PEOPLE ROLLED THEIR EYES at me when I suggested we read out loud all 16,000 words from the Gospel of John.
I wasn’t sure I liked the idea either.
I was sitting in the once-a-year meeting that leaders in my Sunday morning Bible study class have to set up the lesson topics for the upcoming year. It’s a grueling meeting that lasts all morning, through lunch, and into the afternoon – by which time we are all worn out from praying, thinking, reading, and politely tussling with each other over our ideas.
We each come to the meeting with brainstormed ideas. I came with this one:
JESUS 501 – THE GRAD COURSE 10 weeks
A Bible book study of the Gospel of John (21 chapters), the most complex Gospel of all. We cover 2 chapters a week (3 in the last week), working through highlights of the entire Gospel. Each week in class, we read aloud both chapters and discuss the high points.
I don’t think anybody really warmed up to that idea. Who would? It sounds like listening to a bunch of reading. Worse than that, reading by readers who aren’t that great at reading aloud in public. Most folks get a bit nervous, and trip over their words. A lot.
I decided to teach the first couple of sessions, to try out some new ideas.
I brought my iPad, with cables to link to the TV we have in the room. Then I called up Bible Gateway. This website not only lets us read the Bible from more than a dozen English translations, it lets us listen to the words read by professional readers.
Pick a translation. New International Version, King James Version, The Message, English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible (for the more scholarly minded).
We’re now more than halfway through the 10 weeks, and I can tell you that we’re all surprised at what has happened.
After the first class, a gent came up to me and said when he heard about the idea he thought, “Oh no!” He said it’s because we didn’t have very many good readers in the class.
He was thanking me for bringing in the professional readers who bring the words to life.
It’s pure joy listening to the class react while the reader is reading. They make the grunts, groans, and the chuckles that convey words like “Oh my!” “I can’t believe he said that,” and “That’s just funny.”
After the reading, the discussion bursts to life.
In nearly every class, people are saying, “I never heard that before.”
That’s one of the reasons I wanted our class to try out this idea. In Bible studies and in sermons, we tend to pick just a few Bible verses to focus on. There’s so much we skip over.
The idea actually came from a session I was invited to teach to some teenagers in a confirmation class. Since I prefer discussion to lecture, I came with questions for them.
It didn’t take long for me to realize my huge mistake. I assumed they knew the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
They did the heck not.
I couldn’t believe it. They’re teenagers in a confirmation class and they didn’t know the most important story in the Bible.
I decided that if ever I got invited to teach that session again, we would read the story before we discussed it.
People don’t read the Bible. It’s plain and simple.
I’m doing the best I can to help change that. Sometimes with good ideas. Sometimes with bad ideas that turn out good. And sometimes with bad ideas that stink up the joint.
I’m only human.
For help in making sense of the Bible
- Newest: A Quick Guided Tour Through the Bible
- Most thorough: Complete Guide to the Bible
- Most visual: Complete Visual Bible
Bible Gateway Blogger
I must confess that I don’t get into the Word as often or as intently as I should, but Bible study books like yours make the effort more meaningful and helpful. That’s why the work you do is so important. It encourages people like me to get into the Word. Keep up the good work!
Stephen M. Miller