With almost half of us reporting little to no spiritual growth according to recent National Church Life Survey data, and our church services and programs still not back to normal, it might be a good time to find a Bible reading buddy and dive into Scripture together.
We asked three people to share what their one-to-one Bible reading experiences have been like. While they each approached studying the Bible in pairs differently, they all found it strengthened and grew their faith and knowledge of God’s word.
"I love building up more Bible knowledge"
Jackson Gatenby has been reading the Bible in twos and threes since his days at university, reading with Christian group leaders and also with his pastor. After such a positive experience, he decided to read with a few other men himself.
Earlier this year, Mr Gatenby was meeting with a friend weekly to read Psalms. “We’d meet up on Friday mornings, maybe grab a smoothie, and chat about how our weeks have been going,” he says. “After about 20-30 minutes of that, we read the psalm and we read a corresponding chapter in a commentary. We’ve been using a little commentary book called Psalms For You by Christopher Ash.
We chat for another 15-20 minutes about what [we saw in the psalm that] we hadn’t realised before, or a connection to Jesus that we hadn’t noticed or how this might be relevant to situations we are going through. We wrap up discussion and pray for each other. The whole thing takes an hour and a half.”
Mr Gatenby can articulate how his knowledge of God’s word has grown as a result of years of one-to-one Bible reading. “I remember reading Hebrews with a friend two or three years ago and it really unlocked a lot of what Hebrews was about. I’ve been able to keep reusing that in other Bible studies. I love doing this so I can keep building up more cumulative knowledge to use going forward. That is a helpful long-term benefit.”
"It makes me want to read my Bible more"
Claudia Tyson engages with the Bible in different ways with three women, ranging from weekly to monthly catch-ups.
Some of her Bible reading pairs use the popular Swedish method of exploring the Bible – where you reflect on the passage using the visual aids of a lightbulb for lightbulb moments, a question mark for questions and an arrow for exploring application.
Ms Tyson also uses the passage to guide prayer times. “I ask a few questions like, ‘How can I praise him and how can I confess my sins on the basis of this text?’; ‘If this is really true, what harmful emotions, false attitudes or wrong behaviour result in me if I forget this?’” she says. “I’m passionate about making the Bible relevant, not changing it. We try and make it really practical.”
Through the chaos of this year, Ms Tyson has found it helpful to sit under God’s word with another.
“We’ve been craving to meet and this season has forced us to rely on God more,” she says. “Nothing bad comes out of reading his word with people and talking about it. I am a sinful person and I struggle with personal Bible reading, but I want people to want to read it more. When I’ve met with people and read the Bible, it’s made me want to personally do my own Bible reading.”
It’s an opportunity to model Bible time to our kids
When Rebecca Quach’s church proposed the idea of women meeting with someone to pray and read the Bible, several women expressed interest and began meeting in pairs.
“God’s word is indeed living and active so, without fail, we come away with fresh insights or reminders of who God is, who he has made us to be and his plan for eternity,” Mrs Quach says. “It’s such a joy to spend time amidst the busyness of life to meditate on God’s word, reflect honestly and openly with my sisters in Christ, pray specifically in light of what we’ve read and seek to keep each other accountable.”
As a mum of two young children meeting with other mums, these Bible times are often surrounded by playful noise and chatter.
“Through the chaos, however, we see it as an opportunity to model the value and importance of studying the Bible and prayer to our kids while they have a chance to play and spend time with each other as family in Christ,” Mrs Quach says. “It can be so valuable to come as we are and be open to reading the Bible together in a sustainable way through the messiness of life, rather than waiting for more ‘ideal’ conditions to do so.”
Although Coronavirus hasn’t made meeting easy, it has prompted changes Mrs Quach is thankful for. “Though strange at first, I’m grateful for the way the pandemic normalised different ways of staying connected together. Zoom and phone calls have opened up new opportunities to read the Bible and pray together at times we wouldn’t have considered previously, and remain as great options to maximise accessibility for those with health concerns and travel limitations.
“As followers of Jesus, the Bible is central to our edification and evangelism,” she adds. “It’s honestly been so refreshing to read the Bible with some women in different stages of their faith journey.
“There’s another younger woman who I read some of Hebrews with and I could go on about how encouraging it is to share in her jaw drop/brain explosion moments as she comes to learn new truths about God and sees how Jesus fulfills so much prophecy and is so excited by it. The enthusiasm and awe is really contagious and helps with perspective as I get caught up in the very here and now demands of life with young kids. God is good!”