Studying the bible together…some suggestions.
For some housegroups doing a bible study together is natural and easy. For others it may be less so.
If you’re tasked with leading one of our upcoming bible studies on Hebrews and you’re nervous or feeling ill-prepared, then I hope the following will help.
If this guide seems a little like an instruction manual for teaching you to suck eggs, then it's probably not for you.
Whether you’re an experienced hand or an absolute beginner I strongly recommend using the study book for this series ‘Hebrews for Everyone’ by Tom Wright. It’s a short book but full of insight and is a great help in explaining some of the more obscure and difficult bits of Hebrews. Without a good study guide it is quite easy to radically depart from the intentions of the author of Hebrews, and as in any bible study it’s not about making scripture fir what we want it to say, but rather being open to what scripture says to us.
As in any bible-study, be open to new insights. If you know you have a bias towards certain things, or always seem to end up saying the same thing – then stop yourself and consciously make an effort to look for new understanding. The scriptures are not just there to underline what we think we already know. They are there to challenge us and shake us up!
Before the housegroup session.
Spend some time reading Hebrews. Not just the small section that you will be studying, but the whole book. It’s probably best to do this over a few days and with a pen and note-book to hand. As you do so, take note of the following:
What are some of the major recurring themes in the book? Does it deal with only one theme or issue or are there several?
Does the author highlight or underline any particular aspects of his teaching?
How is the book structured? (It may be helpful to ignore the chapter headings as they weren’t there in the first place.)
Having read through the whole book, it might be helpful to think about how the particular passage you are studying fits into the book and its themes / teaching. Make a note of this as it’s important to read short passages in context.
During the housegroup session.
1. Begin in prayer. Ask God to open your minds and hearts to hear what he is speaking through the scriptures. A prayer you could use might be:
As we study the scriptures, open our hearts and minds that we would hear from you. Help us to be open to new insights about you and ourselves. May your word change us and shape us. Through your Spirit, help us to grow in understanding and in love for you and others.
2. Read the passage. To start with read the set passage for the group study. It might be helpful to read it through once as a group, then once again silently. Are there any terms / phrases / concepts that the group doesn’t understand – if so spend a little time looking at these.
3. Read the passage in context. Think about where the passage comes in the book and how it fits into the wider argument / discussion. How might this shape your interpretation of its meaning?
4. Ask some questions of the passage.
At this point our recommended study guide “Hebrews for Everyone’ will be invaluable.
What type of literature is the passage? Poetry? Hymn? Letter? Sermon?
Is the passage a simple command? Offering practical advice? An ethical statement? A theological statement?
What do we know about the situation of the original recipients?
What is the author trying to communicate to his original audience?
5. What is the passage saying.
Having looked at the background and context of the passage as a group spend some time drawing out the message of the passage. The simple question ‘what does it mean?’ may help.
6. Apply the passage.
As the group unpacks the passage of scripture the conversation is likely to turn towards ways of applying the scripture to daily faith. The application may vary depending on the nature of the passage, sometimes it may be a matter of changing an attitude, at other times it’s about doing or not doing something. It may be a one-off application or it may be ongoing…
But certainly at some point in the housegroup session it is worth asking ‘so what?’ What can we learn from this passage? How might we apply it to our daily Christian lives?
In asking this it might be helpful to as how our situation relates to that of the original recipients? In what ways is it different / the same? How does this affect our interpretation and application of the passage?
7. Pray the passage. Over the course of the study many themes and points of application are likely to emerge. Why not use these as a basis for prayer to close the session?
Pray through the challenges and encouragements contained in the passage.
Pray for help and guidance in making any life changes as a result of applying the passage.
Pray for others who may find themselves in situations described in the passage.
Pray for Gods Spirit to continue to work in you and that the passage may be taken deeply to heart.