Checking Boxes and Quiet Times
They handed me a spiral-bound notebook and a Bible reading plan and told me to read my Bible for 30 minutes every day. Each day’s reading included two questions to answer. So, like a good little rule-follower, I did what they said. From seventh grade through my senior year of high school, I filled in those quiet time diaries day after day. It was me and Jesus.
When I went off to college, the journals changed to ones with pretty covers, and I did more than answer two questions. I started to really dig into God’s Word by conducting more in-depth studies about God’s character. This helped me see how the Bible all fits together, and how all of it applied to my life.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but something was missing.
The Missing Piece to the Bible Study Puzzle
I’m confident that we should engage in individual Bible study on a regular basis. However, studying God’s Word isn’t intended to only take place during a personal daily quiet time. Bible study is meant to be much richer and deeper because God’s Word was given to His people. Collectively. It’s not a book just for me, or for you. The Bible is a book written down for our instruction, for our good, for the entire people of God (Romans 15:4).
It wasn’t until my husband and I began meeting weekly with our Community Group to study the Bible together that I experienced how necessary studying the Bible in a community is to our growth in Christ. We hear a lot about personal study—and I’m all for that. But we won’t fully grow in our faith if we only study the Word sitting in our own little corner, in a comfy chair, surrounded by pretty pens, journals, and a hot mug of coffee.
We need to study God’s Word in community.
Relationship with God Isn’t Just Personal
My early days of Bible study were spent in isolation, and God used this rhythm to instill in me a love for His Word. I’m beyond grateful. But because there was such an emphasis placed on my “personal quiet time,” and growing in my “personal walk with the Lord,” I didn’t understand that I was also growing up into a community of believers.
When we’re brought into a saving relationship with Christ, we become members of a body. Paul refers to the church—God’s people in all times and all places—as the body of Christ. We’re individual members who are being built up together to form one body, with Christ as our head (1 Corinthians 12:12–14).
Yes, the Holy Spirit dwells in each believer (1 Cor. 6:16–17), but we’re also collectively the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 3:16–17, to describe this same idea of being a temple of the Holy Spirit, is plural. “Jesus and me” is only part of the picture. We’re knit together with others, and the implication for each of us is to experience real, face-to-face, life-on-life community. As Christ-followers, we're called to be a part of a local church. This looks like believers who are uniquely being built up into the greater collective body of Christ through loving, exhorting, worshipping, studying, and proclaiming the gospel.
We’re ill-equipped to actually do these things if we aren’t regularly gathering together to diligently study God’s Word.
A Biblical Model for Communal Study
When God gave His Word to His people, He gave it through a prophet who would either speak it to the people or write it down to be read to them in corporate worship. The law of God—what we now refer to as many parts of the Old Testament—wasn’t accessible to the common Israelite. Only the priests had access to it. Learning, memorizing, reciting, and understanding the Bible happened as God’s people gathered together.
This same pattern continued in the Early Church. The book of Acts records that God’s Word was one of the central pieces of the Christian community (Acts 2:42). We don’t know exactly what this looked like during their gatherings, but the Early Church grounded themselves—as a community—in God’s Word (Acts 17:11).
Living Beyond the Gathering
Letters written by Paul, Peter, James, and John had to be read to the churches in Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus, and elsewhere. As they gathered together to hear the words of these letters for the first time, the people would have experienced a sense of wonder, questioning, and seeking to understand the meanings of these letters as a community. They couldn’t go home after their house church meeting to re-read the words and have a personal quiet time with printed Bibles. Instead, they relied upon being with one another to understand God’s Word and live it out (Hebrews 10:25).
Most of us do have access to God’s Word. We can listen to it on our phones, screenshot verses in our Instastories, and have new Bibles and studies delivered to our doors tomorrow. These readily available resources make personal Bible study easy, and we might think it’s all we need.
I felt that way for many years, but God has shown me a richer experience. My faith has stretched and deepened through the corporate study of God’s Word.
True Christian community is built upon God’s Word
For the past three years, my husband and I have co-led a group of adults from our church each week in inductive Bible studies. We read a text together, write our observations on a whiteboard, and as a group try to understand its meaning and how it applies to our lives. Through these weekly gatherings centered around God’s Word, we’ve grown in our hunger for God and His Word.
Studying the Bible together forces us to wrestle with passages we might avoid on our own. We spent an entire semester in Leviticus! As we worked through confusing passages about unclean food, cleansing rituals, and specific laws about morality, we grew to understand God’s character. Together we saw the realities of our own sin in light of His holiness. My faith is challenged by listening to friends share their own insights into God’s Word and confess their sins. Studying God’s Word in community opens the door for corporate confession, repentance, and a greater desire to obey.
We can bring the truths we’ve learned together into our prayer time, future conversations, and texts throughout the week. When we engage in Bible study as a community, God’s Word becomes the language of our community (Colossians 3:16). We’re exhorted, encouraged, comforted, and strengthened by helping one another apply the truths of God’s Word to the realities of everyday life.
The Ebb and Flow of Community
Each year our community group changes. New people join us—sometimes every week. It’s tempting to keep my distance, or just stay home because making new friends is challenging and I could easily study God’s Word on my own. But as I’ve engaged with acquaintances in conversations centered around God’s Word, I’ve experienced true Christian community.
These people have become my friends. Not because we have the same interests, hobbies, or we’re in the same stage of life. My love for them is rooted in our shared experience of the transforming power of God’s Word.
Studying God’s Word in community can happen in a variety of ways. We can meet with women from church in a coffee shop during early hour mornings before work, we could gather ladies in our living rooms and around the kitchen table, or attend a formal Bible study offered in our local church. Regardless of where it happens, what it looks like, or who shows up, moving beyond our personal quiet time to study God’s Word in community will increase our knowledge and love for God.
Your friend, Lauren
Meet the author:
Lauren Washer is a wife, mom of six, and a lifelong student of God’s Word. She’s actively involved in the women’s ministry of her local church through teaching the Bible and leading small groups. She learned how to study the Bible at Columbia International University, where she received a B.S. in Bible and Intercultural Studies. When she’s not playing LEGOs, changing diapers, or helping her older children navigate preteen emotions, she enjoys reading, cooking, and getting a full night of sleep. You can find more of her writing on Instagram or her website.