Are you in a small group Bible study? If the answer to that question is ‘no,’ then you’re missing out on much more than you may realize.
God’s Word is magnificent, and, when read, the beauty that Word will add into our lives cannot even be explained. For the individual who is really seeking to follow Christ, studying the Word of God is of paramount importance, because the path of Christ is well explained in Scripture. A mature and growing walk with God is directly proportional to our time in His Word, because that Word contains the truth that should be our foundation. Dwight L. Moody said, “Merely reading the Bible is no use at all without we study it thoroughly, and hunt it through, as it were, for some great truth.”
The words of God, when read and understood, create the foundation for our faith and our works. They define for us the depth and depravity of man’s sinful state, and they offer mankind the glorious and unmerited hope that is only contained in the completed work of Christ. Moreover, the Word of God is a powerful means of communication between a loving God and His children. To say that you’re a “Christian” should, by default, lead to the natural assumption that you read God’s Word daily. If you do, I applaud your pursuit of God. Keep pursuing. If you don’t seek God through His Word daily, then I would venture a guess that your intimate walk with God is profoundly shallow, and I would encourage you to open this powerful book, a book which is the written manifestation of the very heart of God.
“I will study Your commandments and reflect on Your ways.
I will delight in Your decrees and not forget Your Word.”
Individual time with God in His word (and in prayer) is most assuredly the basis of our personal walk with Jesus, and it should be. Our passionate knowledge and application of Scripture is the determinate of the height and breadth of our walk with God. Scripture defines God, and it should define us. If God, through His Word, doesn’t define us, something else most certainly will. So, Bible study is important.
But, I want to discuss another aspect of our walk with God that is often overlooked among Christians. That is small group Bible study. I don’t know of anyone who truly identifies themselves as a follower of Christ that would disavow the relevance of digging into Scripture with others, but I do know many who set it aside, because it’s not something that pings very high on their list of priorities. Whether it trails down the list because of a busy schedule, or they feel that they “really get enough Bible study on Sunday morning,” there’s a world of Christians in our culture who are missing the bus where small group Bible study is concerned.
Below is an excerpt from an article by Ray Higginbottom that explains the importance of small group Bible study in musical terms…
“Give a skilled trumpeter his horn and a solo, and he can pin back your ears or prick your heart. He can draw out emotions you’d locked away or inspire grand thoughts of beauty and grace. There is power and clarity in his notes. Now put that same trumpeter in a jazz band and listen again. As the instruments swell and fall in concert, you’ll hear a richness and depth that a soloist cannot produce on his own. It isn’t that the music is better; both can be profound and beautiful.
Without hours alone in the practice room, the trumpeter misses out on technique, skill, and precision. Without a band, he won’t learn to listen, react, follow, or lead. He needs both settings.
So it is with Bible study. The majority of your Bible study will likely take place in private. This is the necessary foundation for a life of loving God and living faithfully in the world. But if you study the Bible only by yourself, you’ll miss the concert. Work on your breathing, perfect those scales, and come join the band.”
If you’re studying alone, then know that God will work in your life, but if you’re bringing the wealth of knowledge that God imparts to you in your personal times with Him into a small group, then know that God will work in many lives! Iron sharpens iron, and so it is with God’s children. We should always seek out other followers of Christ and engage the majesty of God’s Word with them. The result is spectacular…and contagious!
In his article, Ray identifies three very valid reasons why small groups are important:
Small Group Bible Studies Help You Study the Bible
“We all need as much time with the Bible as possible, and a small group gives you extra exposure every week or so. …This will accelerate your development and strengthen your (spiritual) muscles. A good leader will ask questions that lead your group through the observation-interpretation-application process and help you to advance in each area.”
Placing God, and the study of His Word, on our calendar in a consistent manner through a small group will keep us plugged in, and it will also keep us accountable to pursue Christ through His Word, because we know that others are sharing in our journey. A journey with others creates more opportunities for growth, because the addition of others brings with it a dynamic that cannot be reproduced alone.
Small Group Bible Studies Remind You that You Need Other People
“God has made us relational, social beings who thrive in community. Because of our sin, relationships can be difficult, but without other people we shrivel up and dry out. We need contact with others from different ages and life situations to appreciate God’s faithful and diverse working throughout the church.”
We don’t like the idea of “needing” anyone, but, my friends, we do need each other. Ray points out above that we are “relational, social beings who thrive in community.” I agree with him. The rugged individualist may appear to be strong, self-reliant, and extraordinary in nature, but there will always come a day when you need friends. When that day comes, it’s of utmost importance that our real friendships are developed through one common thread, the love of God and His Word. Surrounding yourself with men and women who have a passion for God and His Word is the formula for success. There’s a saying, “If you want to be successful, surround yourself with people who are good at what you’re not.” God speaks truth through Scripture, and, in the small group dynamic, He can certainly speak truth through others. Get in a small group, and let God use that group interaction to disciple all involved. You’ll make new friends, form deep bonds of trust with others, and the Holy Spirit will have a fertile environment to move freely.
Small Group Bible Studies Remind You that You Need Other People to Study the Bible
“…we need community to apply the Bible. But, this isn’t just true for application. Fellow Christians also help us observe the important aspects of a Bible passage and interpret (it) correctly. We need others to help…sharpen, clarify, and correct what we think. In the same way that you need others, others also need you."
Some of you will disagree that we need others to study God’s Word, but let’s understand that we need others period. Studying alone will reveal great depths of knowledge to the soul that is pursuing Christ with all his heart, but engaging Scripture in a small group setting will reveal, as Ray says, “the richness and depth that a soloist cannot produce on his own.” Study the Bible alone and then bring the depth of your knowledge into the midst of others who are adamantly seeking, as well. Converse about Scripture, and let the Holy Spirit lead. Ask questions…hard ones…and seek the answers as a group through the text of Scripture. Pray for and with each other. Develop and share relationships that are transparent and accountable. As Ray mentioned above, “don’t miss the concert; come join the band.” You will find that it’s enlightening in ways that studying alone can’t equal.
Both individual study and small group study are important, and both are used by God. There’s a dynamic to small group study that has been much more than beneficial to me in my own life, and I encourage you to explore it as an option. If you want to break through the barrier of a nominal Christian walk, Bible study is always the first step in that direction, and involving yourself in a small group study with others who are seeking the Lord is never a mistake.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!