Making Bible Studies Missional – part one

Today I’m beginning a new series of posts on what I consider to be absolutely crucial when thinking through the implications of a missional approach to the Bible: how does it impact small group Bible studies? Of course there are numerous ways of engaging with the Bible, both individually and corporately. I have, though, spent a good deal of my adult life in small group Bible studies either in the context of Church, Christian Union (either as a student or a student worker), or in a Bible/Mission training College setting.

I suspect this is the case for a lot of Christians here in the UK. So the small group Bible study is a key way in which we engage with the Bible. But how do we make our studies more missional? Is it enough to add a ‘mission application’ to the end of our traditional studies or does a missional approach change how we study the Bible together at a more fundamental level? This is what I want to tease out in this series of posts.

My hunch is that if the missional approach does not (in some way at least) find a home in preaching and small group studies then those of us who are advocating for a missional hermeneutic will not have done our job well enough. It is fantastic to see the growing engagement with missional hermeneutics in the academy, and amongst those who are already inclined to think in terms of mission. And there is still much to do in those spheres. But it can’t stop there. I am convinced that a missional approach to the Bible could be profoundly helpful in envisioning everyone in the Church to get excited about their participation in God’s mission, in their homes, workplaces, communities and in other contexts as well.

So in this series I will aim to reflect every now and then on questions that may help shape our Bible studies so that they are more aligned with the missional nature of the Bible.

What about you? Have you seen this done well? Do you know of good examples we could all learn from? What questions, challenges or opportunities do you perceive as we set out on this journey together. Leave a comment below, on Twitter or on our Facebook page.

Missional Bible Study

One of the questions I have with missional hermeneutics is this: ‘What difference will it make in a mid-week Bible Study group? How should this way of reading the Bible affect how we study the Scriptures on a day to day basis?’

One answer to this is provided by George Hunsberger in a Gospel and Our Culture newsletter from September 1999:

The authors of Missional Church declare that “the way to the formation of missional communities begins and ends in our confrontation with and by the Scriptures” (p. 246). If that is true, we will need to learn a new way of placing ourselves in front of the text. Bible study guides and methods that focus on each individual’s relationship to God will not be enough. We will need to learn to read the Bible together as a community that is called and sent by God.

This was part of a pilot initiative to encourage local congregations to engage in Bible study that sought to shape the ‘community of witness’.

The five questions Hunsberger suggests we ask of texts are:

Mission – How does this text send us and equip our witness?
Context – How does this text read us and our world?
Gospel – How does this text evangelize us with good news?
Change – How does this text convert us in personal and corporate life?
Future – How does this text orient us to the coming reign of God?

There is much more to be said on this. Consider this post an opening move…