Posts Tagged ‘Bible study’

Reported by Becky Payne and Betty Mann. Photos by Allen Brown and DeAnn Lineberry.

Lakewood Bible StudyWhen Becky Payne, FBC’s Music Associate/Organist, talks about the Lakewood Ladies Bible Study, you hear her heart: “I am passionate about this one little piece of my world. Being involved with these ladies has been one of the most fulfilling yet humbling things I have ever experienced. They bless me every time we meet.”

Ten years ago there were approximately 70 FBC members living at Lakewood Manor. Becky realized that many of them could no longer attend services outside Lakewood, so she brought church to them. With help from LaVora Sprinkle she planned a weekly Bible study that would also be a time of fellowship and connection with other FBC members.

Lakewood Bible StudyBecky leads these sessions, 12 weeks each spring and fall. The first study, Kay Arthur’s “Lord, I Want to Know You,” involved 28 women, three of whom still attend.

Studies since then include Beth Moore’s “Heart of a Woman: God’s Dwelling Place”; the Companions in Christ studies on The Way of Forgiveness, The Way of Blessedness, and The Way of Grace; Psalms, Isaiah, Hebrews, Philippians, Revelation, and the life of Moses.

Lakewood Bible StudyAttendees range in age from their early 70s to FBC member Frances Buckalew, who is 101. It is both joyous and humbling to see these dedicated Bible students arrive at the meetings. Several are on walkers; others use canes. Bernice Rodgerson, another FBC member, comes with an oxygen tank on her motorized chair.

The group now includes many from other Christian denominations and averages 20 attendees each week. Becky shares that “it is amazing to listen to them interact with each other as they share different perspectives on the study.”

Long-time Bible teachers, retired missionaries, pastors’ wives, and those with vision so poor they can only listen, all these women continue their lifetime commitment to in-depth Bible study.

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By Shawnee Hansen. Photos by Chris Hillman.

Have you ever wondered what a small group study is all about?

calloutOn Monday evenings Ralph Starling, Minister of Christian Invitation, opens his home to visitors and both new and long-time members for Bible study.

small groupRalph explains, “I believe we are here to practice hospitality everywhere: in Sunday school, the marketplace, anywhere in the community we may find ourselves. A simple way to do this is to welcome people attending our church, new members or guests, and make sure they have the opportunity to make friends and build connections. When people develop relationships, they hang around. This is energizing for a church. I like to use my home for people.”

small groupAnd people have been responding to this invitation.

Lewis and Linda Watts had been visiting First Baptist for a year and a half. “We wanted to connect and meet people and were happy to hear that a small group was forming. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and we ended up officially transferring our membership. We have made some wonderful friends and really look forward to our Monday nights together.”

Chris and Resa Hillman drive from Saluda to attend the group. As new members, it has given them the opportunity to engage with other newcomers and visitors. Resa explains: “It’s a meaningful way to start our week. Chris and I feel like part of the First Baptist family now.”

small groupIn addition to the social benefits of meeting other new members, small groups also provide a setting to study the Bible more deeply. Past small groups used the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) to examine “The Way of Forgiveness” and “The Way of Blessedness,” intensive studies which look at everyday problems and how to handle them in a Christ-like manner.

Julie Pierce, who attends with her husband, Warren, says “I really look forward to coming together in a small group and discussing the topic and studying together the biblical perspective. It’s fascinating hearing everyone’s opinions on each lesson. We have a lot more time than in a Sunday school setting for intensive study.”

Small group members include people with diverse backgrounds, representing all areas of Richmond and beyond: stay-at-home parents, students, doctors, business people, the retired, and those beginning their careers. They find the relaxed atmosphere, casual attire, and refreshments conducive to beginning new friendships.

small groupSmall groups start at various times throughout the year and usually last eight to ten weeks. The next one, “The Way of Prayer,” September 10 through November 5, will journey into the heart of prayer. Contact Ralph Starling at 804-358-5458, ext 134 to join.

Shawnee Hansen Shawnee Weitzel Hansen is founder and President of Richmond Friends of the Homeless, a non-profit which has been providing nourishing meals and services to the disadvantaged in our community for twenty six years. She enjoys bringing the inner city children she works with to First Baptist to experience the love of Christ, often for the first time. Shawnee was recently named the YWCA Woman of the Year in Human Relations and Living the Faith.

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By Steve Booth. Photos by David Powers.

WebClassOn October 9, 2011, the Communication and Formation ministries of Richmond’s First Baptist Church partnered in beginning an online Bible study class. Facilitated by Dr. Michael Harton, the class is webcast from the First Baptist Church campus via the world-wide web. The class takes place at 9:45 a.m. each Sunday – at the same time hundreds of other adults, teenagers, children, and preschoolers are studying God’s written word.


Initial WebClass facilitator, Dr. Michael Harton.

When a minister in another church heard about WebClass, he voiced the obvious question, “What do you hope to accomplish with this new ministry?”

“To provide those unable to come to the church building an opportunity to engage the Scriptures and grow as disciples,” was the response.

But after further reflection, it also includes providing a safe place for people to receive and ask honest questions emerging from dialogue around a biblical text.

Recently I was interviewed by a young doctoral student who was assessing the value of online theological education. I must admit being cynical regarding its effectiveness when I was first asked to serve as an online instructor. The personal engagement needed between facilitator and students was hard to envision.

What I discovered, however, was unexpected: The online experience created the safe emotional environment necessary for open and honest questions and dialogue. With the guidance of a thoughtful and sensitive facilitator, the student is encouraged to question and reflect theologically on how one moves from awareness of God to belief in Christ to a living faith evidenced in behavior and choices.

WebClassRobert Mulholland says that Christian “spiritual formation is the process of being conformed by God into the image of Christ for the sake of others.” That is the ultimate goal of all Bible study classes, whether online or in a more traditional setting. And just as in more traditional settings, men and women choose to participate in WebClass, taking an intentional step in cooperating with God in their spiritual formation.

Editor’s note: Over the initial three months of the class, each Sunday an average of 20 online participants joined eight who take part on the set. Online participants can contribute to the discussion and ask questions at www.FBCRichmond.org/webcast.

There are many online resources for personal Bible study. Here’s a partial list.









http://netministries.org/bbasics/bbasics.html (includes Bible Pronunciation Guide)





http://www.bible.is/ENGESV (online audio Bible)

Steve Booth (Booth@FBCRichmond.org) serves as Associate Pastor for Christian Formation at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Before joining the pastoral staff of First Baptist in 2002, he served the Bon Air Baptist Church, Huguenot Road Baptist Church and the Richmond Baptist Association. He also serves as an adjunctive faculty member for Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is a native Mississippian with family roots in North Carolina. He received the B.S. degree from Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, the Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and the Doctor of Ministry degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston, MA. He and his wife, Barbara, are the parents of three children.

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By Truman S. Smith. Photos by Skyler Cumbia.

Bible study presents challenges for each generation. Those who have grown up with the Bible may hear timeless words as dated or even outdated. Familiar verses are so familiar a switch flips to more entertaining thoughts.

Recently Bart Dalton, Minister to Students, along with the Youth Ministry Team, began a new study approach proposed by Renee and Bryan Smith, teachers of ninth graders. Youth classes are typically grouped by school grades. A student may be with the same classmates until graduation. What if each young person had periodic opportunities to choose a specific Bible study topic regardless of grade? What if each one heard the Bible in a new way?

“What if” has now happened. Four leaders and topics were chosen. Renee said, “From the beginning our priority has been to engage in serious Bible study and the topics to be very application oriented.” Teachers were selected from the congregation. They may have been known by name, but most not regularly involved with youth. Each brought unique gifts and experience. Students chose topics without knowing who the teacher would be.

Senior Pastor Jim Somerville was one of the teachers. He said, “I had a good time talking to the youth about the Bible and Islam. They were wide awake (even at that time of the morning), thoughtful and inquisitive. One of the questions they asked was whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. I said yes, since there is only one God, but while Muslims view God through the lens of Muhammad, we view Him through the lens of Jesus, and there’s a huge difference. I think this is partly what Jesus means when He says in John 14, ‘No one comes to the Father but by Me.’ It’s almost as if He is saying, ‘You can get to know God in a lot of different ways, but if you want to know Him as a loving, heavenly Father then I’m the Way.’”

Beverly Carroll appreciated the opportunity to teach in the youth department because her “passion is that young people will fall in love with God’s word, recognizing that it is not boring and that it still applies to their lives today.” Beverly’s topic was “Bad Girls of the Bible”; she used biblical characters to communicate that “we’re all ‘bad girls.’ Our assessment of which sin is ‘bad’ is usually determined by the world’s judgment, not God’s. Nothing we have done puts us out of reach for God’s love and power to not only forgive us, but redeem our past and give us hope and power in our future.”

Bart Dalton reviewed how the Bible came to be with the completion of the canon. He examined the Gospel of Thomas as one example of many documents that did not make the cut. Bart stated, “When we know more about the Bible’s practical origins, it helps us answer questions about God’s word and gives us an opportunity to grow in our faith.”

Carl Johnson discussed “Money, Missionaries and a Big Mac.” With Carl’s experience as treasurer of the International Mission Board, he is qualified to look at money biblically and with a world view. His example of a Big Mac reflected the cost of living where many missionaries serve. Carl said, “I was pleasantly surprised at the interest of the students and the number of questions they had.”

What next? There was enough enthusiasm from students and teachers to repeat the topics six weeks later. Students’ comments included, “I liked the variety.” and “I liked a choice of topics.” Another responded, “Very insightful. I didn’t know the work that went into supporting missionaries.” One said, “It was the best study I have ever had,” then added “I still like my regular teacher.”

The regular teachers were enthusiastic also. Though it gave them a break from teaching, they chose a topic and attended as well. Another round with new teachers and topics is being planned. Students and teachers (both regular and adjunct) find hearing the Bible in a new way a rich opportunity.

Truman and his family joined FBC in 1987. His work in Family Ministry (now Member Care) to missionaries at the International Mission Board has uniquely gifted him as a teacher in the Acts Class, a member of the First Family Team, and with his wife, Gwen, as a support couple for the Young Couples class. He and Gwen have three children and four grandchildren.

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