Bible Class – Shifting the Paradigm from Title to Time

In the last post Tim Spivey asked the following question,

Matt, as one who recently started a church…one thing I’d love to hear your thoughts on is… if or when you might think starting Bible “classes is a good idea. I’ve always loved Bible class, though felt it in huge need of overhaul. But, when it’s not already in place, it changes the way you see it paradigmatically.”

One of the great things about church planting is you get to take fresh look at things and decide what their purpose should be and how that purpose will concretely be accomplished. While there are many advantages to being a part of an established congregation, one of the disadvantages many of us face is that we may have never defined what the purposes of our classes and ministries are and so you never really know if they are being accomplished. So what do you do with Bible class? I want us all to step back and take a look at the big picture here because I believe the paradigm is broken and needs to be shifted to something more effective and relevant.

Old Habits are Hard to Break:
It is hard to honestly and accurately assess something you are extremely close to. Many of us have had the Bible class model drilled into us our whole lives and it is hard to envision anything different. So when we say “Bible class” you have already worked yourself into a corner because we all know how Bible class is supposed to go. So for this particular discussion, let’s throw that word out entirely. I want to work you through an exercise that will hopefully help you shift your paradigm into something that is real and powerful. The purpose here is to change our thinking from title (Bible class) to time (creating opportunities for growth and maturity). Add to that concrete steps of accomplishing those purposes.

Exercise:
Get out a piece of paper and a pen. Write on the top of the paper “60 minutes of opportunity.” Ask yourself this, “What things can I write on this piece of paper that would be essential components to developing and nurturing a healthy relationship with God?” In other words, we are no longer thinking of the thing that happens before or after worship as “Bible class” proper but as a chunk of time dedicated to helping people grow through whatever means necessary. So let’s start thinking through what we write on this page. What activities would it take? How much time would you spend in silence, listening? What scriptures or Bible stories would be relevant? What relevant topics would need to be dealt with? What would never happen during this time? What things would you need to create this environment? How will you make people feel safe to be real and authentic? How might you use scripture and prayer to help people have a conversation with God? What biblical practices and disciplines could be incorporated? What encouragement might people receive? How can you encourage confession and support? What will it take to create a place people feel close to God and to each other? How can you build it so that people can go out from there and know how to continue practicing these things the other 167 hours of the week? How do you put God in the center of it? How do you model dependence on God and the Holy Spirit in a way people can practice it in their daily lives?

So what does your paper look like? What things do you know would be effective but know “that won’t happen here”, why not? This all has to be drenched in prayer. What happens on your list will fly or fail depending on what God knows is best. So we are dependent on God in this process to show us what really needs to happen. I want to mention that this is not saying the Bible is irrelevant and so we need less time in study. The Bible is just as relevant today as it was 100 or 1000 years ago, the delivery systems need adjusting. In fact, I would say this approach is saying the Bible is even more relevant because we are expecting something to happen more than just contemplating “application questions” for five minutes at the end of class.

Last, this means this 60 minute block of time won’t be the same every week. Some weeks you may have a need to slow down and listen. Other weeks, there may be real events that have taken place in people’s lives that God needs praised for or prayed to. Still other times, there will be some scriptures that you need to dive into to teach people biblical principles on areas relevant to their lives.

I am curious to get your feedback on this…what did you write down? How do you see this being more or less relevant than what you are currently doing?

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

One Response to Bible Class – Shifting the Paradigm from Title to Time

  1. K. Rex Butts says:

    I am glad you’re asking such questions. We must and I say that such questions need to be asked about every gathering time, whether it be worship, a Bible class, or else.

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