Last week in our gathering, we had an “un-Bible study”. My experience with “Bible studies” is that someone has read the passage and come up with a set of conclusions. Then they come up with a matching set of questions designed to lead people to those conclusions. The whole point is to find the “good” answers.
But for our “un-Bible study”, instead of coming up with good answers, I explained that I wanted our group to come up with good questions. While we did not do “Godly Play” per se, I did encourage people to begin their questions with the words, “I wonder…” This set an atmosphere of openness, because hey, you can’t really criticize someone for wondering something.
With that introduction, we dove into the Great Commission. Just to illustrate and get the ball rolling, I began with “I wonder what the Eleven felt like not being Twelve anymore. That must have been weird.” Soon others were asking, “I wonder why some doubted.” I was able to share what I’ve learned from Real Live Preacher about how doubt requires more faith than certainty.
We even had the question, “I wonder where God was while Jesus was talking to the disciples.” I initially dismissed this question with a laugh, thinking that it was a joke! But the group corrected me and soon we were exploring questions of the Trinity.
I asked a biggie: “The Great Commission is usually quoted as an evangelistic passage. I wonder why Jesus never mentions evangelism.” This led to a big discussion about whether we are supposed to “convert” anybody. Shouldn’t we, instead, be teaching everybody what it means to follow Jesus, and invite them to follow even if they don’t believe? After all, even some of the Eleven doubted! But that didn’t keep them from following.
To conclude, I said that my understanding of Alpha dinners was to create an environment where non-Christians could ask any questions without feeling awkward or threatened. Kay said, “I get it. You want this group to be Alpha for Christians.” I said, “Exactly. And if we have a safe place where anyone can ask any questions, then hopefully non-Christians will feel like this can be their group too, even if they’re not following Jesus yet.”
So if you have a small group of any kind, give “un-Bible studies” a try. You may be pleasantly surprised!