I've never been in a Bible study discussion like this!
"I've never been in a Bible study discussion like this! I think we always need to use this format in the future," one of my local colleagues said to the national pastor of our church revitalization. I was in awe of what was happening, which was the answer to years of prayer and work!
Many years ago I became convinced that we needed to use an oral, story-based approach in ministry in the country in southeastern Europe where I serve. I was trained and began developing a OneStory panorama of Bible stories in the local language. However, I did not have very many opportunities to demonstrate what a story fellowship group could look like in our context, particularly when there were local church leaders present who would see the different approach.
This past summer I moved to a new city and began working with a team of national believers to revitalize an existing church and plant a new one (Lord-willing). Once COVID-19 restrictions allowed gatherings of more than 5 people, a mid-week Bible study was relaunched. About a month later, I was asked to lead the study one week. I eagerly accepted but said that I would use a different format than what they had seen before. The colleague who usually led the study said, "Ok, but this group does not discuss well and you have to ask very specific questions."
I said, "Let's try something new and if it doesn't work, it will be my fault and we can go back to how you are doing it."
A few days later, after much prayer and crafting a Bible story about Elijah, I took a deep breath and led the group in a story fellowship format. I told the story twice, we learned it together, and then I asked 5 simple questions to encourage discussion.
What I hoped would happen did happen! Everyone engaged in discussion, there were fewer off-topic comments, and several people commented how quickly the hour went. I was overjoyed and was thanking the Lord in my heart that He brought this to fruition.
A few days later my local colleague told me he really liked how I did the study and would I lead again next week? I accepted and the second week went well, just like the first one. It was in the days after the second study that my colleague told the national pastor that we should continue using this format from now on. The pastor was somewhat skeptical, having not been in the Bible studies himself, but agreed to let me hold a 2-hour training with our church leadership team to demonstrate how to lead this format.
The training went well and the pastor was willing to let us try this new format for a few months to see what happens. I am now crafting a 12-story series that we will use based on the theme of "Who is a disciple of Jesus?" Although new COVID-19 restrictions have derailed us a bit, I am confident that the Lord will make a path forward and am trusting that He will use this format to help the believers apply God's truth in their daily lives!