I had coffee with George this morning. We have started doing a sort of “Bible Study” together. Something I find interesting is that we learn much more from each other when we are not involved in our formal Bible study mindsets. Usually when we first show up we sort of chat about life and family and work and stuff. This usually leads to a somewhat deeper conversation about how we are doing and how we are responding to the things in our lives. We tend to offer each other a few words of encouragement in areas that we are struggling or having difficulty in and then we start our “Bible Study” time. At that point we talk about the couple chapters we read that past week and discuss what we think it all means and how that meaning impacts our thoughts and actions. It’s good. Don’t get me wrong, but it is kind of dry and disjointed from our real life. Typically as we get ready to wrap things up and head off to our respective jobs our conversation tend to spin off from what we talked about during the “Bible Study” and we end up talking about different theological topics (ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology are the usual topics). This just sort of happens naturally and we usually end up discussing certain passages that relate to that topic or maybe something we heard or read recently about it. Whatever we end up discussing I usually find it very encouraging and interesting.
I explain all this simply to illustrate that I find the time before and after the “Bible Study” much more insightful and helpful than I do the actual “Bible Study” itself. It’s not as if we aren’t talking about the Bible and what God has to say about our lives and theology before and after we have our study time. It’s simply that we are trying to understand our thoughts and lives through the truth of Scripture during those times as opposed to simply trying to work through a book.
I realize that topical preaching and teaching (and possibly conversation for that matter) are not always preferred in conservative evangelical circles today, and I understand that sometimes topical discussion and teaching can lead to proof-texting and taking Scripture out of context, but I find it much more helpful in my life to say “this is what I am dealing with, what does the Bible say about it?” than to say “this is what the Bible says, how does it relate to my life?” The first imposes the truth of Scripture into what I am thinking and doing. The second sort of builds a warehouse of information that I can use when I am dealing with an issue. Both are helpful and useful, but I wonder if we downplay the importance of the first sometimes or think of it as not really studying the Bible: not officially or formally Bible study, but in many cases we learn much more this way and apply what we learn much easier to our lives without even thinking about it.
What do you think? Maybe everyone but me already knew this, or maybe I’m way off base… please share your thoughts.