There’s no question that the apostles of the early church placed an extremely high importance on the teaching of the Word of God. It was the center of their faith. It’s even assumed that every true believer would be thirsty for the Word and that they would desire to study and learn it with others.
Getting in a rut
For many assemblies the main focus of teaching is a man lecturing from the front for 40-45 minutes. For some assemblies this is the only means of teaching. While I believe this is a powerful and necessary way to teach, if it’s the only method of teaching then there is a lack of opportunity for believers to grow together.
The need for sharing not just listening
Lecture style teaching has one main disadvantage: it’s a form of one-way communication. Unless there is a time for questions or feedback, the listeners have no participation in the teaching. It’s passive and can become ritualistic and inefficient. That’s why James could say, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only…” James 1:22a
Other assemblies have a variety of teaching styles including: discussion groups, home Bible studies, video series and question and answer times.
When someone studies the Word and then comes to share what has been learned, it solidifies that learning in his/her heart. It also causes the person to engage in defending (or being corrected) the things learned. This is healthy as it can curb any extreme views that are contrary to the Word.
Another reality is that there is fellowship around the Word when we share together. This is a spiritual thing that can’t be explained. The Spirit knits our hearts together through the Word as we learn together.
My wife and I have been involved in home Bible studies for the past 6 years and have found it a tremendous blessing in our lives. One advantage of shared learning is hearing from people of different backgrounds, cultures and experiences. This can bring a fresh perspective to the Word in ways we wouldn’t know otherwise.
A woman’s view
Another blessing for me personally has been to hear from women and consider their perspective on how the Word of God can be applied to life. Since men are to be the primary teachers of the Word in a corporate setting, women are often ignored or neglected. But the spiritual gifts are not confined to either gender and some of the best teachers I know are women.
Sharing in a small group setting is a perfect place for women to share the Word with others. I have been greatly enriched in my life by learning from women and also hearing them pray.
How to handle disagreement
Many people do not like shared learning because of the potential for disagreement and that’s fair. Here are a few tips on how to make this time less confrontational.
- Accept each other as equals. While someone may have more experience in the Word, all believers have the Holy Spirit and are able to understand scripture.
- Disagreeing isn’t bad. For some reason we have this built in view that everyone in a local church has to agree. That’s not the case. We can differ on our view of scripture and still have happy fellowship.
- Speak in kindness. No matter how much we might disagree with a brother or sister about the Word we are still commanded to speak to one another in love and kindness. There’s just not any excuse for harsh, critical words.
- Don’t be defensive. If someone doesn’t agree with you it’s ok. Really it is. Don’t get upset. Use it as an opportunity to revisit your view and dig a little deeper.
- Leave pride at the door. You might find this shocking but you could be wrong about some of your views on Scripture. No one has a handle on everything so don’t be proud (puffed up) in your knowledge.
Sharing the Word with one another is powerful. It can help others to grow and most definitely will help you grow. If you are not in a Bible study, especially with men and women, I encourage you to give it a go and allow the Spirit to use it in your life.