For me, perhaps the absolute highlight of student ministry with CUs is getting to attend a baptism of a student who has come to faith, and for whom the CU has played an important part in their conversion. It’s been a tremendous blessing to have attended many of these over the years. Getting baptised and becoming a member of a local church often indicates that their profession is genuine, and that the individual has come to appreciate that becoming part of God’s family involves relationships of love and service with other siblings. And, of course, it places them in a context where they can be grown and discipled like no other.
Another great blessing is when that same individual starts getting into the Bible for themselves. I remember the tremendous encouragement it was when David, a student I’d known for several years as a non-believer, first led me in a Bible study. At first I had to do a double take; by the end of our time, I’d forgotten his relative youth in the Lord as we met with the Lord Jesus together. It was a real reminder that the Bible was written by normal people for the blessing and benefit of normal people!
Sadly, though, I’ve seen other new believers whose growth has been stunted because they’ve not been sufficiently taught or encouraged to draw upon the God-given means of grace for their growth and their blessing. Old habits die hard, and so we need to be patient and gracious with these new believers – it’s not easy to suddenly sacrifice the Sunday morning lie-in, or to build strong devotional habits. But sometimes this inertia isn’t combatted because the new believer hasn’t been sufficiently helped to take these early steps.
And all this context explains why I was delighted to be sent a copy of the updated version of the Bible Course, written by Andrew Ollerton and distributed by the Bible Society. I should mention that Andrew is an old friend of mine – he was studying the same course in the year above me at university – but I don’t think this has coloured my judgement. The Bible Course is a great way of getting new believers – and even intrigued non-believers – into the big story of the Bible, and showing them that they can read the Bible for themselves.
There are eight Bible Course sessions. Session 1 is introductory, examining the nature of the Bible, its trustworthiness and its impact on society. It makes a strong case, though encourages course members to continue with the course even if they have doubts about whether or not the Bible really is the word of God. Sessions 2-8 form a Bible overview, introducing group members to the Bible’s overarching narrative from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible input is strong, and the presentation is warm. I found a few of the graphics and animations a bit cheesy but I don’t think they should be off-putting to most people.
Each session is designed to last about 75 minutes. There are two videos to watch, with group discussions after each. Testimonies of the way in which God has used the Bible to transform people’s lives help group members see that the Bible is no ordinary book. There’s a particularly powerful testimony of freedom told by a woman at the end of the session on the exodus. There’s an attractive booklet that helps group members to follow along. Each session closes with a simple Bible study, normally one just one verse. And then there are a series of short daily readings that group members commit to doing before the next session, starting to build devotional habits. I loved the simplicity of asking group members just to ask two questions, both in the group discussion and in their own devotional reading: What? (What is the passage saying?) So what? (What are the implications for my life?)
By the end of the course, not only have group members got used to around two months of daily Bible reading, they have also got a grip of its Christ-centred narrative and been equipped to read more of the Bible for themselves. That’s a great outcome.
I’ll be championing this resource in settings in which I have a voice – including in my own local church. And there are a series of ways in which it might be used in the student world too. Local churches could use it profitably in home groups or with their student group. It could easily be used 1-1 with a new believer, or a non-believer who has been intrigued by something of Christianity. It could be a great follow on for individuals and groups to use beyond Alpha or Christianity Explored, or even with someone who wants more of the Bible having completed the Uncover seeker studies. I’d also be keen to try using with a group of international students who want more of an overview of how the Bible fits together.
Give the first session a watch, and consider how you might use it in your context. Perhaps it might lead to the blessing of sitting in a Bible study with someone else like my friend David before long!
Find out more at the Bible Course website.