But there's a darker side to Bible study. I'm not referring to spending time in God's Word. On the contrary, it's my hope that you will become a voracious reader of Scripture, devouring its contents and letting it shape you into a strong disciple of Jesus. What I'm referring to is the American culture's version of Bible study.
Now, I want to pause for just a moment to clarify something. As much as I tend to harp on American Christianity and its failings, I want to make it clear that I love the Church. In fact, I'm often the first person to stop others dead in their tracks when they go into a church-bashing rant. But I'm also aware that we have some faulty perspectives of how the Church was meant to operate, and these perspectives are robbing us of becoming all that God created us to be. One of these is how we view Bible study. So, I want to draw a distinction between "Bible study" and "Disciple-making." Here they are:
#1: Bible study focuses on reading the Bible. Disciple-making focuses on letting the Bible read you. You may have heard this said, but the question when reading the Scriptures is not, "What is the greek root of that word?" or "What does this mean for me?" Rather, the critical questions are: "What is God saying?" and "How must I respond?" In this way, we take the focus away from intellectualizing the Word and focusing it on our benefit and we put it on God's intent and what He wants to do in us through the text.
#2: Bible study focuses on the Information. Disciple-making focuses on Transformation. One of the greatest critiques of the way we do Bible study in American culture is that we can become full of head knowledge and still not do anything about it. The point of studying Scripture is NOT growing our brains. It's growing our hearts! How are you different? Are you responding in obedience? What do you need to change in your life as a result of what you just read? These questions matter far more than whether or not you can name the epistemological premises behind the text (as important as they are).
#3: Bible study focuses on being fed. Disciple-making focuses on becoming a feeder. At its core, the way we tend to treat the Bible is as a book for me. We read it and wonder, "What's in this for me?" But Jesus didn't simply say, "Become a disciple." He said to make Disciples. When you read God's Word, is your first response to integrate it into your life? If so, Good! But don't forget that the next step must be to integrate it into someone else's. God never teaches you anything only for you. He teaches you so you can share what He's done with someone else.
I want you to GROW. I don't merely want you to become smarter. Jesus didn't come so that you would become a better Bible Jeopardy contestant. He came so you would become more like him.
So, How are you reading God's Word?