My First Bible Study
Originally this post was published on Charlie Paparelli’s blog as part of an ongoing series called “Reimagine Your Life.” To read the rest of the series, go to paparelli.com and subscribe.
“What are you looking for?” Kathy asked as she saw me rummaging through the bookshelves in our bedroom.
“I am looking for a Bible,” I said.
“A Bible? Why do you want a Bible?” she asked in disbelief.
“I am going to a Bible study in the morning,” I said.
“You are going to a what?” she asked. “You are going to AA every night, and now you are going to start going to a Bible study?”
“Do we own a Bible or not?” I asked.
“My sister gave me a Bible when I was a kid. I think it is on a bookshelf in the basement.”
I went downstairs and found it. It was an ugly green book with dried, swollen pages. At one time it must have been soaked in water and later dried out. It would barely rate as “Used – Acceptable” on the Amazon book condition scale. But I found it.
I was ready to attend my first Bible study.
At 7 am I walked through the front doors of the restaurant. I was greeted by a man my age. He was quick to welcome me and introduce himself. He said, “Welcome to the men’s Friday morning Bible study. Is this your first time?”
He had me fill out a name tag and then pointed me to the coffee and doughnut bar they’d created for the guests. It was a friendly crowd. A couple of men introduced themselves, but I was more interested in keeping a low profile.
After all, I had no idea how to conduct myself in a Bible study. I didn’t know what to expect. Would they would call on me to speak? Ask me to read the Bible or, worse yet, tell them why I had come in the first place? What was I going to say, “I’m looking for my higher power? Have you seen him?”
Chris White, the leader of the gathering of approximately 40 men, called the meeting to order. He asked everyone to find a seat. Then he said, “Welcome, men. Thanks for getting out of bed so early to hear the Word of God and discuss it. We are here to learn more about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“For those who are here for the first time, our format is simple. I’ll choose a selected reading from the Bible and then speak for ten minutes on the passage. Then we’ll get together in small groups to discuss what we’ve learned and how it might apply to our lives. If you don’t have a regular small group, please see John over there, and he will assign you to one.”
Then Chris said, “Please turn to Matthew 6, verses one through 10.”
I sat there frozen.
I had no idea how to follow those instructions. What was Matthew? Where was Matthew? Who was Matthew? And what did the numbers mean? I didn’t want to look stupid, so I opened the Bible to about the middle and looked like I was reading something. What I was doing was hoping nobody was watching me. I didn’t want to look incompetent, but I needed help.
He did what he said he would do. He read the Bible. It seemed like everybody except for me was following along with him. Then he talked about what he had just read. I don’t remember any of it.
When Chris concluded his remarks, he said, “Ok. Let’s head to our small groups.”
As instructed, I went to see John. He was kind to me as I expected. He showed me to a table with five men I’d never met and asked me to introduce myself. Then each of the men in turn stood and shook my hand. The leader of the small group thanked me for coming and welcomed me. He said, “We are glad you’re here. Our format is simple. I’ll ask questions about what Chris read and talked about, and each of us will have the chance to share our thoughts.”
And with that short introduction, I started my first Bible study.
Before he asked any questions, the table leader asked me why I chose to attend that day. I said, “Bill Leonard sent me here. I was interested in learning more about God, and he recommended this meeting.”
Then the leader asked for prayer requests. Each man gave an update of what was going on in his life. I was struck by how transparent these men were about their lives, families, and business challenges. Some of the stories were pretty horrible. Parents with cancer, wayward kids, marriages not working, no job or income, bad bosses, and the list went on. I was thinking, I’m in AA and can’t seem to figure out what I’m going to do professionally, but my wife and kids love me. I’m in pretty good shape. I didn’t share any of this. I was there to observe and learn.
Then the leader asked a man to pray for the prayer requests.
I’d never heard a prayer like he prayed. It was from the heart, and it was free-form. He was simply in a conversation with God. Until that moment, I’d only heard people read or recite prayers from a prayer book. This guy was talking to God like he was sitting at the table with us.
“What did you think about the reading?” the leader asked.
I listened as these men shared their insights and struggles.
It was like a book club discussion but far more personal. The more the men at the table shared, the more comfortable I became. These guys are just like me. They are struggling with life and searching for answers. They’re here because they believe God has the answers. They think the answers to their questions can be found in the Bible, I thought to myself.
At the end of our time together, each of the men thanked me for coming and asked me to join them the next week.
I liked these guys.
They were not like the people I was meeting while networking in the community. They were authentic and transparent, unguarded. I wanted to be authentic and transparent. Maybe this was a place I could be that way. Maybe, just maybe, this was something I should attend every week.
Could I trust them?
Could I tell them the truth?
I said, “I’m looking for an introduction to my higher power. Can you point me in the right direction?”