Open Your Bible, Bless Your Church
After studying Romans 8 with a group of ladies at church, I’ve been struck by the great gift it is to study God’s Word with God’s people. And not just any of God’s people, but the very sisters in Christ with whom I have covenanted through our local church.
Many good organizations are attempting to do good things with Bible studies. I know of citywide Bible studies, and various online forums and apps; I’ve heard about authors hosting six-week sessions through their recently published work. Of course, studying God’s Word is always better than not studying his Word. But the best place to do this is with fellow members from your local church.
THREE REASONS WHY
1. Studying God’s Word with church members helps us to fulfill our church covenant to one another.
Consider the following paragraphs from my church covenant:
We will walk together in Christian love, exercising an affectionate care for and watchfulness over one another; praying for one another; faithfully encouraging, warning, rebuking, and admonishing one another as occasion may require;
We will seek, by God’s grace, to live carefully in the world, denying ungodliness and worldly passions, and remembering that, as we have been buried with Him in baptism and raised again to newness of life, so we now have a special obligation to lead a new and holy life.
In our Bible study, discussion often came back to a single question: “How do we apply this passage to our life in the church as we live out our covenant to one another?”
Reflecting on Romans 8, we discussed themes like:
- walking in step with the Spirit
- rejoicing in our sufferings
- dying to sin
- setting our minds on the things of the Spirit
- understanding what it means to be adopted by God and heirs with Christ
- believing God works all things together for the good of those who love him.
These passages elicit countless rich applications, and they become even richer when studied alongside sisters who actually know how we’re suffering, those who can witness our struggle to walk in holiness. As we read God’s Word, study God’s word, and help one another grow in grace by obeying God’s Word, we take an active role in living out the covenant we’ve made with one another.
2. The church will not flourish if we outsource discipling.
The primary place we should go for discipling is our own local church. I understand the draw to citywide events, or the dynamic speaker with great worship at the church down the road. But we should desire to spotlight the message of God’s word more than the messenger, location, or audience. When we contract out discipleship, we miss out on the unique sharpening and spurring on that comes from fellow church members.
Our discipling relationships should be more than opt-in and occasional. They should consist of more than surface-level, get-to-know-you questions like “how are you doing?” By studying God’s word with fellow church members, we’re afforded regular and committed opportunities to offer timely words of exhortation. Over time, these words will change. Dating struggles? Work conflict? New babies? Marital strife? God’s Word speaks to all these issues. So let’s study it with women you live out your Christian life with, and experience the blessing of cultivated, long-term fruit.
3. It will deepen your experience as a church member.
Do you feel disconnected? Are you disappointed by what you’re “getting” from church? I assure you, sitting down with other members to read or study God’s Word will offer a unique closeness that will in turn help you feel more connected.
If you ask most Christians what they’re looking for in a church, they’ll say something about “community.” Well, nothing builds community like studying God’s Word. It binds saints together. Each time under the Word offers an opportunity to learn something new; each time offers an opportunity to seek to obey God’s Word together.
Pastors should seek to cultivate these kinds of relationships among women in the church for many reasons. First and foremost, they can be confident that teaching by women they know will not lead anyone toward questionable theology. Unfortunately, this can’t be said of other popular Bible Studies, either in-person or online. Furthermore, as we open God’s Word together, we grow in our knowledge of theology, uniting us even more as a church.
Another reason pastors should encourage these relationships: they can deepen the effect of the Sunday morning gathering. It’s always such a blessing when the sermon passage from Sunday correlated well with our discussion in Romans (almost as if we planned it). We would also regularly discuss specific sermon applications from the sermon and how they applied both to Romans and to our daily life. This type of cross over from Sermon to Bible Study is only possible when we study God’s word in the context of the local church.
There may be times when participating in outside studies or online groups is truly the best option. But I encourage you to consider how studying God’s Word with other women in your church could benefit your soul and the greater church community.
WHAT IF MY CHURCH DOESN’T OFFER A BIBLE STUDY?
Hear me clearly on this: I don’t think every church must offer a women’s Bible study (you can read more of my thoughts on that here). But if you desire more opportunities to study God’s Word, then I’d encourage you to gather a few friends and simply open the Good Book together. A few resources I have found particularly helpful:
- Choose a book of the Bible and read a passage together asking inductive Bible study questions. A great resource on how to do this is Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin.
- Good Book Bible Study Guides
- Inductive Bible Studies by Keri Folmar
- Living Word Study Guides by Kathleen Nielson
LOVE GOD’S WORD, LOVE GOD’S PEOPLE!
Let us not forget: “All scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
If God’s Word is useful in these ways, we should be mindful of how and where we are using it. There’s no better place to teach, correct, encourage, and train others than in our very own local churches. When we read the Bible with Christians we are covenanted with, we do a righteous thing of eternal consequence. Commit yourself to studying God’s Word, to knowing God’s commands, and to building up the body of believers as you love God’s Word together.