Dwelling in the Text

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Recently I was leading a workshop with Coffee Break and Small Group leaders. A key component of the workshop is around engaging scripture together. As we reflect on scripture, we practice formulating questions in an effort to help everyone discover what the Bible says and means. 

One woman identified that in some of their studies, the questions were too simple, and perhaps a little boring. Together we explored how asking additional questions can help participants dig into the text, to discover its truth for themselves. Additional questions can address the specific needs of the group, depending on their level of Bible knowledge, their spiritual maturity, and their personal journeys. 

As we reflected on verses from Colossians, we began to brainstorm questions. Here is the text, and here are some of the questions we named in our session:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col. 4:2-6)

  • What does it mean to be devoted to prayer? 
  • How might we deepen our prayer life?
  • What might we be watchful for? 
  • How does being watchful shape what we pray for?
  • Why does Paul ask us to be thankful while we pray? 
  • How does being thankful impact our prayer?
  • What kind of open door do you think Paul is looking for?
  • What is meant by the 'mystery of Christ'?
  • How do you think Paul’s prayers are impacted by being in jail?
  • Who are the outsiders that Paul is talking about?
  • Why does he ask people to be wise when they connect with outsiders? 
  • What do we need to be wise about? 
  • What are the opportunities he speaks of? 
  • What might be an opportunity in your life? 
  • Can anyone tell of an opportunity you’ve had to share with someone? Have you experienced a missed opportunity?
  • What do you think he means by a ‘grace-ful’ conversation?  Can you share a story of someone who is a ‘grace-ful’ person?
  • How can you have ‘salty’ conversations? What is the salt that you add to a conversation?
  • If we are to be ready to give an answer to everyone, what is the question they are asking? 
  • In what way are we living questionable lives, that cause others to ask questions?

In addition to asking good questions, it can also be helpful to allow for quiet times in the conversation.  Participants may need some time to consider their responses.  At times, we can prompt deeper thinking by asking “What else?”  “Who else has a thought?”  “What else do you think this might mean?”  These additional questions help people to dig deeper, and to go beyond the easy answers. 

As you read through this, did you come up with other questions? What do you wonder about as you read the text? How can you ask more questions to help someone discover for themselves what the Bible says and means?

I'd love to hear your questions, and I welcome your stories of engaging scripture together!  

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I think the point raised by this article is really underrated.  Dwelling with the text, prayerfully with the Holy Spirit, and just waiting means we are spending time with God letting him speak.  And that kind of relationship where we are waiting for God to speak with a sense of anticipation is God's deep desire.  

I often print out a Scripture on a page with nothing else on it.  Lots of empty space.  And then I listen, using my pencil to write on the page what I hear.  After a half-hour or so of listening I'm really struck, every time, by how interesting and helpful the text is, and I'm sure it's because Jesus is speaking through the Word by the power of the Spirt.

Thanks Zach!  I totally agree with you, and I probably should have used a different title.  Dwelling in the text really is about sitting with the text and waiting on the Holy Spirit to speak to us.   

I was writing this from the perspective of my work with Coffee Break (CB).  While CB is evangelistic in nature, many women come with varied experience in Bible study.  Some have never opened the Bible; others may have great familiarity but gloss over the richness of scripture.  Questions really help us to dig into the text, to look at things in a fresh way, and to begin to apply the truths we are learning to our own journeys.  The Holy Spirit also often speaks to us through what others express in a group; groups are so helpful in the journey of discovering what the Bible says and means.  

Thanks for sharing with us your practice of printing out the scripture, which is another truly meaningful way to engage the text!  Blessings to you as you continue in the Word!