…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
This post shares some shifts, and explores possibilities with a more educated and tech empowered Bible study group.
Does your Bible study group look more like this, nowadays?
In this post we’ll cover:
– The world is shifting – the confluence of digital changes in our lives, influencing our expectations & interactions.
– With technology, … can learning improve, and be more engaging? – the possibilities of the use of technology in Bible study groups
– What happens to the leader? (in a digital empowered world)
We’ll also explore what tech and app cannot replace in Bible study group; its limitationC.
Consider, … at your Sunday service, … was a Hymnal book used during worship?
Or, … your personal Bible reading today, … was it reading a screen or off a book?
The world is shifting
In the past decade, there’s been confluence of many shifts in the way we do things. What follows is a snapshot of these shifts.
Please feel free to skip this section, and head directly to the next section on Bible study group and technology.
We live in a constant evolving and changing world, .. with increasing education and advances in technology. Thank God, we’re privileged to live in the most well-informed era in human history, … with 24/7 information feeds right on our fingertips, … through apps, smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart home assistant, etc.
Want to know something … learn something? … just google, bing, alexa, siri, cortana, echo, baidu … it;
immediately petabytes of knowledge, data are neatly processed & summarised, .. to a list of ranked search results, .. in a blink of an eye, … anytime, anywhere, … to anyone … now!
While a ‘live’ presentation is being shared, one can easily tap into the Internet to verify the facts of what’s being shared, … and twit, instagram, periscope in real time; … comment, respondate, engage, share … two-way, .. multi-way, … participate
how did we receive our local & international news today?
How many sources of news did we read,
… or checked?
was it hardcopy?
did you pay for it?
its hard to beat content that’s … free
E-services such as online shopping, online travel, e-banking, sharing economy, crowdfunding, comparison portals, etc … have grown exponentially, and have changed the way we do things in the past.
Consider the number of face-to-face and phone conversations we had today,
compared with the number of virtual conversations/conferences we had thru multiple email accounts, instant messaging (whatsapp, wechat, line, snapchat, etc), and social media.
… Our social interactions are changing,
our expectations are changing,
… the world is shifting …
Its interesting, … how we’ve rapidly adapted, … changed and acquired a new set of lifestyle habits in our daily lives 🙂
… certainly, new tricks can be learned by anyone who is willing to learn, … no matter how old one is.
Social media is also increasingly replacing traditional sources of information & news;
… shaping opinions, attitudes, perspectives, mindsets,
influencing views on norms, institutions, peoples, etc.
User generated content — anyone can broadcast videos, blogs, photos, … reviews, comments, etc
to the whole world.
Memes, on-demand online video channels, online games, live streaming events, etc, … have changed how we’re entertained, … our attention spans … how we’re learning, … expectations … are shifting …
— to be inspiring — implies being entertaining, .. be cool, .. share easy, painless formulas, soundbites,
— to sound authoritative — quote someone famous … add qualifications, experiences, … endorsers,
— to sound right or true, — what’s endorsed by the majority, … numbers, followers, friends, … be with the ‘in’ crowd; … add supportive poll data. … Anecdotal stories that moves the audience ,
— be seen — with picture-perfect images of holidays, meals, friends, etc, … having the time of your life, … lifestyle branding,
— be on the look out for what’s viral — entertain … outrage, … the outrageous, … until the next big thing/fad comes along, (eg. endtimes, prophecy, urban legends, memes)
— be popular — connect emotionally, … generate likes, shares, followers, friends, etc
… be … a brand, … monetise
7 easy steps to package, market oneself online 🙂
image is everything?
In varying ways, … when information is carefully crafted as entertaining, emotionally appealing,
attention grabbing, desire arousing, heart moving,
… in a growing image-centered world, conveyed via images, suggestive visual cues, visual brand identity
… condensed into short tweets, sound bites, catchphrases, … easy steps, formulas, recipes, … measured by followers, shares, etc, …
and irresistibly wrapped with the power of suggestion,
such tools of persuasion and influence,
… subconsciously suppress the desire to reason, evaluate, … think.
… there’s a need to be skilled to discern reality, truth, fact, … to prioritise and filter the endless stream of messages we receive/view each day, …
and yet, remain open to listen to others & other views.
Learning the right thing, … also involves spotting a near right or not-so right thing,
and able to articulate why its a fake wannabe.
From a news report of govt officials, which one’s real/fake?
(click here to find out)
‘looks can be deceiving’
An image without words forms impressions, … rather than reasoning.
One more, … here’s a BBC investigation of a widely reported media report that
human attention spans have reduced to 8 seconds. Is it truly 8 seconds? (click here)
In various fields, information asymmetry is shrinking,
… as information is shared, taught, analysed, evaluated, … unlocked, unleashed, … (leaked?).
— the democratization of knowledge & information
New business models have spawned new industries, business models, … cut the middle-men, … flatten bureaucracy
— giving greater convenience and value to everyone.
Online crowd sourcing & crowd funding has also shown … great things can be achieved when people unite with purpose.
Indeed, we’re still discovering the impact & dynamics of this digital shift of a more well-informed, empowered world, and how we can harness it for the greater good.
We’ve moved from monologues … to interactive conversations … to online communities, social media … enabling each one to have a voice to join in.
Congregate … Communicate … Collaborate … Community
across space, time, borders.
… the world is shifting …
what’s some possibilities for Bible study group?
… to harness the change,
besides virtual meetings and messaging, social media, …
Let’s explore further:
– With technology, … can learning improve, and be more enaging?
– What happens to the leader?
With technology, … can learning improve, and be more engaging?
Besides sharing inspiring moments on the Internet, … how else can our mobile devices help us?
“… the most pressing task is to teach people
how to learn.”
— Peter Drucker
“The way people learn
determines how you teach”
— Howard Hendricks
Can technology help in learning? … in what way?
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Do you not yet understand …? ” Matthew 16:9 (NASB)
The teacher has not taught
until the student has learned.”
— Howard Hendricks
With increased education in most countries,
and freely available powerful Internet search tools, and online free Bible resources, apps & ebooks,
and, … in the midst of a more well-informed group, … with instant tools to a vast library of knowledge on their fingertips,
there’ll be occasions during a Bible study group, …
explain things far better than the Bible study guide,
or provide out-of-the-box scriptural answers
and interesting questions, or fresh insights/angles,
… or even point out inconsistencies in the study guide.
thus, … we can learn from anyone and everyone,
even from a little child (the emperor’s new clothes);
… thus, information asymmetry is fading.
With tools on everyone’s fingertips that unlock the doors of knowledge
— like checking the original Greek/Hebrew word meanings, cross-references, comparing translations,
maps, customs, history, geography of Bible times, charts,
book introductions, secular history, literary style, idioms, etc, …
with photos, graphics, animation, multi-media clips, etc ….
group Bible study can be an engaging and rewarding time for everyone
to actively explore, uncover, discover, marvel the richness of God’s word, …
and fall in love with God’s word, … to as far and wide as the participants’ desire and curiosity takes them,
… beyond just answering some comprehension or application question on a sheet of paper or screen.
Engaging everyone on the devices they’re looking at 🙂 ,
… as research study tools,
a group treasure hunt,
or like cooking a group meal together from scratch
Learning becomes active, challenging, engaging.
with ‘Aha’ moments,
… words, phrases, incidents, stories, … come alive, … spring into life,
as we listen to the thoughts of the Author of life.
Informal, … fun
37 … And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him. (Jesus)
Mark 12:37 (NASB)
Crowd sourced bible study … a living, edifying body,
interactive Q/A bible study;
some examples in the marketplace — active learning, student-led learning, problem-based learning
Thus, a thinking, discerning, praying believer … loving God’s word,
confidently reading God’s word daily.
“To be surprised, to wonder,
is to begin to understand.”
— José Ortega y Gasset
“Tell Me and I Will Forget;
Show Me and I May Remember;
Involve Me and I Will Understand.”
— attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Confucius, Herb True
By questioning and researching, participants learn to personally reason out,
share and articulate their learnings or findings.
From reasoning … to personal conviction, … faith.
Through discussing multiple aspects of a passage, … participants learn to be respectful, loving and humble;
… with a goal to learn, rather than debate, … and having the grace to ‘agree to disagree’, having listened to the other person’s point of view.
Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (NASB)
Proverbs 27:17 (NASB)
i.e. we’re all learning … together, … from one another,
with God’s word & the Holy Spirit.
Participants also learn to discern, and critically evaluate truth
from half-truths, near-truths, deception, fallacy etc,
work as a team.
The first person to speak always seems right
until someone comes
and asks the right questions.
Proverbs 18:17 (ERV)
The objective in such discussions is … to seek the truth,
rather than ‘who is right’.
Knowing this truth … how does it help me know God better, trust God,
glorify and honor Him in everyday life?
through group messaging or social media apps,
conversations and sharings … continue streaming during the week,
as participants ponder, discover and share new insights and thoughts on the Bible passage, or new questions posed by others,
… an ongoing interactive conversation.
… beyond just an activity, … (of a set meeting at an agreed time, in a certain place),
unbounded from a study guide
Question repeatedly what you have learned.
Analyze it carefully.
Then put what you have learned
into practice intelligently.”
– Edward Cocker
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine
and puts them into practice
is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24 (NIV)
Thus, nurturing the habit of humble life-long learning.
… Bible lessons of continuous learning …
活到老，学到老 — live till old, learn till old
— Chinese proverb
i.e. … be, .. being open to learn always.
“I have no special talent.
I am only passionately curious.”
— Albert Einstein
“You can teach a student a lesson for a day;
but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity,
he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”
— Clay P. Bedford
“Curiosity is the wick
in the candle of learning.”
— William A. Ward
Curiosity drives learning, … as the Psalmists asks,
But why are people even important to you?
Why do you take care of human beings? Psalm 8:4 (NCV)
In the Chinese language,
one of the words for knowldege and wisdom is 学问,
which literary means ‘learning by asking’.
Various fields have been helped by asking the right questions, or questioning the existing thinking.
“If you do not know how to ask the right question,
you discover nothing.”
– W. Edwards Deming
“Once you have learned to ask questions
– relevant and appropriate and substantial questions –
you have learned how to learn
and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.”
— Neil Postman
Curiosity moves one from an infomation consumer,
… to a thinking, discerning information learner,
… to an infomation contributor (influencer) … synthesising and articulating insight & ideas, … influencing & passionately sharing with others.
how about …
answering participants’ questions on a passage … or message they heard,
… or what’s troubling them in their week,
rather than, .. just questions off a study guide?
Each question is what a participant is really interested to find out,
which can lead to further questions, .. Biblical & practical insights from others,
in conversation together,
Thus, … engaged, relevant, meaningful etc., … with little effort 🙂
Some answers may not be immediate, … while others answers may take much longer to chew on to articulate simply, clearly, concisely,
its also ok to say “I don’t know, I’ll find out”,
“interesting … its a question I never thought before, … good one, … let us find out”
“yes the answer sounds logical, .. but, .. can we find a Bible passage to support this?”
let’s learn together …
In the process, we get stretched, and challenged in our understanding and learning, to seek for Biblical, scriptural answers. Furthermore, there’ll be times our long-held assumptions or understanding will be challenged.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”
Such a process is no different from work presentations in the marketplace or school,
… there is always a part for Q/A from the listeners (bosses, colleagues, customers, stakeholders, etc),
rather than base on unquestioning faith in the speaker, product, company, etc (gullible).
Thus, we have to know our topic well, … as anyone can ask anything,
and, … its also a time to learn from others, help hone our understanding of the topic as well,
or identify key points/data we have missed … to improve 🙂
Under such scrutiny, a cheap wannabe presenter is easily sniffed out
(Remember … the only silly question is the one we did not ask.)
Some of Jesus’ teaching was birthed from impromptu questions, requests from various people he met, eg.
“… tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me …” ” Luke 12:13 (NASB)
“Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Luke 22:20 (NASB)
“How can a man be born when he is old?”
…“How can these things be?” John 3:4,9 (NASB)
Jesus taught conversationally and spontaneously to whoever was with Him.
He answered their personal honest doubts, queries …“How can these things be?”
Here’s an example — Jesus’ conversation with His disciples at the last supper,
16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another,
“What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”
18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’?
We don’t understand what he is saying.”
19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this,
so he said to them, ….
John 16:16-19 (NIV)
Jesus was compassionate, and welcomed questions, clarifications and doubts.
He paused, … He answered.
Sometimes Jesus replied & engaged with a question,
rather than give the answer.
“John’s baptism—where did it come from?
Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” Matthew 21:25 (NIV)
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.
“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied.
“How do you read it?” Luke 10:25,26 (NIV)
What do you think, … God is saying .. to you?
‘What’s in the Bible, … the Scriptures?
Jesus engaged in meaningful conversations, dialogues,
with the highly educated expert of the law, … and the Samaritan woman at the well.
Jesus listened, shared, … & respected those he conversed with,
rather than just one-way monologue sermons/lectures.
Jesus also compassionately prayed & ministered to those in need in His presence.
Jesus sharing, … was also spiced with think questions for his audience,
“What do you think?
If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away,
will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the
one that wandered off? Matthew 18:12 (NIV)
“Which of these three do you think
was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Luke 10:36 (NIV)
“What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” Matthew 22:42 (NIV)
Its clear that Jesus respected the intellect of his audience
— religious leaders, ordinary folks, .. young, old, .. whoever was listening … 2 millennials ago,
.. “What do you think?” 🙂
Asking questions in a conversation is nothing new,
but … now, in our age,
… we have the means to prayerfully search, find out, seek, …dig deeper, …
on the spot, in the moment,
… for insights, inspirations, answers, … ask further questions, ….
“The test of a good teacher
is not how many questions he can ask his pupils
that they will answer readily,
how many questions he inspires them to ask him
which he finds it hard to answer. “
– Alice Wellington Rollins
A teacher will show a pupil how to ask the correct questions.
— Bruce Gaston
In whatever discipline,
by learning to ask the right questions
— one learns, able to self-study and solve real-life problems,
and discern & evaluate what they are reading and hearing in their field.
On another note, … on the Internet, everyone chats, shares as a peer, an equal,
…with tweets, posts, comments and reviews,
… no matter who they are,
or what background they come from, or what they look like,
… its one’s content, ideas, thoughts that matter,
Thus, a preference to be ‘talk to’, .. rather than ‘talk at’, …
peer sharing with one another.
These shifting expectations in lifestyle, .. stirs a desire for interactive conversational sharing & listening from everyone,
… move closer to the early church — Holy Spirit and Word led gatherings,
where everyone participates to instruct, encourage and build up one another.
Paul wrote confidently to the brethren in Rome and Thessalonica
15:14 My brothers, I myself am convinced about you
that you also are full of goodness, (fruit of the Spirit)
filled with all knowledge, (word)
and able to instruct one another.
5:11 Therefore encourage one another
and build each other up
as you are already doing.
Romans 15:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (HCSB)
14:26 What then, brothers?
When you come together,
has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.
Let all things be done for building up.
1 Corinthians 14:26 (ESV)
Thus, some possible skills to learn, … in navigating this shift:
– how to read a book, how to read the Bible
– how to use Bible resource tools
– principles to discern truth from deception
(… nothing new, … pre-Internet stuff)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God
as a workman who does not need to be ashamed,
accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)
“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason ,
I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted
and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”
— Martin Luther, 1521
Being open to learn with fresh eyes
“Its amazing how much light the Bible sheds on commentaries”
— Howard Hendrick
In a Bible study, Bible commentary answers … instant googled answers, …
can they truly replace our personal, prayerful reflection, and meditation of the Bible passage?
Is getting the right answer,
getting the right meaning,
… the goal of Bible study group?
For a regular church goer, one would have heard about 50 sermons a year. If one goes for bible studies, conferences, etc, … a 100 or more messages.
18″.. take care how you listen …”
Luke 8:18 (NASB)
The challenge in Bible study, .. when studying a passage, … is to put aside what we’ve heard, various interpretations, etc,
… and read, explore, enjoy God’s word in the passage, … personally, … slowly,
as though, … we’re reading it for the first time,
… with fresh eyes, … curious, .. prayerfully open to listen, to learn, … to question, … and, at times, honestly admit there are still gaps in our understanding. Being open and teachable.
Sometimes, what we’ve heard, … may hinder us from seeing the obvious.
Other influences include … mindsets, theological filters, worldview, etc
Thus, its wise to personally, carefully and prayerfully read verse by verse, and in context … what a passage clearly means, … with the Holy Spirit.
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message.
They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.
12 As a result,
many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.
Acts 17:11,12 (NLT)
The result: they believed.
i.e. faith in Jesus !
Let’s humbly pray that we’ll not become
and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Timothy 3:7 (NASB)
12 “.. they may look and look,
yet not perceive;
they may listen and listen,
yet not understand; … “
Mark 4:12 (NASB)
In the journey to knowing, … knowing more,
God’s word is also about … change, life transformation,
… living out God’s Word in everyday life,
to be more like Jesus.
Sanctify them in the truth;
Your word is truth
John 17:17 (NASB)
The Bible is about change and transformation,
from darkness to light,
from old man to new man,
And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind,
so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 (NASB)
Interestingly, the word ‘repent‘ in the original Greek is μετανοέω, metanoeō, which means:
to change one’s mind of (on account of) something,
to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)
… in agreement with Romans 12:2
“The goal is not to make you a smarter sinner
but to make you like the Savior.”
— Howard Hendricks
Since, change is evolving and constant,
let’s be prayerfully open, … agile, flexible,
and humble to respond to change in a Biblical manner for the greater good.
The Bible is full of surprises of God doing a new thing 🙂
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19 (NKJV)
What happens to the leader?
The Holy Spirit is with each one of us. The Holy Spirit is in our midst as we gather together in Jesus name.
By prayerfully listening, … trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us,
and guided by God’s Word,
… the leader then becomes a facilitator, a curator, a fellow traveler, …
Through informal leading questions, … we can arouse curiosity, self-discovery, observations,
and question paradigms/mindsets, … wrestle with dilemmas,
and inspire the living out of God’s word etc.
Thus, the leader compassionately guides by the hand,
gently lift others up,
highlight salient details in the landscape for others to appreciate and marvel,
… pause for others to catch their breath;
and patiently cultivate in others an appreciation of
a feast of good, nutritious, healthy, wholesome food, and good aged wine,
compared to fast food, junk food, and cheap imitation fizzy spirits.
No chatbot, .. tweet, post, share, .. app or tech, .. or artificial intelligence (AI),
can replace a caring, praying leader
who is a living example of a follower of Jesus,
an inspiring encourager, … a compassionate comforter, … a brother/sister sharing one’s burden,
a smile, .. a hug, .. a shared moment, .. a shoulder to cry on, .. a listening ear .. a trusted friend
… love builds up 2 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV)
high touch, … face time, … in person
‘reach out touch somebody’s hand’
In addition to knowledge and information, … discipling is a sharing of one’s life and walk with the Lord to another person, — through personal testimonies and experiences with the Lord, … sharing life.
Making the Bible real in real life,
walking with the real & personal God.
“You teach what you know,
but you reproduce what you are.”
— Howard Hendricks
“Only a disciple
can make a disciple.”
— A. W. Tozer
“Precepts may instruct,
but examples persuade.”
— Thomas Brooks
Similarly, God so love the world that .. he did not send a manual, a book, an app, a post,
… He sent Jesus, .. in person .
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish. John 1:14 (MSG)
In a simlar way to a parent, nurturing a child, … who goes on to have their own family,
the ambition of the bible study group leader or discipler,
… then, becomes to work himself/herself out a job, …
as members gain confidence in actively listening and trusting God and His Word daily to guide their lives,
and disciple others. 🙂
Everyone moves on … to disciple someone else.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30 (NASB)
— John the Baptist
At the Samaritan town in John 4, after the town people met Jesus,
they said to the Samaritan woman (at the well),
42 Then they said to the woman,
“Now we believe,
not because of what you said,
for we ourselves have heard Him (first-hand, directly)
and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
John 4:42 (NKJV)
In conclusion, beyond the app and tech,
one still has to personally believe,
read and apply God’s word daily,
“But who do you say
that I am?” Mark 8:29 (NASB)
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.
Do what it says. James 1:22 (NIV)
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” …
Luke 3:10, 12, 14 (NIV)
Indeed, technology has opened vast libraries of free knowledge to us all,
.. in our thirst for knowledge, wisdom, insight,
lets be humbly mindful,
If I have the gift of prophecy
and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains,
do not have love,
I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV)
Instead, speaking the truth in love,
we will grow to become
the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so,
because your faith is growing more and more,
and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)
Whatever outcomes & methods,
let’s continue to be faithful, diligent and thorough with His Word,
… believing the Holy Spirit will move people’s hearts.
For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14 (NASB)
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12 (NIV)
On a side note about tech,
… with real-time speech-to-text transcribing apps, … the hearing impaired can come along, through a real-time transcript of our discussion.
… and with accurate real-time speech translation apps soon, … anyone can come along.
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
August 2, 2017
Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2017 – All Rights Reserved
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