Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Does It Feel....Cold in Here?

Because Fellow Traveler and I signed up for a new Bible study at church beginning in October. We're reading Paul's Letter to the Romans.

See, I usually hate Bible studies. You know; the layperson-led kind where the leader has someone read a verse, then asks, "What does this mean?" or "How does that make you feel?" or some other lame-ass question that generates a lot of self-absorbed, self-referential crap that has nothing to do with the original purpose or context of the text, until the group discussion degenerates into church gossip.

Just hand me a gun with one bullet in it. I once told a friend hell would freeze over before I got caught in another run-o-the-mill Bible study.

Our pastor is facilitating this study, so I am signing on with the expectation of a somewhat higher bar. And it's Romans; a great book.

Wish us luck.


Teri said...

teehee--my former senior pastor used to call those other bible studies the warm-fuzzy-crying-patting-each-other's-bottoms groups. :-)

My congregation has some sort of block on lay-led classes: they seriously ONLY come if a pastor is leading the class, which is why we had to move all our adult education off of Sunday. then they complain that there's nothing on sunday morning. wackos. (we have some very competent laypeople, and some retired pastors, who would do very well if people would just show up...sigh...)

hope your study of romans is good!

Tom in Ontario said...

It doesn't take an expert to lead a Bible Study. I think that's why so many lay people so rarely read their Bibles. They think it's too hard to understand.

I like Kelly Fryer's adaptation of the African Bible Study Method. She calls it "Just Three Questions." You read a passage and then ask:
1. What do you think God is doing here? (In other words, what's going on in this reading? What's God up to? What's the plot of the story? Who are the characters and what are they up to?)
2. What do you hear God saying to you, personally? (What is God saying to you about your life, relationships, work, and so on in this reading? What is God saying to you about what you're called to be or to do?)
3. What do you hear God saying to us (as a small group, congregation, community, nation)? (How is God calling, challenging, directing, forgiving, and loving us in this reading? What is God saying about what we're called to be or to do?)

God speaks to each one of us, so everyone has something to offer in such a discussion. You learn from the Bible and from each other.

What I don't like in a Bible Study is the expert who ask questions s/he has all the answers to because s/he studied the commentaries and the rest of the group is really there to receive the information that the leader is there to provide.

Crimson Rambler said...

I wish I didn't recognize my own leadership of Bible studies in all these comments!!!

LutheranChik said...

Tom: Would that anyone in any Bible studies I've attended even know what a commentary was.

With all respect to Kelly Fryer -- who may be reading this, for all I know -- I find ignorance of historical and other contexts a huge stumbling block in my enjoyment or edification in lay-led Bible studies. How can people make sense of what they're reading if they don't know when it was written, why it was written and for whom it was written? Like I said -- just hand me a gun so I can put myself out of my misery.

I'm also reminded of a class I attended on the Exodus stories, taught by a professor from one of the ELCA seminaries, where a fellow layperson sat next to me tight-lipped during the whole lecture, then afterward declared to fellow classmates, "Well, I don't care what they teach people in seminary -- I'm just going to believe what I believe and read the Bible my way." I thought, Great. That really makes me want to attend any Bible study you might ever facilitate...not.

LutheranChik said...

The advice I was given, long ago, in engaging with the Bible, is to ask three questions:

What does this say?

What does this mean?

What does this mean, right now, in my life/the life of the Church?

That method still preserves the devotional element of Bible study, but also makes room for understanding the "big picture" of the texts.