Guidelines for Home Bible Studies
by John Clark
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Home Bible studies are becoming more and more common . Those connected with a local church are not a problem. Those, however, that are interdenominational and NOT associated with any congregation can present some serious issues which need to be addressed.
People leave churches for a variety of reasons, some of which are very trite. Many do not like traditional church settings which I can understand. I do not like some typical church environments either. However, there are also some very fine exciting, relevant, and dynamic churches to which a person can belong. One might have to shop around or travel some distance, but they do exist. If someone says that they cannot find a church they like, that person is probably being too picky. If one is not careful, a group will be formed comprised of disgruntled ex-churchgoers. Bottom line: A home Bible study should never become a replacement for being an active member of a local congregation. There will always be those, however, who still choose to make a small group their "church."
With all of this said, here are some guidelines to follow so that interdenominational small groups do not become a theological circus.
1. You must know something about the person heading it up. There are those who not only might be disgruntled ex-churchgoers but also teaching heresy and want to gain a following. On the other hand, some great churches have started in homes. Know the person and why he or she wants to have a home Bible study.
2. There must be 100 percent agreement that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Without this, there will be no unity. It might be helpful to have a doctrinal statement to pass out to those who want to join the group.
3. There must be at least one person in the group who has a basic understanding of the overall Bible and knows principles of proper biblical interpretation.
4. It can be helpful to have various translations. However, try to stick to the ones that are the most accurate to the original languages, and there are some that you want to totally avoid. Two that are excellent are the New King James, which is similar to the King James without the old language, and the New American Standard Version. Two to avoid are THE VOICE translation, which cuts out the word "Jesus," and the New World Translation, which is a Jehovah's Witnesses Version.
5. You must know the difference between exegesis and eisegesis. These are fancy seminary terms which I will define. EXEGESIS is interpreting scripture based upon proper textual, historical, and cultural context, and forming beliefs based upon what scripture teaches. EISEGESIS is making scripture say what one wants it to say or expressing belief, and then finding verses in an attempt to back up one's own opinions. See II Peter 1:20-21.
6. Study books or passages which are most clearly understood and do not require a lot of explanation. Make it a goal of simply learning WHAT the Bible says in general or about specific subjects, to increase biblical literacy.
7. Use discretion in talking about denominational issues. Some are not a big deal, while others can be very divisive. Do not bad mouth churches or the beliefs of others.
8. A small group must not become closed to new members. If it gets too big that is a good thing. Split into 2 groups or maybe there is the beginning of a new church!
9. Know the purpose of any Bible study, which is three-fold: 1)to discover the original meaning and intent, 2) to maintain biblical accuracy, and 3) to result in teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness for the equipping of every good work. See II Peter 1:21, II Timothy 2:15, and II Timothy 3:16-17.
I hope this is helpful to anyone considering forming, or joining, an interdenominational Bible study group.
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