Bible reading

Pastor Glenn Townend reveals the impact of Bible reading groups led by average people.

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Impie rented a room from a retired Adventist couple. Working as a kitchen hand in a local restaurant, Impie was attracted by the fact the advert said the renter had to be vegetarian. Originally from India, with a Sikh background, she would pray and meditate before work. Impie noticed the Adventist couple would also pray and read their holy book each morning. One day she asked to join and the Bible reading intrigued her. Impie rarely missed the Bible readings—she found the Christian’s holy book more interesting than her own. She asked lots of questions and before she stopped renting the room had been to church twice. On parting she asked if she could have a Bible of her own. The retired couple willingly gave her one.

The Bible reveals it is more than an interesting book. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth, your Word is truth” (John 17:17*). The Bible reveals the truth:

1. About God and the intention to bring changes in a person’s life. “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers,” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

2. About human nature. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit . . . and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” (Hebrews 4:12). It shows the reader their innermost attitudes and thoughts—not a pretty picture but we need to know it.

3. That Jesus brings hope and meaning to life—eternally. “ . . . you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” (2 Timothy 3:15).

4. Of what we can believe and how we should live. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16,17). 

"If we are to become a thriving Adventist movement we cannot leave all Bible studies to trained pastors and elders."

Clearly the Bible reveals truth that matters in life.

In history, reading and study of Scripture by the masses has been pivotal whenever God has brought about revival and reformation. Usually Bible studies are taught by those who know more about the Bible than those they teach. This is a valid way to do Bible studies. However, Jesus the greatest teacher who knew Scripture intimately often just asked people questions about what they were reading (Luke 6:3, 8:45, 10:26, 18:41, Matthew 16:3-19), allowing those exposed to Scripture to learn at their own pace.

The South Pacific Division Discipleship Ministry team is teaching and demonstrating the power of Bible reading groups led by average people. If we are to become a thriving Adventist movement we cannot leave all Bible studies to trained pastors and elders. We need those trained in proper interpretation (2 Timothy 2:15, 4:1-5) however the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:19-21) and will guide people into all truth (John 16:13).

In Queensland, young adults are forming groups and reading Bible stories and chapters at a time. The group leader asks simple questions to get people discussing Scripture. The questions are: What is new? What surprises you? What don’t you understand? What can you tell another person? The number of groups is growing.

Central Coast Adventist School (NSW) chaplain Pastor Leighton Heise has been showing students how to run these Bible reading groups. A Year 12 student who had attended the school for many years but never taken Bible classes and chapels seriously found God spoke to him in the Bible reading groups. He’s now been baptised and is helping Pastor Heise teach Bible reading to other students.

In Port Moresby, Ric learnt about Bible reading groups. It was a simple method he could follow with his family. His children and wife liked it so much they invited neighbours of all ages to join them. Many have since come to church. Ric is a building supervisor and once a week at lunchtimes he holds a Bible reading group for his workers. Their lives have been changed so much they have assisted Ric in building a house for an elderly blind man.

The Scriptures have power. If Australian young adults, high school students, recent immigrants and PNG trade and village people are responding to these simple, reproducible Bible reading groups—perhaps they could be the basis of a thriving Adventist disciple-making movement.

*All Bible verses in ESV.

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