One of the most effective ministries in any church is well run Biblical Bible Study Groups. I know… you’ve just read that sentence twice and you’re thinking— “Biblical” Bible study groups?” What’s he going on about now?
What is a Bible Study Group? Well… it’s not a prayer group… or a gossip club… or a twelve step group… or a counselling group… or a social club. It’s a Bible Study and the Scriptures clearly state that the central activity of our time gathered as Christians—including in home Bible Study groups—is to be spent focussed and based on the Scriptures.
1 Timothy 4:9-13 “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”
In the Bible the church is the gathering of God’s people around Christ who is the word of God. God is a gathering God, bringing His people together – that is the great picture of heaven in Revelation 20-21 – the kingdom of priests gathered before the throne of heaven with Christ the Lamb at the centre and listening to the word of God – the lamb on the throne – for all eternity, as his people worship him in songs of never ending praise.
Any church, or Bible Study group, that claims to be faithful to God, yet has a preponderance of time and teaching on things other than the Scriptures… is not the church, or is at least not being obedient to Scripture. Forbidding people to marry, forbidding certain foods, mandating worship on a certain day, twisting Scripture to take the focus off Christ crucified – these are not the church! They may well be an assembly of like-minded God fearers, spiritual worshippers, even Bible readers – but without the Scriptures truthfully taught and believed they are, as Paul says, hypocrites, liars, without clear conscience (1 Tim 4:1-2). Strong words! It may of course be that the folk in those churches don’t know any better – but the ministers should and the Bible is pretty clear (and harsh) about ministers and teachers who lead astray the people they are meant to be shepherding. (see
Our vision, however we phrase it, should ultimately be should be to give God all glorify, honour, power and majesty by proclaiming the saviour Jesus Christ. A Bible Study group should be an extension of the churches mission and focussed on that every week. The only way to give God glory is to give Christ our obedience and honour. A faithful religious Jew strives to give God honour and glory—but as moral, upright and religious as he is, as much as he reads the OT faithfully and prays, he cannot give honour to God because he refuses to be obedient to the claim of Jesus.
Colossians 2:6-8 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
This is what honours God—and this is what should drive us in our Bible Study groups. To be Christian means we have a new found desire to grow and mature to be like Christ – imperfect, but by the work of the Holy Spirit, in the reading of God’s word, praying, meeting together as the body of Christ, ministering to others, bringing our sinfulness under the control of the Holy Spirit, by repentance – we will become the great tree deep rooted in Christ. The small group setting provides the ideal hothouse for growth. It is the place where we can learn in depth, where we can discuss and question in a group of like-minded Christians – hopefully people of similar maturity and with a similar desire to grow.
Who should lead? The Bible gives us ample guidelines for leaders—check out the character and faith that are the big foci in Titus and Timothy in their lists of overseers. But here are the four criteria we should be looking for…
1. A desire to lead and serve others, to grow them to maturity in Christ. A desire to lead is not a desire to lord it over, but to serve as a shepherd serves.
2. A level of Christian knowledge and maturity above those we are leading and a willingness to honestly seek answers when we don’t know (teachable).
3. Character that has been shaped like Christ (not perfectly) and that is known to other mature Christians
4. People willing to follow you as a leader.
How do you start? Pray and think. Talk to your minister or church leaders. If it’s appropriate that you start a group, talk to those you might meet with, and get started.