I teach two Bible studies each week. It is really the same Bible study that is just offered at different times, so more people can engage the Scriptures and our understanding of faith. Teaching is not something I thought I would enjoy when I entered ministry, but it has become one of my favorite things that I do each week.
What I love about Bible study with other members of the church is that I get to gather with different groups of people to talk about faith, life, and contemplate upon what does it mean to the love the Lord and live for God. I love that part of the life of faith!
One of my ministry principles when it comes to teaching is that we should not be afraid to wrestle with difficult and hard things about faith and life. I believe this leads us to a deeper faith, and discipleship, because it moves us from just accepting something at face value and to, truly, engage what it is that we believe about God, humanity, and the life of faith.
What is involved in not being afraid to deal with difficult and hard things about life and faith?
First, I believe, it means we have to be willing to ask questions. Church should be a safe place where we ask questions and admit where we are struggling. I’ve always felt that Thomas should be admired for his willingness to admit his doubts and questions, instead of being demonized for wanting to know more or to not just merely accept something at face value. We are fearful, at times, to ask questions, because we do not want to be ridiculed by others. Often, it turns out, the same people who mock those who admit their questions and doubts are also struggling with the very thing.
When we ask questions, it gives room for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to God’s love and presence in our lives. It allows space in our lives for God to work and lead us to deeper understanding of God’s love and desires. Questions are important and are often holy.
I also believe it means we have to be willing to grow in our understanding of faith and what it means to live for God. Too often we can have an attitude where we believe we have it all figured out and do not need to grow in our relationship with God. We believe, then, we’ve learned all there is to know about God and what it means to follow the Lord. The second we believe that is the moment we have become more interested in ourselves and our own understanding of God than where God is leading us.
Discipleship requires humility to admit that we always need to grow in the image of God. There is always something to learn and reflect upon when it comes to our relationship with God and what it means to follow in the Lord’s footsteps. Faith requires a life-long student-teacher relationship, where God is always teaching us and encouraging us to grow as a disciple.
Finally, I believe we need to be willing to go deep. I believe there is a depth of understanding that can come to us by reading Scripture in context. Things means to go beyond just reading the words for how they are presented, but to wrestle with their context, the meaning of various words, and how the story of faith progresses throughout the Old and New testaments.
Going deep requires a willingness to go beyond just merely knowing the words of Scripture and, instead, working through what they mean for us. It is great to memorize Scripture. I recite one of my favorite passages, Psalm 19:14, each week during the prayer before the sermon. However, what good is it to know a lot of Scripture passages by heart if we do not know what they mean?
We need to be willing to engage Scripture beyond the mere surface, and get to its deeper context and meaning. When we do, we realize that there is so much for us to learn and appreciate about God’s word that is always speaking to us.
Discipleship requires a willingness ask questions, to be willing to grow, and to go deeper than our basic understandings of God and life. When we engage discipleship in this manner, we open ourselves up to the possibilities of continual growth and transformation in the image of God. We become a deeper reflection of God’s love and the words of Scripture.
May that always be our hope and desire.