Unleash the Word

By Karen Soole, who was the speaker of this year’s Women’s Conference that has been postponed for the time being. Sub-title: Studying the Bible in Small Groups. Recommended by Dorothy Chong. It’s a small book of 110 pages. Here’s the table of contents:

  1. Should we give up on small-group Bible studies?
  2. Is there a ‘right answer’?
  3. Approaching God’s word
  4. Models of Bible studies
  5. The ‘big question’ model
  6. Meditating on God’s word
  7. Nuts and bolts

A bit of context, I read Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word a year ago (read my review here), they stand next to each other in my mind somehow. The sub-title of Wilkin’s book is ‘How to study the Bible with both our hearts and our minds’, so the emphasis is on how to study the Bible. Unleash the Word has an emphasis on how to lead Bible studies.

All is good (except I don’t like the font type and line spacing). Three things stand out for me.

I like the ‘Big Question’ approach to lead Bible studies, which is similar to what I do, but it clarifies and summaries it nicely.

Secondly, I like the image comparing the journey of a Bible study with an inward spiral towards the truth in the centre; an idea from Don Carson. “Not everyone will necessarily arrive at the same point by the end of the study, but the aim is for everyone to move closer to the centre from where they started.” Thereby bridging the two extreme types of Bible study groups quite graciously.

Thirdly, her opinion on the place of individual application questions in a Bible study is very interesting. Instead of the ‘What does it say? What does it mean? How does it apply to us?’ model that I’m familiar with, the author uses ‘What does it say? What does it mean? So what?’ model. And the last ‘So what?’ question is not the application question I usually have in mind.

She has a few reasons, for example, application questions can sometimes turn into a ‘to-do list’, e.g. ‘what opportunities do we have this week to share the gospel?’ Applications should not be forced and predetermined by the leaders, because people are at different stages of the ‘spiral’ and at a different distance from the centre, i.e., different points of understanding. She suggests changing the way we think about ‘application’: the ‘So what?’ questions should be a continuous meditation on the study after the study finishes into the rest of our week. And she ‘radically’ suggests “we do not worry so much about doing application in our studies but instead think of our studies as times when we really read the Bible together and then go away and begin to ask the ‘so what?’ question more fully”. Not sure how our international fellowship co-ordinator will think about this?

If Karen Soole is able to come to our church at some point (postponed Women’s Conference), it’ll definitely be interesting to hear more from her and chat through the ideas more in person. After all, it’s not always possible to speak to an author in person in real life!

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