I recently heard a relatively new Christian adult woman say, "I just get lost in our small group Bible study especially when people start throwing out Greek words and what they’ve learned in other studies. I just want to understand the words that are actually printed here. They lose me. I feel so ignorant like I can never understand the Bible."
My heart just hurt for her. And, from my experience, I know this precious new-to-the-Bible Christian is not alone in how she feels in our Bible studies.
Don't assume they'll catch up by listening to others.
Should we assume that by having new Christians (or new-to-the-Bible Christians) in a regular Bible study group, that they will catch up just by being there? And, why is that a bad assumption?!
I am talking about adults who didn't grow up in the church and/or don't have years of church life where they were taught from the Bible (sermons, Sunday school classes). These are the ones who get lost in our Bible-oriented churches.
We have women all around us who were not raised in a church setting. Or, they attended a church that even discouraged personal Bible study. They are new to the Bible. They have no clue how to read it to feed themselves. When they trust in Christ, they are like the newborn babies in our own families — hungry for the milk of God's Word. Starving for it. They need a Bible Study just for them.
“And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation,” 1 Peter 2:2
Carefully feed the new Christian what she needs to grow
Picture bringing a newborn baby home and sitting her at the table saying, "Watch the rest of us eat. You will learn how to feed yourself and not be hungry anymore." Do we do that?
No! We feed them regularly with nourishing milk and bathe them with parental love for months so they will be healthy physically and relationally. Parents do the feeding – milk first and then introduce solid food. After that, we start giving them finger foods they can handle. By the middle of their second year, they are usually feeding themselves from the table using a mouthful of teeth to do so.
Yet, we expect our new Christians (because they are in their grown bodies) to feed themselves from God's Word just by being "at the table" (in a regular small group or worship service). Yet, this lack of care and feeding of new Christians leads to discouragement and insecurity and a feeling of "I am not smart enough to understand the Bible." Soon, they give up. I've seen this happen. For one sweet woman, I was the guilty one.
When I was the small group leader who assumed…
“Lynn” told us on her first day to our Bible study group that she had never been in a Bible study before this. She was a shy new Christian, having just started attending our church. I thought, "She'll catch on as we go through the study each week."
I was wrong. Lynn didn't know how to read Bible verses and answer questions in a study designed for experienced Bible students. She might get the observation questions, just looking for information. But, after that, she wouldn’t answer anything. She felt so inadequate.
Instead of coming alongside her, I waited a few weeks. Lynn stopped coming. When I asked why, she told me how hard it was to do the study. I had her moved to a Beginners group, but the whole process of getting to know another group of people was overwhelming. She dropped altogether.
As an experienced follower of Christ, I failed this new Christian. Since then, I’ve learned to come alongside someone new to the Bible and help them get a good start by doing simple studies together.
Getting to know Jesus is the priority…
Christianity is Christ. What they need first and foremost is to get to know Him well and be secure in their relationship with Him. Walk through the gospel of Mark with her. Show her how to read the passage and let the Holy Spirit show her something from it. I usually ask the question, “What jumped out at you?” That’s the milk for the day God wants to feed her.
If they want to follow a “Read through the Bible” plan for regular feeding, lead them to do the New Testament only, always beginning with the gospels. Establishing that relationship with Jesus is top priority. Newborn babies don’t need to know all the family history before we establish our love relationship with them.
If you are an experienced Christian woman in a Bible study group with a new-to-the-Bible Christian, don’t let her try to chew steak with only a few baby teeth. Work through the weekly Bible study lesson with her.
If it’s too much, back down to something more basic for her to understand. I have several of these short and easy studies for beginners.
If you are a new-to-the-Bible Christian, please ask an experienced Christian to help you learn how to study the Bible for yourself. The Spirit of God inside you will make you able to understand God's Word over time. And, it will be so satisfying. You will not be hungry again.
For all of you women who have influence over other women in your church, women’s ministry, or any kind of small group, let’s change the way we feed our newborn Christians.