From childhood Sunday school on through midlife, both formally and informally, I attended studies having to do with the Bible.
At the Brownsville United Methodist Church, the children's teachers read Bible stories, illustrating them with paper biblical figures clinging to felt boards.
When I got older there were groups where attendees breathlessly shared their biblical views, sometimes without, it seemed, the actual input of scripture.
My bookshelves have a number of volumes by authors who offered spiritual thoughts and interpretations.
Although a Christian believer, I found that none of these books or studies offered the kind of direct biblical study I longed for. They centered more on contemporary people's views and ideas, not necessarily those formed from a direct, deep look into the Word of God. I wanted to hear from Him.
I realized, shamefully, that I was biblically illiterate.
Eight years ago, my friend Terri, a member of my church life group, sent an email asking if friends were interested in attending Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). I'm pretty sure she had asked the year before, and maybe even the year before that, but for some reason, the term "BSF" had never registered with me. Now I think it's because for whatever reason, I wasn't ready for it.
But that year, I was ready. I have remained so ever since. In fact, BSF resumes for a new year of study on Monday night and I feel as I did when I was a schoolgirl looking forward to meeting my class for the first time in elementary school. I bought a fresh notebook and binder and am ready to get started!
While BSF is an international study, with more than 2,000 classes and groups in more than 40 countries, where I live we are fortunate to have two classes nearby. There's a day class in New Castle, and an evening one in Middletown. Terri and friends attend the evening class in Middletown, and that is what works for me too. But if you prefer day, there's one Tuesday in New Castle.
In the first year I enrolled, we studied the book of Isaiah.
Since that first year, which runs September through the first week of May, with several weeks off around Christmas and a week's spring break, our studies have been: Acts of the Apostles (the book of Acts); Genesis; Matthew; The Life of Moses (Exodus); Revelation and John. On Monday, we'll be in Romans.
Just because we are officially studying a single book of the Bible for the curriculum year, don't think that's the end of it. Each study takes us to cross-references and the harmony of the Gospel all over the New and Old Testaments.
Here's how it works, in a nutshell. The total attendance (a few hundred women on Monday nights in Middletown) are divided into small groups and each group has a group leader.
The group leader reads the questions from the lesson that the group members completed on their own during the course of the previous week. Members are encouraged to share the answers they found in the Bible. The discussion is fast-paced. Thoughts are condensed and there is no time to get off-subject.
Group members are encouraged to share prayer requests. Each group leader handles this differently from going around the room and verbally sharing to requests submitted in advance and summarized and distributed for the week. We pray, then head off to the evening lecture, joining all the small groups.
Now armed with the lesson we worked on individually the previous week, and after listening to our group members' thoughts on the lesson, we hear our Teaching Leader Jodie Pyle, lecture on the same material. As we leave for the evening, each is given a new lesson. This lesson contains notes and summary on thoughts and varying scholarly views of BSF biblical consultants on what we just studied, and a new lesson to complete over the week's new material. And so it goes, on through our year's material.
While I had a hunger to study God's Word in a more direct, methodical way going into BSF eight years ago, I can tell you that the more I study, the more I hunger for His Word and His message for my life.
The Bible is everything! It is the history of the story of man, and of the continuous mess mankind gets himself into. It's the living Word of God, and of how He planned from before the creation of the world to solve this mess personally in each of our lives through His Son, the Savior Jesus Christ, and corporately, also through Christ, for all eternity. It's also wisdom, peace, challenge, grace, prophecy, and so much more.
It's all quite a story.
Yes indeed, it's a page-turner.
This year we'll be in the book of Romans. In my area, here's how you can get involved. There are also BSF classes regionally in Richmond and Marion, Indiana. Check the website, www.bsfinternational.org to learn about opportunities elsewhere.
If you have any questions I could answer as a now long-term BSFer (how quickly these years have progressed from novice!) please ask and I'd be happy to answer to the best of my ability. (Email: email@example.com).
What better use of your time, and mine, than to study the love letter, instruction book, life manual and the afterlife benefits sent to us from the God of the Universe? I can't think of one. Join us.
In Middletown, Indiana:
Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) women's Bible study begins at 6:55 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11 at the Middletown Church of the Nazarene, 698 N. 5th St. With the exception of the first night, weekly meetings end at 8:25 p.m. Anyone wishing to sign up can register that night in a welcome class. Register any school-age children as well. For information, contact Celeste Bramlett at 765-524-2326.
In New Castle, Indiana:
In New Castle, BSF starts at 9:10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12 at First Baptist Church, 709 S. Memorial Drive. Women may register that morning, as well. For information, contact Iris Pederson, 765-533-3374 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
BSF is an international, non-denominational Bible study. There is no charge to participate. #wearebsf.