, and how God was like a starfish, a dolphin pod, and a few other things – I forget. There’s just one problem – this is land-locked, farming and ranching state. The odds that any of the youth had even seen the ocean are slim to none. It was also pretty unbiblical, quoting more from the author’s autobiography than verses from Scripture – as far as I could tell from the leader’s guide – in six weeks there were just six verses of scripture taught, out of context and without historical or cultural information to ground its teaching to something relatable. I never had the chance to look at the other book, according to the elderly woman, it was ‘too deep’ … That’s what I was looking for!
Now that there is a new round of bible studies going on, we’re sitting them out as the options don’t really fill that thirst for more, for deeper, for above and beyond what seems to be the status quo when it comes to Bible studies. What I’d really like to see is a series of studies – something that explains Church history or the culture of the Bible to the people it was written or what the different -isms and -tion words mean in Christianity and how we got to believing in them or elementary, beginner’s, mid-level, and advances apologetics. If we’re not going to study the Bible, then we might as well study the ‘Writings of the Nicene fathers’ or ‘Sayings of the Desert Mothers and Fathers’ – these ancient works that consisted of hundreds of years worth of thinking and studying and praying about God from an ancient perspective and how they chose to interpret and live out Scripture. How are they any different from us? Probably not as much as we’d imagine, had we taught everyone about church history other than “This is our denomination, we’re right. All of the other denominations do not agree with us and are wrong for that reason.” That’s not history, that’s just an excuse to not teach how and why that denomination had a disagreement and seperated to form it’s own doctrine or theology independent of those who had other beliefs and opinions.
So no, I’m not doing the ‘finding confidence and overcoming doubt’ Bible study. Trust me, you would be glad that I’m not there if I didn’t hold back what I was really thinking most of the time.