Most churches have at least one Bible Study – sometimes called Bible Class. Some churches have many. The Men’s early morning Bible Study, the Women’s Mid-morning Bible Study, the midweek-evening Bible Study, and the Sunday Morning Bible Study are all storied institutions at our various churches. And you’ll notice they all have one thing in common: The word Bible.
At the seminary, classes that study “The Bible” are called “exegetical classes.” But it is only a small portion of the curriculum. The pastor also studies the liturgy, hymnody, history, and the doctrine of the church. All of this is necessary. The problem for the pastor is that those classes don’t always translate well into the Sunday Morning Bible Study Hour. I’ve tried, and I can tell you that the surest way to reduce interest in a bible class is to have it study “Pietism and it’s influence on 17th century hymnody”.
The people want to study the bible.
This is a good thing. The Bible (Holy Scripture) is the word of God. The people want to hear and learn the Word of God (one hopes!). In a year like this one – Reformation 500 – the pastor is tempted to look at the history of the church, only to find that the people do not want to study “Papal decrees of the 14th century and their influence on the writings of Aquinas, Ockham, Hus, and Luther.” Of course, pastors will argue that they are not studying something as obscure as that. They want to study the book of Concord. But to many, saying, “Let’s study the Book of Concord” does not mean, “Let’s study the binding confession, whose pure doctrine and practice are what we will stand before God pleading on the final day.” They hear, Let’s study “Statement of the Reformers in response to papal and enthusiast errors, with particular attention to those writings from the periods 1528-1535 & 1577-1580 in establishing a cohesive and authoritative dogmatic.”
So what is the pastor to do? Option 1, of course, is to go through the CPH catalog looking for a bible study on the book of Galatians or Romans. Those are the “Red Meat for Lutherans” books. That’s a worthwhile task. But, eventually as a pastor you’ve covered all the books in your various bible classes – even Obadiah (I’ve done it 3 times!) You can start over at Romans, or you can try a “topical” bible study. There are a lot of topical studies out there. But, oddly, not a lot of topical studies of the Reformation History itself. Oh, there are studies, but not topical BIBLE studies.
A pastor friend was mentioning that his people want Bible Study to be Bible study – a good thing. But he was interested in talking about the Small and Large Catechisms of Martin Luther. Of course, the Catechism’s are just taken from Holy Scripture. But most studies don’t make the connection, and people can get restless if they are not shown that connection.
So, I went through the Small Catechism, and put together a list of Bible Verses for the various chief parts (Shamelessly stealing from Luther at many points). This handy reference chart can be used in conjunction with other studies of the Catechisms to help show the biblical background of what is taught. Check it out: Catechism Helps – Bible Study.
It is NOT a self-contained bible study. It is a list of bible references that can be used to tie the chief parts of the catechism to the scriptures. And that’s really all we need. The pastor can easily make the connections for the people.
Oh, and to help understand the Large Catechism itself, might I recommend “What Every Christian Must Know: Outlines of the Large Catechism”? Pastors have been using it to teach and meditate on the Large Catechism for a few years now, but it’s never been available before as a stand-alone resource. Now it is! It’s super helpful, super affordable, and super available at Amazon in Kindle or Paperback format.
PS. Lots more resources over at Teach These Things.