“Potluck Bible Classes”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Meditations
Several weeks ago, I got a distressed phone call from one of the sisters at Jackson Heights. She expressed her concern that in one of the adult Bible classes, it didn’t seem like anyone was talking. I sympathized with her and promised that I would write a blog post on the value of Bible-class participation, so here we are!
To me, one of the most beautiful things about the churches of Christ is our core belief: that ordinary Christians are equipped by God to read and understand the Bible for themselves. We don’t need priests, pastors, or anyone else to tell us what to believe. We can figure it out on our own.
I think a Bible class is one of the highest expressions of this ideal. Maybe we don’t know much about the Bible ourselves (though this assumption is often mistaken when it comes to brethren), and maybe we’re in a class with other Christians who don’t know much about the Bible either (ditto), but the few things that we each know usually aren’t the same things.
As a result, a good Bible class is like a potluck dinner. Nobody wants to make a meal out of nothing but their green-bean casserole. However, when we bring our casserole, and somebody else brings their Jell-O salad, and somebody else brings their ham, and somebody else brings their iced tea, and so forth, the result is a meal that will satisfy everybody. I’ve never heard anyone complain about being underfed at a potluck!
In the same way, even if that auditorium or classroom isn’t filled with top-notch Bible scholars, it’s probably true that everybody in the room has something to contribute. Maybe it’s an answer to the who’s-buried-in-Grant’s-Tomb opening question. Maybe it’s a related passage. Maybe it’s a personal experience with the spiritual concept under discussion.
Probably none of those things would be enough to carry a sermon, for instance, on their own. However, when you put them all together, what you really are doing is pooling the spiritual wisdom of the group. I respect ordinary Christians as individuals, but I have a whole lot of respect for what ordinary Christians come up with when they put their heads together! In fact, I can’t recall having been in a discussion-based class without feeling nourished and edified by the discussion. As much as I love worshiping in song, I love studying the Bible with my brethren just as much.
Potlucks work. You’re never sure beforehand just how they’re going to work, but they always end up working. The only way they can fail is if the participants don’t bring anything but show up expecting to eat anyway. In the same way, what sinks a Bible class is not the comments that the people in the class make. It’s the comments they don’t make. You’ve got the poor Bible class teacher up in front with his green-bean casserole all by himself, and it makes for a poor meal.
In conclusion, then, I have this to say: if you’re used to sitting there in Bible class not talking, now’s the time to start (unless, of course, you have conscience issues with participating). You know more about the Bible than you think you do, a lot more. Trust me! I’ve studied with folks who truly knew nothing about the Bible, and the difference is profound. You have insights that are wiser than you think they are. You have experiences that are more relevant than you can imagine.
Share what you have. If everybody will do the same, I guarantee that everybody will be well fed.