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Obedience Bible Studies

This is not just about studying the Word of God, but it is more about doing the Word of God.  The emphasis is not on merely gaining knowledge and comprehension, but priority is on applying what is being learned.  All applications are made in community, which happens to be spiritual community or church in this context.  Each time the community gathers for the next study they hold each other accountable for applications made during the previous studies. 

When it becomes evident that a brother or sister is struggling with the application of God's Word in an area of their life, then the believers in their spiritual community will work hard in love and with encouragement and prayer to help that person overcome and grow in dependence on God's Spirit.   This may mean that they contact or meet up with this brother or sister in-between studies.  It may mean spending time together daily.  After all, isn't that how spiritual community among believer was practiced in the first church in Jerusalem ?  (Acts 2:46 )

What might a study like this look like?  Simple enough that any believer could facilitate it.  Actually, even a non-believer could facilitate it among a group of non-believers who are meeting together with a seekerís spirit.  And it falls in line with our principle. If they canít reproduce it, then we won't introduce it.  

I don't know whom the first person was who came up with this, but it is a good acronym that works well enough and has been passed around to many different people.  For our illustration we will use "SPACE."  You are free to use it as well, or come up with your own pattern, but what the questions ask and the answers they seek should remain pretty close to this.  Begin by selecting a portion of the Bible to do your study on, but not too large of a portion.  Try to limit applications to one or two per study - this should help you in deciding how many verses to study.  And it is not a bad idea to choose a book of the Bible to work through.  This will help keep each study in proper context.

Begin by reading the scriptures aloud.  If no one can read then use a cassette tape or be creative in finding ways to get the Scriptures heard.  After the group has heard the Scriptures have them repeat back what they heard, retelling the story or in this case retelling the Scripture verves.  Then pose the question, "What do you think this means?"  This is a participative study.  The leader is not there to give all the answers, but to encourage everyone to participate and discover the truth through discussion as God's Spirit blesses different members of the body with understanding and insight.

Now it is time for "SPACE."  There does not have to be and there usually is not a "Yes" answer to every question.  But whenever there is a "Yes" answer it is time to stop and make personal applications.  Everyone participating in the study must make a personal application that they will follow through on in the coming week, and share it with the rest of the group.  The next time they meet they will hold each other accountable.  This is the most important step in this study, and it should not be watered down or allowed to be bypassed.

Here are the questions that can be asked following the "SPACE" acronym:

S - Sin - In this passage of scripture is there a Sin to avoid?

P - Promise, Praise, Prayer - In this passage is there a Promise to claim, a Praise to give to God, and/or a Prayer to pray?

A - Attitude - Does this passage point out an Attitude that needs to be changed?

C - Command - In this passage is there a Command that needs to be obeyed?

E - Example - In this passage is there an Example that needs to be followed?

When one of these questions receives a "Yes" answer, don't take note of it, move on and leave it for later.  STOP right then and have everyone make a personal application.  Then continue through the rest of the questions.  Remember, try to limit the study to one or two applications.  If you are getting many "Yes" answers that all need to be addressed, you may want to revisit the same passage the next study time.  

What is a good application?  A good application is one that has some concreteness to it.  For instance a person could say, "This week I will strive to be a better person."  That is a very good goal, but we want to know what that person is going to do specifically this week to be a better person.  A better application might be, "This week I will be nice to my lost colleague at work, who I have a hard time loving, by serving him coffee each morning."  When the group comes back together for the next study it will be obvious whether this application has been kept or not.  A good application should be personal - addressing an area of need in the person who makes it.  It should be provable and measurable, meaning that it has some concreteness and a time frame.  It should be challenging to the individual (or group in some cases) who makes it, meaning that it will require dependence on God's Spirit and the encouragement and support of that person's church/true spiritual community, which here is the group doing the study together.

One other important thing to note: Size of the group can be a contributing or hindering factor.  A group too large would make this study last a long time, would not allow all to participate fully, and might raise issues of trust, distrust, unfamiliarity, etc.  I would suggest the max size for one of these communities is 10 to 12 adults.  Since any believer new or old can facilitate this kind of study, it would be perfectly natural and very easy to start new groups/churches instead of increasing the size of existing groups/churches.  This does not mean that these churches/groups cannot come together weekly or at other scheduled intervals for wonderful time of corporate worship and celebration, but it suggest that true spiritual community and genuine accountability within a group has a cap on people.  When this cap is exceeded groups may tend to begin to divide, forming clicks and alliances, and being sidetracked by such differences.  The truth is we know better, but as hard as we may try it is exceedingly tough to relate at this level with more and more people.  So by keeping the groups intentionally small, we are not cheating people out of genuine spiritual relationships, but we are offering them the best opportunity to develop them.  

Here is the real kicker.  Groups like this have an amazing capacity for reproduction when it is built into their DNA - that it is natural and Biblical that they reproduce and plant more churches which they teach to do the same.

Key Benefits

God's Word and His Spirit become the standard, not the person facilitating.  The format is such that any believer (or even non-believer) can facilitate the study.  The success will be noticed when you see participants going to God's Word to find answers to their needs and not always coming to the ones who assume leadership for the group.

Emphasis is on "doing" and not being satisfied with merely gaining head-knowledge.  The key here is teaching them to obey everything that Jesus has taught us.

Effects are life changing.  You cannot be applying God's Word this intentionally, with the help of true spiritual community, and not come away blessed and bearing fruit.  Further, you cannot be a member of this kind of community without a level of commitment and belief that what it offers is what you need and what each of its members need - making accountability a necessary and desired activity.



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I would like to receive more information about Obedience Bible Studies and Storying.
I am interested in receiving further training for facilitating Obedience Bible Study and Storying groups which might develop true spiritual community and accountability.
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Last modified: March 07, 2006