Sometimes I think people think that Christians get together in our Sunday School classes or small group Bible studies and talk about hot topics like abortion, homosexuality, transgender people, politics, etc. We don’t. At least not the Sunday School classes or Bible studies I have been in. Those topics have come up on a rare occasion - maybe if it was on the news or something, but we are focusing on other things.
So what are we talking about when we meet week in and week out? I’ve done many Bible studies and there is a typical format to the ones I have been in. A Bible study book is chosen for the group. The studies vary. Some are deep into His Word. Some have little reading and homework. Some are more substantive than others. A few have short videos we watch. Everyone reads their lesson for the week, answers the questions in their book, and we meet. (Think book club format only with a Bible study.)
I had a small group Bible study at my house week in and week out for years. We started at 7 with everyone saying hi to each other and getting their coffee/ tea/ water and light snack. At 7:10 we started the study. We opened with prayer. Someone leads or facilitates the discussion and we talk about the lesson. Sunday school classes are a little different in that they are more teaching with discussion. The facilitator of a small group doesn’t teach as much as they guide the group through the week’s lesson asking questions which get discussion going.
For years I was in a women’s group that was for women struggling with depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. We did studies that helped us heal – topics like forgiveness, worry, trusting God, where is God when bad things happen?,… Then I co-lead a women’s group for years that specifically did studies on the Bible – how we got the Bible and how it is reliable; a series which went through each book of the New Testament; a series on discipleship like walking with Christ, etc. I did a study on prayer, a detailed one on Colossians and Joshua, one on the Fruit of the Spirit,... Recently I was in a study which talked about how God hates our bad attitudes like grumbling, greed, being critical, etc. and we read Scripture and studied how God wants to change those bad attitudes into gratitude, contentment, generosity, love, etc. One week had the following questions:
What’s the difference between doubt and disbelief?
Why were the Israelites frightened to enter the promised land?
Do people who have known the Lord a long time doubt?
What are the causes and consequences of doubt?
Where do you stand regarding doubt and faith?
Those kind of questions will get people talking!
An example of a Bible study.
There have been some incredible discussions over the years! It is weird that I can remember someone making a point, what chair they were sitting in and the details years later, but I can't remember what I had for dinner last night. These discussions have greatly impacted me! I’ve experienced spiritual growth and witnessed it in others too. We are busy learning about what it means to be a Christ Follower.
In my small group we would discuss the lesson from 7:10 to 8:15. Then we would ask for praise reports (where God is doing something incredible in your life) and prayer requests. And then we end our Bible studies just like we began – with prayer. We would pray for health concerns, that our children make good decisions, financial and job concerns, for relationships, for our church, for our country, for our world, and for each other. We pray about anything that needs prayer, but not all those things in one closing prayer! Usually the closing prayer had to do with the lesson and immediate needs of people in the group. But we wrote down everyone’s prayer requests and we committed to encourage them and pray for them. It’s pretty awesome - especially knowing others are praying for you and to see God working in each of our lives.
The reason I’m writing about what Christians talk about when we get together is I have been thinking a lot about it since last Sunday. Last Sunday School class lesson was about what you think of when you think of a “hot topic.” It was on the sanctity of life. I wish you could have heard the discussion. The teacher wanted us to focus on the sanctity of all life. The homeless person we see. Someone we just don’t like and can’t stand to be around. The elderly. We talked about how God loves that person and that person’s life matters to God. We need to remember that and to treat them that way.
We talked about the impact we could have on other peoples lives by the way we treat them and respond to them. They matter to Him and thus they should matter to us.
Yes we talked about abortion briefly. The tragic loss of all of those unborn children was mentioned. Someone mentioned how hurt and guilty those women who have chosen an abortion must feel. We talked about how the vast majority of women who make that decision do it from a place of fear. How those women who have had an abortion need our love and kindness. They matter to God. I told them about a friend of mine who is trained to facilitate a women’s group at another church called Surrendering the Secret. It is a Bible study which helps women to heal from the pain of a past abortion. It helps them exchange that guilt and shame for forgiveness. They thought that ministry was incredible. We also talked about the men who shared responsibility in an abortion decision.
Anyways, no one had condemning or judgmental words come from their mouths. It was a loving and caring discussion on the sanctity of life. The point of the lesson was all life is important. And we Christians should act like it is.
And since Sunday I keep thinking about how Christ-like those people in my Sunday School class talked about a difficult subject. In general that isn’t how Christians are portrayed in our world today.
Yes you are going to run into some Christians who don’t act very Christ-like. The media loves to show those people to the world and it seems like people think that is the norm for Christians. It’s not. It really isn’t. Christians in Bible study groups struggle with the same issues everyone else does – financial and job concerns, health concerns, rebellious children, relationship issues, taking care of the elderly, grief over the death of a loved one, a friend’s betrayal,… We are trying to navigate this life like just like you are. Only we are trying to do it from the perspective of His Word because we believe He is the Only One who can effect real change in our lives and in this world.
Christians aren’t sitting around talking about how sinful everyone else is. We are more likely to talk about the sin in our own hearts and words and actions. We are keenly aware we aren’t living up to the world’s expectations of us. God is drawing us deeper. He is transforming us. It's a journey to become more like our Lord. Give us grace when we fail you.
We would love to have you join us and experience it for yourself. It is life-changing.