Four hours a day and once a week for three months, we spent nearly 50 hours studying the Gospel of John, all 21 chapters. As we approached the end of the study, I as the leader had had a profound thought regarding the entire time. I sensed new revelation as though bright light coming from it. I felt the difficulty of Bible study ministry, witnessed learners' gradual progress to becoming excellent, and really appreciated the opportunity to experience turning challenges into pleasure.
While studying theology, I loved the Gospel of John so much that when listening carefully to the teacher, every word spoken was written down. Then there was the truly enjoyable time having someone lead and explain what was being learned. Yet in a recent Bible study that went from this April to the end of June, I had had a new understanding of the Gospel of John. It let me to deeply appreciate a story or explanation of a verse from multiple angles. I have concluded that as long as you are willing to dig and think deep enough, you will find truly awesome and profound truth in the gospel message.
As the burden is on my shoulders, it often makes me humbly consult different people's views and ideas, and I need to be patient in researching book resources for information to share. Whenever I am well prepared, God's preparation is more than abundant. Even the congregation is being blessed from my ministry. I have experienced the sweetness of Bible study, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the value of myself.
Everything has a hard beginning
On my first day of teaching from the first chapter of the Gospel of John, I was really hurt. After I had finished the first chapter, a church leader said to me, "You shouldn't teach in this way. No. The way you do it is not Bible study to me." I asked her, "What do you think Bible study is?" She replied, "Bible study is like a sermon where we can have something to remember." I was really confused at that time. In the lesson plan, I had prepared a PPT. There were handouts and supplements, and even different angles of discussions were set. Similarly, in July when I was to teach from the Song of Songs in the Old Testament, they said the same thing-- they couldn't understand it.
This was my way of preparing. In our eight village churches, every believer belonging to two churches would study on the same day in the same church from Wednesday to Saturday. The number of people in the two churches should add up to no less than three to five hundred. But in fact, the number of people who studied each time was no more than one-tenth. Sometimes, there were only 11 people including me. I was under a lot of pressure and I was afraid of being blamed by church leaders for there being so few participants. During this period, there was also a colleague who gave me comfort, and so I persisted.
The way of studying the Bible was too limited. It was mainly in the style of only me speaking so that as a result, the believers did not have to think or interact and I became exhausted.
I needed assistants and I taught in four churches for a week. Each time I arrived I felt I was all on my own. Some churches hadn't got the computers ready. Some hadn't got the loud speakers ready. In some the projectors were not turned on. And in some there were issues with the photocopiers. Of course, these were my responsibilities even if I was not from that village. I would have to do everything myself. Moreover, before I arrived, the believers didn't know what to do and the entire church--from leaders to preachers, from choir groups to believers--none of them would say, "Let's read the Bible and prepare for the study." Every time I set up a computer to beready or copied the handouts, I would have to run to the podium to instruct everyone to read the Bible to "warm up" for the study. Otherwise, they would look at or chat with each other.
We needed to study and discuss. Howeverat present, this cannot in any way be done. So far, the biggest challenge is how to open the mouths of the participants. It is good that believers are involved and that the church can find talent and equip them. Is not the beginning preparation for evangelism to encourage believers to think, write, and speak?
- Translated by Charlie Li