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.


About Dan Allen

Just some guy trying to figure stuff out... View all posts by Dan Allen

5 responses to “Official

  • D King

    Hi Dan, My classes are much improved since I changed the format. We went from dry and dull lecture from my notes that were mistakenly given to the students in their entirety….ugh! However, when students ( after lunch came to a 4 hour class) were sleeping and uninterested. I prayed for God’s wisdom and changed the format to asking questions, drawing diagrams and real life situations a pastor deals with. Things made a complete turn around and now the class is alive and popping. I guess the idea is that even in education dialogue about real life works just like your times with George.

    Of course when I asked a question about how a leader gains the confidence and trust (respect) of the body, does he gain this respect because he is “THE PASTOR” and you better respect me because of my title. OR, do we as leaders (brothers, elders) gain respect by respecting people as equals, showing hospitality (inviting them home to dinner on Sunday or any other time)? One student said, In Ukraine we do not invite people home to dinner! HELLO??? what did you say? How about 1 Tim. 3 Elders are to be ….given to hospitality? Then I challenged them to invite the poorest family they know home to dinner Sunday and just love them. One student challenged me back. Why don’t you invite all of us home to dinner. My immediate reply was..”When can you come?” He said it was only a test. I asked, how did I do? He said you get an A+. Then I said, Well, when can you all come to my apartment for dinner? How about Monday after class. My wife and I will serve you all and your spouse PIZZA Coke and homemade cake. So 18 people came for dinner…a lesson in real life. This helped brake down the wall and true fellowship in class began.

    Well, getting back to your comments: I believe your times with George are real special and edifying. We need this when we gather as the church. However, this works best in small groups (2-6 people) who are all doing their homework.

    If we are going to have a fruitful time in the Word, someone must be prepared, know the context, understand the meaning of words, have good theology and a Christ-like attitude (love) for all the others. Yes, I have learned that it’s a whole lot more interesting when a question is asked to spark dialogue and enhance understanding from different perspective, Ya might even learn something…..:O)..talking about me. It’s just better than “telling people what it all means.” But on the other hand a facilitator acting in incognito…;O) needs to help the questions lead to the contextual meaning of the text and help with some real life application…”this is what the writer is saying and this is how it works….sooner or later.

    I know, there I go again…too much structure….Love ya GSIL

  • Dan Allen


    Thanks for the comment and the example. It is interesting that even in official teaching it is more helpful to talk about real life instead of just theory.

    I think I agree with what you are alluding to toward the end. This puts more responsibility on everyone involved, and I would agree with that. I also want to clarify that I do not oppose the idea of formally studying the Bible. Those times are very helpful when something arises in life and we ask ourselves “what do I know about this? What do I think God has to say about this?” If we can already have some kind of ideas about these answers it will be much easier, having that foundation to build on.

    Miss you guys! Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

    Dan (your GSIL!)

  • Alan Knox


    I find that improptu teaching/encouraging based on what’s going on in each person’s lives can be very beneficial. These times can include scriptural teaching and study as well.

    I think there is also a benefit to systematic study, because that study will round out our understanding. It will fill in gaps and prepare us for struggles that we will eventually go through, or that others are going through.

    So, I say, do both!


  • Dan Allen


    Regarding systematic study you say “It will fill in gaps and prepare us for struggles that we will eventually go through, or that others are going through.” I completely agree! I hope I didn’t give the impression that Systematic study is NOT beneficial, I just wanted to point out that impromptu teaching/encouraging can also be very beneficial, and maybe sometimes more appropriate than systematic study depending on the situation.


  • Systematic or Casual | The Assembling of the Church

    […] friend Dan at “The Ekklesia in Southern Maine” has written an excellent post called “Official.” In the post, Dan is asking […]

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