Something about this image strangely warms the heart of those of us involved in leading, attending, or even supplying curricula for bible study:
With bibles open, group members sit in circles & not rows, and share their lives together through encounters with Scripture.
Yet there is one question that can ruin even the spiritual serenity of that scene:
What does this verse mean to you?
Why am I being so mean as to call such a frequently asked & thoroughly comforting query the world’s worst #BibleStudy question?
Because it does not matter one bit what a verse means to you. That question is merely license to take a section of Scripture in a far different direction than the inspired author intended.
No, it matters a great deal what the original author meant. To whom was he writing (hint: not TO you), what was the occasion, and how does this one verse fit in with overall narrative of the book?
And: what would those words likely have meant to the original, intended audience?
If digging into those questions sounds tedious, it’s not. It’s fascinating, energizing, and thrilling. It’s like I tell my preaching colleagues: you have to be interestED in the bible’s world if you hope to be interestING when you talk about it in your sermons.
So after doing that necessary spade work — sometimes by yourself, but more often in a community like the one pictured above — you can finally get to the question that really matters:
Now that I know what the author meant, how does that meaning intersect with my life today?
You’ve gone from the worst question in the world to the best question in the church.