One commentator on the previous post about Bible study said how much they dislike inductive questions that are intended to illicit the right answer but are, in reality, so obvious that they are just embarrassing. I know what he means. My old friend Tony Watkins wrote a brilliant "bad Bible study" to teach people what not to do. Including questions like "did the crowd welcome Jesus when he rode into Jerusalem?" And "What do we learn about economics from Mark's gospel?"
I have heard variants of both of those types of questions done for real many times, and watched the participants stare at their feet, reluctant to be the first person to state the blindingly obvious. I think the underlying assumption may be good: namely that for people to encounter God they need to know what his word says, and that people coming to the Bible for the first time will find it unfamiliar territory and may need a some help in getting to grips with it. Further, when the group is mixed in terms of their discipleship, it is sometimes necessary to let the level of grasp of the youngest believer present determine the level of questions (though vital to never assume that because they don't know much that they are therefore stupid).
However it isn't really the level of questions that bothers me, it is where they are intended to lead: factually accurate textual understanding (essential, but insufficient on its own) or God being glorified, wondered at and praised among the people and the gospel of his grace being trusted, appropriated, magnified and embraced.
I don't want people in Bible studies I lead to leave saying they now know stuff they didn't know before. I don't even really want them asking "how do I get God into all the plans I have?" I want them to embrace God and his purposes, asking how they get into what God is doing to bring himself glory, regardless of whether that fits the plans they have made. Where did we get the idea that our plans are better than his? Bible study isn't about education, it's about homage.
And so another couple of questions to add to the list that helps me see whether my Bible study is going in the right direction: Here was the list so far
1. What did this passage say to it's original hearers?
2. What did this passage mean to its original hearers?
3. What was this passage written in order to achieve?
4. How does this part of God's word intend to draw forth faith from my heart and my hearers hearts?
5. Are hearers going to pursue God for himself, and be yet keener to get into God's puposes for the world as a result of this study?
6. Are they casting themselves on him as their all-sufficient Lord and King as a result of this study?
7. Is this study achieving the goal that the passage was written to achieve (3. above)? If not, its not yet a good study
What do you want from your Bible studies? I want to know that people's love, awe and homage of God increased as a result of the study. That we feel deeper a godly disgust at sin and evil, honesty about our need for grace, concern to cry to God for mercy, delight at being adopted and justified, passion for the things of Heaven, relish at the beauty of Christ, wonder at having died and being hidden with Christ in God.
Therefore the worst thing in the world is the sermon or study that is dispassionate. That shows by it's demeanor that we haven't felt the force of God speaking. How dare we do studies like that? To say we love God and not be overwhelmed by the wonder of what we are doing is heinous. To say we want others to know him, but not to encourage them to engage their affections for what they are gazing at in the Word is to lead them into idolatry of the intellect. Jonathan Edwards said that God cannot be approached and apprehended in a saving way by the intellect alone. The reason - because it is possible to know truth without delighting in the truth.
To finish, one of Keith Green's more frivalous quotes: all kinds of people look like Christians, but the real ones are people who are "bananas for Jesus." That's what Bible studies are meant to produce.