Today’s blog post is from a good friend and colleague of mine, Dwayne McCrary. Dwayne is a Christian educator, a great co-worker and friend, and he teaches two Sunday School classes at his church (one for adults, and the other one for a group of preschoolers)! He attends his church’s worship service in between the two Bible studies.
Dwayne is going to help us understand why it’s important that our Bible study groups have “pre-Christians,” unbelievers, or people who are far from God, in them. Whatever you want to call them, they don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus. Yet.
Here is what was on Dwayne’s heart to share with us.
After the Spanish Flu pandemic, believers expressed a renewed interest in Bible study groups. We can certainly see why today! We miss the community found in the company of other believers. Talking through a Bible passage then listening to how others process the truths found in that passage encourages us to process the passage and gives us food for thought. We come to understand that our questions and doubts may be close to normal. Add to that praying with a person face to face and we clearly see why that happened then.
However following the Spanish Flu, some began to see Bible study groups as places for believers to be nurtured and moved away from groups built for all people including the skeptic, searcher, and non-believer. People who are not yet believers need to study the Bible and we need them to be in our groups, groups that include believers. Here’s why.
- We need the dialogue. The longer we live as a believer, the more likely our friends will be believers. We begin to talk in “believer” and lose our “unbeliever” dialect. Losing some of that language is a good thing, but we must still find a way to communicate with unbelievers. We are called to share the gospel and we need contact with unbelievers to do so. Keeping our Bible study group open to all people puts us in a position to share the gospel more readily.
- We need the pressure. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul called on them to imitate him as he imitated Christ (11:1). This group needed someone to show them what a follower of Christ looked like and Paul was willing for them to examine him. By placing himself on this pedestal, Paul was making himself accountable to all who were looking to him as an example. We believers need to know others need an example and we need the accountability to be such an example.
- We need to remember. The longer we live as a believer, the more likely we are to forget the guilt, the search, and the sense of lostness that comes with being separated from God. Losing that memory impacts our gratitude for the cross and the salvation Christ provides us. We need to always be mindful of the grace granted to us.
- We need to be challenged. We sometimes get comfortable with our beliefs and rarely revisit them. Being around unbelievers will lead to believers getting to explain why we believe what we believe. Doing so will help us refine and sharpen our beliefs, while keeping us from becoming complacent about what we believe and why.
- We need to learn to love. We are directed to love our neighbors, all of them. The best way I know for breaking down a “them” and “us” mentality is spending time with whomever we consider to be “them.”
The believers in Bible study groups that purposefully remain open to all people gain a great deal from the presence of unbelievers. We believers need them to be in our Bible study group just as much as they need us.
Dwayne McCrary is a team leader for adult Bible study resources at LifeWay. He also teaches two ongoing Bible study groups in his church and is an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.