This morning I was listening to a Secret Church sermon from David Platt and he made what at first seemed like a shocking statement about small groups. He said something to the effect of "small group Bible studies are one of the most dangerous and destructive things Christians do." I was driving and praise Jesus I didn't swerve into traffic in pure shock when I heard that.
All I've heard for the past 10 years in church ministry is the importance of small groups. Some people say that small groups are the single most effective way for people to experience life change. I myself have said something to that effect, so needless to say I was interested in what Platt was going to say next. What he said actually made a ton of sense and it may be a paradigm shifting moment for me.
Pastor Platt went on to explain it like this. What often happens in the Christian Bible study is that a group of people sit in a circle, read a Bible verse, and then start asking and answering this question, "What does that verse mean to you?" Round and round the circle the conversation goes, each person sharing their own interpretation and understanding of the verse.
This, Platt says, is the danger! The Bible isn't there for people to make up their own interpretations of the text. What a Bible study should do is study what the Bible says, but instead we too often turn it into a study of what we think the Bible should say. Christian Bible studies can dangerously become more about US then they are about GOD.
Here's the thing. I still believe that small groups are an excellent place for life change, but I also think that it depends on the commitment of leaders and small group members to the authority of Scripture. Before we call something a Bible study we had better be sure that is what we are doing there - studying the Bible and not just sharing our opinions on what it may or may not mean.