We write a lot of LifeGroup questions at Good Shepherd. In fact, we have a For Further Conversation section in our Sunday morning worship bulletin virtually every week — and many of our LifeGroups use that material (and the sermon that prompted it) as their curricula.
And, happily, many of those questions have been included in and then expanded upon for use in these books published by Abingdon Press.
But I digress from the title of this post and the matter at hand: what is the worst question you can ask in any bible study? (And no, it’s not asking what is the worst question.)
Here it is: what does this verse mean to you?
There. I said it. You’ve probably heard it. You may have been asked it. And … egad … you may have asked it yourself.
And it’s the worst question you can ask.
Because it doesn’t matter what a verse means TO YOU. That elevates your individual needs and perspective over the centuries of pilgrims who have gone before you AND over the first recipients of the biblical book in question.
It matters a great deal what the verse (or more accurately, the passage or section) meant to its first readers and hearers.
A more helpful process than the self-centered “what does it mean to you?” is this:
What does it say?
What does it say by what it DOESN’T say? (For example, John 10:10 DOESN’T say, “I have come that you might have life and have an average one.” and John 3:16 DOESN’T say “For God so loved the world that he loaned his only begotten Son …”)
What did it mean to its first audience?
How does that meaning intersect with today’s living & today’s church?
How can I live into what it means for the church today?
A lot less “me”; a lot more “we.”
A process that’s a bit more difficult and a lot more rewarding than what does it mean to you.