THE VALUE OF HOME BIBLE CLASSES
Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California
Copyright © 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved
The Mission of the Local Church
The mission or purpose of the local church has the following three key components:
- Academics of the priesthood
- Action of ambassadorship
- Activities of fellowship
The Academics of the Priesthood
A pastors main purpose should be to teach the Word of God. That is why the believer's priesthood emphasizes academics. By academics, I refer to the congregation receiving God's Word through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit in positive volition response to the accurate teaching of God's Word. There are many passages in the Word of God that deal with our priesthood. In this study, we will refer to 1 Peter 1:5,9 and Revelation 1:6.
Who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:5)
For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)
And has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:6)
The Action of Ambassadorship
We fulfill our ambassadorship by functioning consistently under our priesthood as indicated in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 and Ephesians 6:19-20. It is important to apply the Bible doctrine you have already learned under our priesthood in your duties as an ambassador for Jesus Christ. You can do this by establishing and ministering the Word of God in home Bible classes. "Operation Teamwork" is necessary here in locating the right home, the right host or hostess, and the right leaders to help provide the necessary administration and hospitality for these studies.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19-20)
Activities of Fellowship
A Biblically balanced church is one that places the academics of the priesthood as the primary purpose of the congregation. The result of the academics of the priesthood will be the correct action of ambassadorship such as recognition and utilization of spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities. In order to maintain a balanced ministry and purpose of the local church, the activities of fellowship must continuously occur. This is a bona fide principle because the early church had fellowship together at their potluck dinner gatherings called "Ho Agape", or "The Love Feast" as per 1 Corinthians 11:33-34 and Jude 1:12. Also, the command to extend hospitality obviously involves fellowship and social life with both believer and unbeliever as stated in Hebrews 13:12, Romans 12:13, 1 Timothy 3:2, and 1 Peter 4:9.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions. (1 Corinthians 11:33-34)
These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. (Jude 1:12)
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. (Hebrews 13:12)
Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13)
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (1 Timothy 3:2)
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)
The Validity of Home Bible Studies
Are home Bible studies valid or Biblically warranted? According to Acts 2:42, the early Christians were "continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching." It seems that their daily intake of the Word was accomplished in different houses or homes. We see this implied in Acts 5:42 where it says that "everyday, from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ." This principle is also taught in Acts 2:44-47 and Romans 16:5. From these and other verses, the validity of home Bible studies is amply supported by the Scriptures. It is in the Word!
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:42)
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. (Romans 16:5)
The Value of Home Bible Studies
It is from the Word! The discussion above dealt with documentation. In this discussion, we will deal with interpretation, orientation and application. We need to evaluate this Biblical principle of home Bible studies and put it into action in our own local churches. The orientation to and application of this principle will enable us to become involved in outreach and to promote spiritual growth within our congregations. Home Bible studies have significant value as an effective form of outreach. They allow non-Christians and/or baby believers to meet the local church "halfway." The term "halfway" means that these people will more easily visit a home for Bible classes with friends where it is relaxed and not so intimidating rather than attending a formal church building and service.
Spiritual Growth of the Congregation
These studies have become an effective way of preaching the Gospel and communicating basic Bible truths. This emphasizes the value of the studies for outreach. Concerning their value for spiritual growth of the congregation, we have found that in smaller groups, people feel more free to ask questions and there are not as many distractions as in larger services. It is easier to get acquainted with new people in smaller groups, and the classes tend to promote fellowship and friendship. With as few as three classes taught per week, one can be devoted to the basics, another to doctrine pertaining to spiritual adolescents, and a third pertaining to doctrine suited for the adult phase of spiritual life.
Last, but not least, is the value related to church finances. The local church does not have to pay rent for home Bible classes! Local churches may consider holding Church services on Sunday in a location where it can accommodate a nursery and three or four prep-school classes for children and teens. Then, because the church congregation is not able to provide adequate support for rent for the Sunday facility does not mean that the local church can only afford a single Bible class per week. This is where the home Bible classes enable the local church to hold as many classes as deemed possible without increasing church costs! If small local churches had to hold all of their weekly classes in the same facility as it did the Sunday services, it could double the monthly rent expenses for very little gain in the effective teaching of the Word of God. In large cities, this could mean as much as $3,000 a month more for renting a school or industrial building just so the local church could have their entire teaching program done under one roof. Although most local churches would very much like to have their entire program under one roof, they should still consider holding at least one home Bible class per week for the purpose of outreach to believers and unbelievers alike by teaching basics during this class time.
Value of the Home Atmosphere
The house selected for a home Bible class should be nice and clean! Experience shows that classes held in homes that are somewhat dirty and cluttered will fail. The room in the house used for study should be large enough to accommodate your group and should have enough room for a projector screen (or a white wall) and some type of pulpit or lectern. The room that you choose should have a comfortable look to it and should be uncluttered. Make sure there is adequate lighting and have your host or hostess leave the phone off the hook during class time. Better yet, choose a home that has an answering machine. It is important not to be disturbed by phone calls during a study.
It is also important that the host or hostess are indeed approachable people. That is, they should be friendly and somewhat outgoing, relaxed, and caring. They should be friendly enough to extend themselves to the new people and provide some kind of light refreshments for the brief fellowship time after the study.
Most of the things already mentioned apply to the classroom or academics. Academics means that the room should not be overly distracting, thus allowing concentration and resultant objectivity. That is why it is important to have good lighting, quietness, and to not permit your students to talk or get up and go to the refrigerator for a snack in the middle of the class! This WILL happen if not controlled and the ground rules stated before the class begins.
In a home Bible study, the content or acquisition of the information is also important. When dealing with the basics, the doctrinal content should be simple and presented with easy, non-technical terminology. In dealing with basics of doctrine, the most effective way is to teach approximately 30 minutes with about 15 minutes left over for questions and answers. It is especially important to have time for light refreshments and fellowship after the basics class. For communicating doctrine for the adolescent phase of the Christian life, teaching no more than about 45-60 minutes at one time is optimum. Generally, the concentration span of adolescent believers will not permit them to handle anymore. In home studies dealing with doctrine pertaining to maturity, most of the people attending can handle one hour of teaching with no problem and sometimes as much as one hour and 15 minutes. Teaching longer than one hour and 15 minutes in a home produces a sense of discomfort and uneasiness. That is probably because one hour and 15 minutes is plenty for anyone! Obviously, flexibility must prevail concerning the length of time of the studies.
Results of Home Bible Studies
Action - The first key word dealing with the results of the studies is Action. It is not uncommon for pastors to have members of their deacon board who were first introduced to Bible doctrine through home Bible studies. These men, for the most part, experience normal spiritual growth and mature to the point where they recognize their gift of administration and function successfully as deacons. Other believers in the local church begin with home Bible studies and mature spiritually to become loyal and contributing servants.
Activities - The second key word dealing with the results of the studies is Activities. In home Bible studies, the period of light refreshments after the studies prepares new people for church socials and fellowship. Other more mature believers know how to keep the conversation light and enjoyable at these social times and tend to put the new people at ease and make them "feel right at home."
Attrition - The third key word is Attrition. Billy Graham has stated that out of the thousands who "walk the aisle" at his evangelistic crusades, less than 10 percent of these "converts" make any type of Christian commitment. Although many large metropolitan areas such as Orange County may be under maximum apostasy with large pockets of negative volition, there can still be some encouraging outreach results from home Bible studies. For outreach classes which emphasize the basics, as many as 15 to 20 new people can begin coming to class each year. Out of this number, about six will stick with it and become faithful in their spiritual growth and loyalty to the local church. This means that about 25 percent of the people attending the basics classes will remain in the church. Obviously, 25 percent is better than 10 percent, especially when we consider the quality of spiritual life for those who stick with a grace oriented church and feed on Bible doctrine. Although the attrition rate is great for those who do not continue, this is still a very effective and encouraging means of outreach which brings positive unbelievers and baby believers under the consistent teaching of God's Word.
Continue to Faithfully Communicate the Truth!
Pastors should be encouraged to remain faithful in the communication of the Truth and leave the results to the Lord. This is especially meaningful to those who minister in large pockets of negative volition. For example, a local church can hand out or mail out more than a 1,000 pieces of gospel and basic doctrine literature in the nearby neighborhoods without any response. Response means people coming into the local church to hear the Gospel and the Word of God. It is encouraging to realize that our Lord Jesus Christ never said "Well done thou successful and sensational servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord.". But rather, He said "Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord."
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:21)
Although there are many disappointments along the way in the area of evangelism, outreach, and teaching of basic Bible doctrine in home Bible studies, we must not become discouraged or disillusioned. We must fall back on God's promise from Isaiah 55:11.
So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)