How to Prepare, Conduct and
Participate in Group Bible Studies
|How should Bible studies be taught? What kind of
preparation is needed so that a study may benefit everyone? Why have group Bible studies in the first place?|
Are Home Bible Studies Scriptural?
Aquila, a Jewish tentmaker, was born in Pontus, then moved to Italy, and later was
thrust out by Emperor Claudius' persecution of the Jews. He settled in Corinth where he soon encountered the Apostle Paul.
Together, Paul and Aquila dwelt together and made tents, Acts 18:1-4. Peloubet says this was the Cicilian tent of haircloth.
Catacomb inscriptions indicate that Aquila's wife Priscilla came from a distinguished family of high standing in Rome and
was a woman of unusual talent (Halley's Bible Handbook, page 576). After 18 months of working with Paul, Aquila and
Priscilla accompanied Paul on his journey to Syria, verse 18. At Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla expounded God's word
to zealous Apollos, helping him understand more than just the baptism of John, Acts 18:24-28. Aquila and Priscilla
led a church in their house, Romans 16:3-5, I Corinthians 16:19, II Timothy 4:19.
In Colossians 4:15-17, we are told that Nymphas of Laodicea had a church in
his house. Philemon also had a church in his house, Philemon 2. Archippus of Laodicea served among these churches (same
Henry H. Halley writes in Halley's Bible Handbook, page 632:
"There were no church buildings [in Ephesus]. Houses for Christian worship
did not begin to be built till two hundred years after the days of Paul, and were not general till Constantine put an end
to the persecutions of Christians. In Paul's day churches met, mostly, in the homes of Christian people. Thus, the
scores of thousands of Christians, in and around Ephesus, met not in one, or a few, great central congregations, but in hundreds
of small groups in various homes, each congregation under its own pastoral leadership. . . [the evangelist] Timothy's work
was primarily with these pastors [elders], or congregational leaders."
Religious services and Bible Study in the home is certainly the Biblical way.
Method of Teaching
1 Corinthians 14:22-40 describes the worship services in the church at Corinth.
These are the major scriptures given to show how the New Testament worship services were conducted. The Corinthians were doing
it wrong. In their zeal, everyone wanted to proclaim a doctrine, an interpretation, or give a revelation. There was too much
chaos and confusion. Some spoke in foreign languages that couldn't be understood by the others. Paul admonished the Corinthians
that services must be conducted with proper order and decorum, because God is not the author of confusion. Women are not to
speak during religious services. Every male adult could speak, in his own turn, so that all may learn. It is evident that
after the speaker was finished, open discussion was allowed.
Matthew 13:10-11, 36, 51 shows that Jesus' method of teaching His disciples
encouraged questions and discussion. In Matthew 16:5-23, Jesus asked questions, to make sure the disciples understood.
Acts 17:1-4 shows that Paul "reasoned with them out of the scriptures" in the synagogue. First Century A.D. Jewish
synagogues allowed a great deal of discussion and reasoning. Verse 11 describes the Bereans who didn't fall over and
play dead, but checked Paul's teachings against the scriptures to see if they were true. This is the Biblical form
of church service, Acts 18:4.
The Biblical method of teaching and religious services, or Bible Studies, should be
balanced between the allowance for free and open discussion (among the males), and reverent order and harmony.
Keep It Simple!
I was once a member of a church organization which has a very scholarly leading minister.
He brags about his "thousands of hours of study" and "copious notes." One has to have a dictionary along to understand some
of the big words he uses. One Feast, this minister gave several sermons attempting to cover the Book of Deuteronomy. He never
got past the first chapter! He puts out cassette tapes, some of which go into more than a hundred tapes on one topic. If you
ask him a simple question, the "answer," if you can understand it, may take an hour or longer. One Sabbath he gave an especially
forceful sermon. Afterwards, I asked a lady in the audience what she thought of the sermon. She exclaimed that the sermon
was wonderfully inspiring. When I asked her to summarize the message for me, she could not do so. Neither could I. He might
as well have spoken in a foreign language.
The purpose of preaching or Bible Study is "edification, and exhortation, and comfort,"
1 Corinthians 14:3. In verses 9 and 19, Paul said that:
"except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it
be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air . . . . Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding,
that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue."
Preparation for Bible Studies
The Preparer of the Study. Remember 1 Corinthians 14:26, "Let all
things be done unto edifying." Choose a topic that will edify, instruct, help, and encourage others. Do not choose a pet
theory, a subject too close to you, something to "preach at" someone else. Pray about it. Prepare notes with scripture references
and subtopics, using a concordance, topical Bible, Bible dictionary, or your Bible center margin.
Often you will find that you need to write down all the relevant scriptures with brief
quotes, then later arrange them in topical order. Think about your subject during the week, especially when praying. You will
be amazed at the new ideas that "come" to you! At least 4-5 hours preparation go into most short Bible Studies.
Always keep in mind the purpose: to help others, and in so doing, you will learn
a great deal yourself.
The Participants in the Study. Be prepared to listen, take notes, and make comments
when there is a period of discussion. In group discussion, some make the mistake of not listening to others because they are
too busy planning their next comment.
Conducting the Study
There are many forms and varieties of Bible Studies that can be educational and done
in a respectful manner to the Eternal. One form of Bible Study is the "Sabbath School" format. The leader has prepared a list
of scriptures on a particular subject, and has each person in turn read a scripture, after which he or others may comment.
At Troas, Paul resorted to straight preaching, his speech continuing from the evening meal until midnight, Acts 20:6-7.
Obviously, being accustomed to the synagogue form of worship, questions and discussion were more than welcome after the completion
of the discourse.
The scriptures should speak for themselves. The participants can often add color and
meaning by stating what the scripture says in their own words, and how it relates to their lives. The leader can stimulate
discussion by asking questions, reading or having the scripture read, and then stating or asking someone to state the answer.
When studying the Bible, always ask and answer the two questions: "What does the Scripture say?" and "What does
it say to me?"
Avoid These Pitfalls
Here are common pitfalls to avoid:
- The leader should not dominate the session by taking all the time talking. Preaching
a sermon and closing the service and leaving, is certainly not an effective way of teaching. Not everyone grasps the contents
of the message immediately. Discussion often helps to clarify what was said. Paul's long sermon at Troas led to Eutychus'
falling asleep and tumbling out of the window. After the healing miracle, there was a period of talking for "a long while,"
- Lack of preparation leads to lack of learning. As Edison said of his inventions, so
a leader can say of an inspired message that it is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Are you willing to put forth the effort
to make Bible Studies effective?
- Participants who lead the discussions off on tangents can disrupt and confuse the
others. Don't do this!
- Don't argue. Argumentation has no place in worship services. Love does not argue and
seek to have its own way. Few have learned to allow others to believe a little different than they do. Read Romans 12:1-10.
This should be our attitude in every group Bible Study.
- Not listening to others results in not learning, with zero benefit to you and others.
The study has been only a forum for your own ideas, not a learning session for new ideas. This goes for both the preparer
and participants of the study.
- Also, some groups of people make the mistake of becoming "tape worms." They invariably
meet together and do nothing more than play sermon tapes from "headquarters." What's wrong with this? Plenty. Such people
are becoming spoon-fed automatons and cannot think and reason for themselves. The Eternal doesn't want robots parroting the
party line. He wants solid, individual believers who cannot be swayed by others. Tapes are fine, but often it is better to
listen to them at home.
Closing the Study
Usually 1-2 hours is the longest that most can keep their attention. One to two pages
of notes (both sides) usually is sufficient to keep the study going this long. The conclusion, or summation of what has been
learned, is usually done by the leader. Prayer and dismissal is then a natural process. Sometimes, a common meal concludes
Why Group Bible Studies?
Some take these studies too seriously. They want to use them to plug their own
ideas. Others do not take them seriously enough. They do not prepare, so often the study may become merely a "bull session."
Why have group Bible Studies? Why don't we merely study on our own?
In Hebrews 3:12-13, we are told to exhort one another daily, lest we ourselves
be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 1 Corinthians 14:3 tells us to exhort in order to edify and comfort,
so that all may learn, verse 31. In Acts 13:14-15, the scriptures were read, and exhortation was given. If only
churches today were conducted like this, more would be able to come to the knowledge of the truth!
A lesson from Hebrews 12:3-7 is that we need exhortation and correction from
God's Word, even at times from others. We too often study scriptures that agree with ourselves. We need to listen to scriptures
picked by others as well.
1 Timothy 4:12-16 shows we must be an example to other believers, in word, conversation,
etc. We are to read the Bible, exhort one another, speak of doctrine, help others stay on the right path and take heed ourselves.
In doing this, we will save ourselves, and others who hear us. This is a responsibility for everyone. We need to utter words
of exhortation fitly spoken to exhort and encourage our brethren.
Hebrews 10:24-25 [Amplified Bible]
"And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over
one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities; Not forsaking
or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing -- warning, urging and
encouraging -- one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching."
Let us encourage our brethren by conducting, and participating in, uplifting Home Bible
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Written by: Richard Nickels
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