3 Ways to Dwell in the Word Jan21


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3 Ways to Dwell in the Word

Churches that stem from the Reformation have for centuries valued and cultivated an educated clergy. We have sought out persons with gifts for ministry and supported them to go to college and seminary. As a result, we have been blessed with generations of capable, profession leaders.

Yet while this has benefited us as a church tremendously, one of the unintended consequences of such competent leadership has been a loss of skill and confidence among those our pastors lead. That is, because we can rely so completely on the skill of the pastor – whether to lead a Bible study, interpret Scripture, or pray – the rest of us haven’t had to develop those skills and, for this reason, often don’t feel like we can do these things ourselves.

There is nothing to be embarrassed about here; that worked reasonably well in a world where everyone was expected to go to church. But given that we no longer live in that kind of world, we need to look to our leaders not just to do the central practices of the faith for us but also to teach us how to do them ourselves.

Toward that end, I wanted to write a bit about Bible study. In particular, how to share in Bible study with each other. Because while it’s good to read the Bible, it’s even better to read it together and be blessed by a variety of insights into what God may be saying to us through Scripture.

So a word or two about group Bible study. Except that I probably shouldn’t call it “Bible study,” because then most of us get intimidated, realize that we don’t know much about the Bible, and figure someone ought to have a seminary degree to do that kind of thing. Which is why I think the phrase some colleagues of mine coined for reading the Bible together is simply brilliant. They don’t call it “Bible study,” they call it “Dwelling in the Word.” And while I won’t follow their prescriptions precisely, I will suggest that anyone can dwell in the word, particularly if you want to try out one of these three approaches.

1. Devotional Bible Reading – Or what I might call “Classic Dwelling in the Word

This gets pretty close to what my colleagues advocate and can be used in any size group and is particularly helpful in leadership committees like the church council, board of elders, vestry, or a church committee.

The approach is both straight forward and simple. One person reads the passage aloud. Smaller groups of 3-5 people gather together discuss where they heard God speaking in the passage. That’s it. What did you hear God say to you? And then, what did you hear from your neighbor?

My colleagues suggest using this method regularly across a season or even a year, returning again and again to the same passge. The value of that approach is that you go so deeply into a passage, hear so many things across time, that that passage begins to shape the imagination and identity of the group. But you might also vary the passages more frequently to good effect as well.

2. Lambeth (African) Bible Study

This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: “Lambeth” and “African” and can work in any setting, whether a formal committee or meeting or simply a group of Christians who gather regularly (or even occasionally!) to read the Bible together. It consists of an opening prayer, and then the following steps; the time suggestions help to guide reflection in an orderly and timely way, though of course they are suggestions.

Opening PrayerO Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. One person reads passage slowly.
  2. Each person identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention ( 1 minute ).
  3. Each shares the word or phrase around the group ( 3-5 minutes, NO DISCUSSION ).
  4. Another person reads the passage slowly ( from a different translation if possible ).
  5. Each person identifies where this passage touches their life today ( 1 minute ).
  6. Each shares ( 3-5 minutes, NO DISCUSSION ).
  7. Passage is read a third time (another reader and translation if possible).
  8. Each person names or writes “From what I’ve heard and shared, what do I believe God wants me to do or be? Is God inviting me to change in any way?” ( 5 minutes )
  9. Each person shares their answer ( 5-10 minutes, NO DISCUSSION )
  10.  Each prayers for the person on their right, naming what was shared in the other steps ( 5 minutes ). 

Close with the Lord’s Prayer and SILENCE.

3. Praying the Word

This method is also quite simple, can be used by any kind of group, formal or informal, and invites us to connect what we heard in Scripture with what is going on in our lives.

One person reads the passage. Silence follows (1-2) minutes.
Group members share prayer concerns – their lives, congregations, communities, world.
Another person reads the passage.
Group discusses how they heard the passage in light of their prayer concerns, and how they think about their prayer concerns in light of the biblical passage just read.
Prayer – members offering their concerns to God.

So there you have it – three different ways to dwell in the word, listening together for God’s voice in Scripture and daily life. Good luck. Or, maybe I should say instead, Blessed reading and listening!


Notes: 1) For more information on the method developed by my colleagues, and in particular Patrick Keifert and Pat Taylor Ellison, you can find their description and look at the resources they offer at the following site.
2) And, of course, you can also always just read the Daily Bread devotions at “…In the Meantime” together and reflect on what you heard! 🙂