Un-Bible Study

November 19, 2003

[questions]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!

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

18 responses to Un-Bible Study

  1. I wonder … all day long I wonder …
    Glad to know others are wondering …

  2. I think that’s an amazing idea. When you get into real-world doubts..where practically nothing can be explained until proven by “existence”, that (un-bible) study will come in handy. I have had a lot of questions in similar context, but I have been warned that if the doubtful thoughts continue to haunt me and turn me away from the Lord, I should rebuke them. (From the top of my head right now) I remembered a passage that went like “I will have mercy on WHOM I will have mercy”. Like God reserves the right to choose who He will pardon. It reminds me of the time when God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus/Moses). And it continues to make me wonder and feel sorry at the same time that WE who know Jesus and follow His ways were CHOSEN. What about those that He didn’t “choose”? It seems unfair! (But then I also know that He gave His life for everyone..EVERY ONE. So you know, my mind is too small to comprehend His great ways.. (bah, this is a terribly long post hehe. Is that ok?)

  3. Kreek’t, it is precisely that notion that “good Christians don’t ask those kinds of questions” that I wanted to tear down. I find that it helps me look at the Scriptures with fresh eyes. The Bible then expands from a set of finely diced propositions put through a theological meat grinder, into an amazing Story of people wrestling with God and their own questions. And then I am part of that Story. As we discussed in our un-Bible study, the disciples could not read Matthew 28, nor did they know how things would play out in the book of Acts. They just had to live it. …And so do we.

  4. Jon, this is great. I like the idea of the Bible being a story of people wrestling with God. I feel much happier in a mood of wonder, than in a mood of “know it all” – been there, done that – yuk!
    A friend of mine just got back from an Ashram in India. She got a hug from the “Hugging Prophet” when this prophet hugged my friend, my friend said it made her feel closer to Jesus. I believe God is working in my friend and can use anything to draw her to himself. In the past I would have been skeptical that God would use a pagan religion.

  5. Un-Bible Study

    jon.reid over at blog.one.another writes about his home group’s Un-Bible Study. first, i like the tone he is setting for the gathering, one of honesty, of searching, of creativity, and of community. second, he poses interesting question about the 12

  6. creative idea. i like the name. i think it could be helpful when introducing the idea to “churched” folks.
    i’ve added a link over at my site.
    i enjoy your blog.

  7. I’m glad to see that you’ve ventured into asking. When I was a part of Contact Ministries one of the things we strived for was ‘creating a safe place to ask dangerous questions’. I’ve found it tempting to fall back into answering questions, but I’m always excited when I see others asking questions without readily available answers.

  8. fyi – you can find Contact Ministries at http://realcontact.org

  9. Howdy folks. Its great to hear such positive info in this direction. I tried it out in my tribe and things did not go quite as well. Anyways its encouraging to know I’m not alone.

  10. “A safe place to ask dangerous questions” — that is cool, jenjie.
    Russell, can you describe what happened with your gang?

  11. what to do

    So, I’ve been out of the blogging world for a while. While I’ve been away, I’ve been working through what to do with my life after this pharmacy residency. As I’ve said, I’d love to come home – but everything…

  12. andrew mogoa moirore February 21, 2005 at 6:31 am

    iwonder why i should not know God

  13. what to do

    So, I’ve been out of the blogging world for a while. While I’ve been away, I’ve been working through what to do with my life after this pharmacy residency. As I’ve said, I’d love to come home – but everything…

  14. Un-Bible Study

    “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…”

  15. Nice to see Christians getting back to their Jewish roots.
    The oral law was all about asking: what about.
    The oral law is much neglected in Christian circles and mitigates much of the literalism so fashionable these days.
    Jesus would have been well acquainted with the oral law. I’m sure some of the things he said would make more sense with reference to that law.

  16. Jesus’s episode with the adultress and the court can be seen in Jewish circles as an extension of the oral law: a new way of looking at things.
    The better argument wins.
    BTW it would be very good if fewer sins were crimes. Even today.

  17. You’ve given us a marvelous way to look at the Bible. But it may not be new. Have you ever heard of the Serendipity Bible? I has questions that let you do the thinking about God’s word without preconception.

  18. It was neat to see the recent flurry of activity on this post (although I am quite late to the party). One thing I wanted to point out was that as much as the Serendipity Bible is a helpful tool, it’s not the same as an un-Bible study. The Serendipity Bible asks good questions which are helpful for group discussion, exploring possible answers together. …But in an un-Bible study, the whole point is that you come up with the questions.