Things We Say: "Living Stone Does Not Do Bible Studies"

I sat there, fuming, while a pastor, with a derisive, condescending chuckle, told a group of 100 people, “Of course, we don’t do Bible studies.” I along with those other people were sitting in an academic building on the campus of Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. We were all there to visit and learn from a collegiate church plant called Resonate.

And I was just angry.

This was the third time in one day one of their pastors had so simply, without the slightest sense of insecurity, dismissed the long standing church practice of a Bible study. And it wasn’t even an issue. They did not even treat that as a major decision to abandon Bible studies. They assumed everyone in the room agreed. I was ticked about it.

I was in the midst of major changes in my understanding of church leadership and discipleship, and on that journey, I ended up at Resonate. I came to learn, because at my home church, I was moving through our programming like a churchified Kon Mari, tossing out anything that did not make disciples. But Bible Studies? What else were Christians to do if not study their Bibles together? I actually asked that question of the pastor after one of our plenary sessions. And the response changed my world.

“We don’t do Bible studies. We study the Bible.”

I don’t know if his answer was quite that succinct, but it was not far off.

In an instant, I understood what he said. A Bible study is an event any person can show up to, excel in, and walk away from completely unchanged. It happens constantly in churches. Studying the Bible is something an individual does of their own volition, because they feel a need or hunger that only God can meet. I would have given anything to have a church where half the people in our Bible studies were actually studying the Bible. In that moment, I realized what I needed to give up - Bible studies.

More than understanding what he said, I realized, in that instant, I believed in what he said. If I was busy tossing out everything that did not help make disciples, my church needed to abandon Bible studies as soon as possible, because most Bible studies are not built to make disciples, they are built to educate disciples. Making disciples includes learning, but there is so much more.

Calling a Bible study ‘discipleship’ is like describing the beach as ‘sand.’ That’s an important component, but it falls woefully short of capturing the majesty of standing on a shore, smelling the salt in the air, feeling the stickiness of moisture laden air, and looking out at an expanse of ocean that simultaneously roars with power as it pacifies our hearts with its stillness. To designate learning as the call of the disciple is to ignore the reality of life lived in the presence of the all powerful God, rising and falling in the grip of his hands as you give up everything to be given more than you can even imagine. Being a disciple fits into a Bible study like an ocean fits into a water bottle.

This idea rubs Christians the wrong way. I see it in my church all the time. We are a church plant, so we are trying to gather people who don’t know God - not Christians. When Christians come around, one of the first questions they ask is “What kind of Bible studies do you guys do?” My answer is always the same, “We don’t do Bible studies, we study the Bible.” I have watched a lot of Christians walk away, when they see how we study the Bible. But that’s okay, because we are not here to educate Christians, we are here to make Christians.

At Living Stone, we don’t do Bible studies. We study the Bible.

Check back at the blog for an explanation of a KORE group, the place we study the Bible together.

Whitney Clayton