4 Reasons to Study the Bible (and not contemporary Christian books) in Small Group

We study the Bible in Small groups.

We don't study anything created by John Piper, John Eldridge, or John Mayer.  Why is that?  I'm a big fan of all of those Johns.

Here are four reasons to study the Bible (and not contemporary Christian books) in Small Group:

4) Fight chronological snobbery
3) Lower the barrier to invitation
2) Develop life-long skills and disciplines
1) Give God first place

Fight chronological snobbery
Chronological snobbery claims that "new is better."  This term, coined by CS Lewis and Owen Barfield, highlights our modern drift.  The latest book is the best book.  Read the new releases and the best-sellers (they're usually the same).

But, according to Lewis and Barfield, every generation has a particular sinful predilection.  If we read only current books, we'll be blind to generational patterns of sin.  And, let's face it, the Bible is an ancient book.

Lower the barrier to invitation
Imagine you want to invite that guy from your English class to your Small Group.  If you're reading a contemporary Christian book as a Small Group, he'll be jumping in in the middle of something.  He'll have to do homework to catch up.  He'll eventually need to get his hands on a book.  That's a barrier.

We need to create a culture of invitation in Small Groups.  This means, for the most part, we should set our group discussions up for week to week conversation.  The Bible, with its short chapters and easy to summarize themes, is ideal to study in Small Groups, even though it's ancient and even if it's your first time attending the Small Group.

Develop life-long skills and disciplines
The Bible is the book we'll be reading for the rest of our lives.  God's given us one book.  He's finished writing it.  Studying the Bible in Small Group is one way to equip the people we love to study the book we love and, through that, to love the God we love.

In Small Group, the rhythms of observation, interpretation and application get ingrained deeply into us.  When we study the Bible one our own, these rhythms still guide us.  When we study the Bible in Small Group after college, we find that these rhythms still come in handy.

Give God first place
God takes priority in our lives.  We want to love him most, serve him best and follow him whole-heartedly.  Our desire is that our whole lives would be caught up in his Story and given over to his Cause.

It makes sense, that if he has priority in our lives and our community, we would attend to his word.  If he is central, his word would need to be important.  This, of course, begs the question of whether or not the Bible is the word of God, but that's a subject for another time (as is, "Why do you read contemporary Christian books in discipling?").


  1. Anonymous12:16 AM

    Here's one more: the Bible is inspired and inerrant. Other books are written by men -- and have the biases, predilections, and other flaws that human efforts produce. All together too many modern "Christian" books espouse a modern philosophy or program that has very little to do with God's plan for our lives and a LOT to do with pop psychology and the latest fads in marketing...

  2. In most bookstores one of the sections in which you find the explicitly Christian books gets labeled the "Christian Inspiration" section. As if we're not confused enough already about the issue of inspiration, now my trusted friend Barnes is telling me that all of these books are inspired (or inspiring, either way it's not true).

    And you're right that many of the books come wrapped in modern wrappings and are unconcerned for God's plan, but even that is a modern flavor.

    The ancients focus on God's Kingdom, not his plan. The postmoderns on his Story, which I still like better than The Plan.

    In the modern world, the Father-Son-Spirit God who made and loves all was replaced something else, something impersonal, distant, cold, full of control and truth. That we import that Thing into our modern books should come as no surprise. But our belief in that Thing shapes our reading of the Bible as well. Reading the Inspired Book alone is, sadly, not a sufficient hedge against the excesses of modernity.