I first started attending Bible Study when I was 19 and joined a singles group at the church I'd just begun attending. We were using the Serendipity Bible, a Bible created with study guides built into it. They start with "ice breaker" questions, then have some questions about the text itself, and then have some application questions. For a long time, we studied the Bible on a beginner-type level.
But I've also been involved in "small groups" that are called "Bible Study", but instead of studying the Bible, we read books. There really isn't anything wrong with reading and discussing books; I love to read. I just find myself wondering why people called it "Bible Study" when the Bible is not read nor studied. Or, if the Bible is read, people just jump to "application" and do not really discuss the text.
At the same time, most Christians would probably agree that the Bible is pretty important. And yet, we often have high Biblical illiteracy, even if people think they know their Bible. They may have memorized some verses, heard sermons, or even read through the entire Bible in three months. But reading it and studying it are two very different things.
I feel very fortunate to have minored in Religious Studies in college and to have taken mostly Bible-related classes for that minor, as well as Bible-related classes in my major (English). I loved being able to really get into the text in large chunks and not just a verse here and there, loved learning historical and cultural background, and loved coming to understanding of what the Bible is.
I feel like often, we just assume most Christians will get bored with this type of study, because it doesn't always bring out the "application" that we think we all need. Don't get me wrong; application is important, however, I feel as if we try so hard to make everything in the Bible automatically apply to our own personal lives that we actually miss out on what is in the Bible.
Of course, it is possible to spend so much time learning about it that we forget to think about how it does apply to us. But if we do not understand it, if we think it is so simple, if we do not put any effort into learning about it, can we really apply it to our lives?
What if we apply it, and apply it wrongly, because we don't understand it?
Do we sell ourselves short? Do we assume that we can't get into background and context because people do not want to learn, or can't understand it? Do we avoid it because we think people will be bored? Why? If we think people will be bored when they learn about the Bible, then don't we have a huge problem? For a book that is so important to our faith, shouldn't we make an effort to understand it? How can we say it is important yet not understand it?
Those are a lot of questions, and I am curious to hear your answers. What have been your experiences with "Bible Study"? Do you think churches should offer more in the way of opportunities for people to really study the Bible and not just application classes? How would this be done?