When I graduated from seminary I still didn’t know a significant amount about the bible. I had been taught to read
with a critical eye, to ask questions, how to use Greek and Hebrew and write my own translations of the biblical text, but if you were to ask me about peopleinthebibleorevencertainstoriesIwasprettyclueless. Infactitwas almost ridiculous how little I knew. I remember thinking, “How is it possible that I graduated from seminary and still know so little about the bible? How in the world am I supposed to be a pastor?” The bible intimidated me. I could never remember where certain verses came from and if someone wanted to debate biblical or theological ideas I was certain I would lose.
In my first years of teaching bible studies, I would feel intimidated by the elders in the congregation. After all they had been in bible studies for more years than I had ever been alive. But nevertheless this was my job and so I would study and study and stand up and do my best to teach. More often than not I would lay down my authority and attempt to get someone else to say what he/she thought so I didn’t make a fool of myself.
I’m not sure when all of this changed, but eventually I realized that you didn’t have to be an “expert” to teach a bible study. In fact, sometimes the best bible studies would come about when someone who didn’t have any biblical background would ask an authentic, genuine question about the text. Something like, “I don’t understand why God does this…” “or why haven’t I experienced that?” Or “How come Jesus heals so many people and the people I know and love are still sick and I’ve prayed for healing.” Trust me, I’ve asked that question a million times.
In Seminary we were taught to read the bible with question marks. What interests you? What do you want to learn more about? What troubles you? Why? What connects to your life? This is almost always the approach Pastor Scott and I take when reading the bible at our weekly text study. We wrestle with our questions about what God is saying and what is happening in the world.
This summer I started a women’s summer bible study. We’ve met two times so far and both times, I’ve had women join us who have never participated in a bible study before. Both times, I have assured these women that they don’t need to be an expert on the bible to participate in a bible study. In fact, it might be better if they aren’t. We have had two very fun bible studies so far this summer and one of the best things that has happened is people have come and been willing to disagree with me. I often think that God shows up in the different interpretations of our text. God reveals God-self to us by allowing us to hear and see something in a new way.
We have two more women’s bible studies in August. August 2nd and August 16th. I hope if you haven’t shown up yet, you will consider joining us. I also hope in the year to come that you consider coming to one of the bible studies we offer at Shepherd or if they don’t fit your schedule talk to me and I can help you start a new one. The bible is our book of faith. It’s meant to be read, discussed, wrestled with and more. I hope that in the year to come you will consider popping it open and learning with me.