12: Small Group Bible Study
IN THIS CHAPTER
Small Bible study groups develop resilient, maturing Christian believers who grow in their ability to integrate faith into every area of their lives. Lifelong friendships are developed, comfort and encouragement are found, and family bonds are built within small communities sharing the Word and life together.
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FACE TO FACE OR VIRTUAL
Small group Bible studies have been the core of OCF since we incorporated in 1943. Bible study groups gather in dorm rooms, barrack spaces, tents, homes, base facilities, ships, and everywhere two or more open the Word of God together. Some Bible studies continue in virtual spaces among friends who have long since moved away from one another. These gatherings nourish and equip the saints as well as develop community relationships.
You can help your local group by setting aside funds to buy food, drink, dishes, cups, and maybe even keep some extra Bibles around for sharing with others. God’s Word is fully adequate to help encourage us and teach us to worship Him. His Word teaches, revives, and focuses the weary person so they can be refreshed and sent back into the field to minister to the entire military society.
GROWTH AND MATURITY
If military members, spouses, children, DoD civilians, contractors, and friends are to mature as Christians during their years in and around the military environment, someone needs to provide the leadership for them to gather for Centering on Scripture and Engaging in Prayer (OCF Pillars). The most important thing about a Bible study is that the Bible needs to be studied. Sounds obvious, but we are easily distracted by the environment, by social moments together, by hearing what others say about the Bible, or by simply trying to do activities that seem important at the time.
Help guard the local OCF fellowship from mere philosophy and self-focused talk in order that all might hold “fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Colossians 2:19). Study the Bible and pray together as you continue to do good works.
The gospel of Jesus Christ must be heard so that many might believe (Romans 10:14). Those who have believed are filled with knowledge leading to spiritual wisdom, bear good fruit in their lives, and are strengthened toward endurance in their spiritual walks (Colossians 1:9-12). Conviction regarding sin comes from studying the Word. The Holy Spirit applies Christ’s work to our lives. Because God desires the lives of believers to become more and more conformed to His will rather than to the culture we live within, it is essential we learn of God’s faithfulness throughout history.
Hearing about God’s holiness, mercy, love, patience, and justice helps inform how we live and lead. The Scriptures declare who God is, what He has done, and how we are to live as His ambassadors. They contain all the encouragement and help we need to live faithfully.
COMFORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT
Bible study allows the Holy Spirit to comfort us and to apply the work of Christ to our lives and situations. We are humbled when we consider God’s greatness, and we are convicted regarding persistent sin. We need the salve of the Word when walking through suffering. Opening the Bible shows us Jesus, the word of God, “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Military believers need regular encouragement to submit to governing authorities. We also need to do good, even if we think we might suffer for it (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-21). We walk with one another in various relationships according to our time of life—some as sons and daughters, some as mothers and fathers, and some as brothers and sisters. The body of OCF finds empathy with one another in small groups, because the examples and stories that come to mind will often be those that spring from our common military environment.
Few people outside of the military understand our situations fully, so there is great comfort in others who listen to us as we share using a common military language. Who better to pray for and encourage you than someone who is on the same mission, experiencing similar op tempos and stresses?
Some people show up to a Bible study carrying a heavy load. They are tired and sometimes discouraged, and their faith may be struggling amid pressure. Life is simply hard. Others arrive full of such enthusiasm that their spirit can be blessedly contagious. No matter how someone walks into Bible study, your priority is to work for their refreshment, encouragement, and preparation so that they can be sent back out to serve the entire military society. Small spiritual depots should exist around the world, fueling the saints for new spiritual work.
If you are hosting a virtual Bible study, learn how to guide the time so that participants feel free to join the discussion, and have white space where they can inject a thought and depart the virtual gathering without feeling rushed.
The Holy Spirit applies the Word in exactly the right way to our daily lives, helps us to walk with integrity, gives us reminders of the words Christ has given us, and uses brothers and sisters to hold us accountable to do what we know we ought to do (John 14:26; 16:13-15). Those facilitating Bible studies can encourage participants toward an excellent professional reputation, toward daily worship and personal Bible study, and toward meditating on the breadth of Scripture (Galatians 6:1-10). Be willing to ask how their faith in Christ is holding fast.
Make space for prayer during every gathering of believers, whether meeting in-person or virtually. If you have deployed personnel joining the local Bible study through a type of technology system, seek their prayer needs early on in case the connection is lost or they must depart for duty. Prayer, as a regular and healthy part of every Bible study, gives members a chance to remember to pray for military leaders, for governmental authority, for the visible church, for deployed/TDY/TAD friends, for families, and for personal needs.
Members need a safe Bible study environment to share with vulnerability and honesty, to wrestle over how to live faithfully, and then to receive the prayers of fellow saints.