How to study the Bible with Circle of Hope
Circle of Hope is one big experiment in doing the word, some of our convictions about that are expressed in our proverbs.
We must be doers of the word
- The Bible should be known and followed, and that is a group project.
- Jesus is the lens through which we read the Bible.
- The truth in and from Jesus is revealed in many ways: through the Bible, through the members of the body, through the creation, through the Holy Spirit.
- Being successful is faithfully following the teaching of scripture according to one’s ability and one’s role in the body.
- We are discipled for mission, not just for personal growth.
- We learn best person to person, not program to person.
- In the postmodern era it is even more important to speak the truth in love, and a love in Christ.
Studying our proverbs would be a good Bible study, itself! They are sprinkled with references and all are applications of the scripture.
When we send questions to cells to help them discern our Map, in the responses, the pastors often note how often people think we are not growing in our knowledge of the Bible! Great! People want to know the Bible. We can help with that. We organized Gifts for Growing that speak directly to our need for more training, including Bible study, as well as creating The Way of Jesus website, which is a growing collection of resources, including resources for Bible study.
Everything we do is an application of what the Bible teaches. So we have a lot of emphasis on knowing and applying the Bible. But we don’t think Bible study is the end of the church, it is the beginning. The fact is, most of us (me included) have already done enough Bible study. We don't need to know more because we have not put into practice what we have already learned! We need to heed what Paul teaches and “live up to what you have received.” We don't want to become the type of people he warns about who are “always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth” or who want their ears “tickled.” We are taking James seriously when he warns us about hearing the word but not doing it, which would be deceiving ourselves and falling into ruin. Mainly, we are taking Jesus seriously, who is the living word, and who guides us personally, as the Bible leads us to realize.
Our church is designed to be an environment where the Bible can be “caught” as much as “taught,” where people can learn and do the word. In pursuit of that goal, some people may look for a certain paradigm of Bible study that comes from their memory of church. We rarely use the modernistic exposition that is common in many Reformed and Evangelical churches -- one which seems normal in our reason-loving culture, but one which is hard to find in the Bible. Unlike the "magisterial" churches, we do not have authoritative teachers that override our own community's sense of the Spirit's guidance -- we stay in the dialogue locally and globally and keep learning together. We avoid over-applying post-New-Testament philosophical frameworks to interpret what the original writers composed. So we try to hear the text as it was originally spoken (not an easy task!) and apply it in our own way and time as the Spirit guides us.
Here are some ways we do it
1) Both wings on which our church flies include Bible teaching. Each Sunday meeting includes Bible reading, songs with allusions to the Bible and a speech that teaches and applies the Bible. If you miss a meeting, we have them recorded for you online. Likewise, each cell has its own way, but most of them study the Bible – the Cell Plan recommends it and the flow questions the pastors provide each week provide a way to do it. If you are missing the Bible in your cell, ask your leader to include it. The Sunday meetings and the cells are more designed for doing the word than just learning it, but they include learning it, since many people in them know nothing about it.
2) Study is a spiritual discipline. The church cannot do your studying for you. If the leaders premasticated all your spiritual food for you, you’d stay a flightless, nested , baby bird! -- our church is designed for people who want to fly their best. Nevertheless, we have produced two Daily Prayer sites that include Bible study and meditation as part of the prayer guide. WIND is for people who are new to faith or new to Circle of Hope. WATER is an offering that changes every week as many people from the church lead us with what they have to give us. On the Way of Jesus website there is a growing collection of resources that includes Bible study resources. Try 2PROAPT as a Bible study method. Read the many recommended books that are extended Bible studies on various topics. Work through the spiritual gifts Bible studies.
3) Read the blogs. These are often applications of specific scriptures.
4) Come to the offerings that dig into the Bible, such as the Old Testament Overview, New Testament Overview, and What is the Bible and What Do I Do with It? Most of the Gifts for Growing offerings are either about the Bible or about applying it.
We have a deliberate New Testament mindset we are working out. Before the church became fused with the state in Europe and people started learning to stay orthodox rather than learning to live as God’s partners in redemption, way before the general population could read, there was a way of life that was Spirit-driven, communal, risky, all-consuming and remarkably effective. We want to live out our version of that creation. We want to teach in ways that even non-readers can understand. We are trying to have faith that works and so, as James teaches, is not dead. Such faith cannot be achieved by learning the Bible alone, but it can’t be achieved without people who study it and do it, either.