Bible study groups can be funny things. If you’re not a Christian and don’t know what a Bible study group is, well, it’s kind of there in the title. It’s a group of people getting together to study the Bible for a couple of hours during the week (ie, not at church service on a Sunday). But that’s a pretty bland description.
The thing I love about Bible study groups (or home groups, small groups, cell groups, growth groups, or whatever you call them where you are) is getting to know people on a deeper level as we learn together. The ten minutes after church are never long enough to have a conversation of much depth, and even at social things like dinners the conversation is usually fairly surface-level. But over the Bible, in a small group, in someone’s home, you really get to find out what people think and what makes them tick. Well, usually you do. Sometimes it can take a long time for the group dynamic to fire, or for people to trust each other enough to really open up. Sometimes the group never quite gels. But it’s a start, an overture to relationship, an intentional gathering.
Each group looks completely different, even if you only change it by one or two people. I’ve been in groups where people didn’t feel super comfortable with one another, so it was always a little bit stiff and polite, with lots of long silences. I’ve been in groups that went off on unrelated hilarious tangents more than actually reading the Bible (we ended up having to have a notebook to write the tangents in to return to if time permitted, which it rarely did. Because of the tangents). I’ve been in groups where some members knew lots about the Bible and others were brand new Christians, and we all struggled along together. Our current group is always full of entertaining and robust discussion; no long silences here!
One thing I really like about Bible study is hosting it at our home. Mum and I are a pretty good team when it comes to hospitality I think (well I learned all I know from her) and we like people to feel welcome and comfortable. We chose this particular house we live in because we thought it would be great for having groups of people in, and we bought a big fat comfy couch that could seat lots of people, so we were so glad when we were asked to host this group. But we’ve hosted Bible study in much humbler homes, in a tiny narrow Glebe terrace, or a slightly cramped house in Maroubra, so space isn’t a prerequisite, though it’s nice to have.
Another reason I like hosting is a purely selfish one, because to be honest, despite all that I’ve said above, a lot of the time I just don’t feel like it. I can’t be bothered being sociable. I don’t want to share prayer points. I don’t want to look at the Bible. I don’t want to answer questions about the passage. I don’t want to see other humans. I just want to hide away with my face in a screen and not talk to anyone. But because we host the group, I have to be there (unless I’m too sick to get out of bed). If we didn’t host and I had anything I could use as an excuse, more often than not I’d probably play that card.
And that would be to my detriment. No matter how unwilling I feel, once I open the door and greet people and talk, gradually my antisocial bad mood starts to dissolve and I remember how much I love these people who’ve made the trek to our house. We talk and read the Bible and laugh and gems begin to reveal themselves in the passage, and someone will make a comment and I’ll suddenly see the verses in a whole new light. We encourage one another as we talk about our lives, as we ask for prayer for struggles, as we share our joys. The living word coalesces and breathes its life into me and I know what it means to be part of a community of believers.
It says in Hebrews 10:24-25, “We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.” I’m not saying that Bible study is always a wonderful experience. Sometimes it’s frustrating, hard work, like anything involving humans. But it’s worth it.
(And sometimes there are leftovers!
“We’ve cake for tomorrow,” mum said, as I polished off the leftover brie. The syllables rang a bell in my mind.
“Great is thy faithfulness, father to me,” I replied in song. We then amended it to “cheese for today and we’ve cake for tomorrow / great is thy faithfulness, father to me”. Because it’s true.)