Friday, May 16, 2014

Living Book

Today’s coffee: Columbia

I want to tell a story that I’ve been telling a lot lately to friends at church. From the time I was very little until I graduated from high school, I attended Sunday School every week at church. I heard Bible stories, learned about missionaries, prayed, and put a few coins my parents gave me in the offering plate. When I got a little older, I remember doing worksheets and study guides and answering questions. Sometimes we played games and ate a snack.

Somehow, I didn’t make it past the “fill-in-the-blank” attitude towards the Bible. What’s the correct answer? How do I make the grownups think that I’m a good little girl? If I answer the questions correctly, that’s what they think: I’m a good Christian girl. With this attitude towards the Bible, I wasn’t very motivated to do devotions or otherwise read it for myself. The Bible seemed to have very little to do with me. My senior year of high school, I started attending a Bible study group with a few other girls my age, and I started to notice that there was something more to the Bible than I what I had experienced before.

Around my third year of college, I joined a Navigators group for Bible study. We alternated who would be the leader; each person took a turn doing background research, writing questions they wanted to discuss, and coming up with application points. It felt like a barrier had been removed: I was no longer trying to figure out the correct answer or impress anyone. The worksheets and study guides actually came between me and the Bible. Rather than considering what the Bible said, I had been trying to figure out “correct answers” based on someone else’s interpretation—I was studying the study guide, not the Bible.

In graduate school, I joined an InterVarsity group, where I learned the Inductive (Manuscript Discovery) method. Each member of the group had a copy of the passage to be studied, printed out double spaced with no paragraph markers. We engaged with the text itself before bringing in any outside resources. By reading, observing, and studying the Bible together as a group, we found that the Holy Spirit drew our attention to all sorts of things we hadn’t noticed before. The Bible was no longer just a 2000+year old book; it was alive. It had things to teach and challenge us. I was finished with looking at the Bible from a distance. This book is to be entered into and lived out.

After years of ambivalence, Keith and I began to love God’s Word, and for that reason we decided to go to Regent College. Neither of us had any ambition to become pastors of missionaries; we just wanted to know the Bible and read it in the company of friends.

To some extent, that hasn’t changed. We are in Japan because we want to read the Bible with Japanese people. We want to hear what our Japanese friends and colleagues think and how they understand the words that are so familiar to us.

Reading the Bible together with the Inductive method will be the centerpiece of new small groups which will start in the fall. 2 weeks ago, we introduced the Inductive method to our church with a study on John 2. We had an absurdly large group of about 25, but everyone talked and laughed and shared what they noticed and how they were challenged. (No thanks to me; I was tasked with explaining the method, but frankly my presentation was awful… but once we got started everyone seemed to get the gist of what to do and even enjoy themselves… so who cares about my failed presentation??)

Takahashi-sensei took notes with everyone's observations and questions.
Towards the end, one church member who, according to his wife, is not interested in devotions or Bible study came into the room. “It looks like you’re having fun,” he said. (I think I may have seen his wife high-fiving with the person next to her.)

Our “method” still needs some tweaking based on Japanese group dynamics and our particular church culture. I’m looking forward to hearing feedback from the group leaders tomorrow!

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