I seem to be dwelling on what I perceive as misplaced distinctions or compatible categories positioned as being mutually exclusive. Here’s another distinction I’ve encountered, one I’m sure is fairly common: fellowship and learning God’s word. I lead a small group with our church, and it is not uncommon to have the choice of content and format for a small group presented as a choice between learning and fellowship. The more I’ve thought about this distinction, however, the less helpful I find it. If our use of scripture is grounded in some form or fashion in the public sphere, there is far less of a need to choose between learning the Word and fellowship.
The distinction arises, I believe, quite naturally from the normal meaning attributed to the notion of studying the Bible. In our day and age, it often means some form of the inductive Bible study method, or some other diagram-the-sentence-and-examine-each-word methodology. I’ll need to write another piece on my views of broad versus narrow, but suffice to say that such an approach is not the only way to go about learning the Bible, nor is it necessarily the most helpful. Suppose one can learn the Bible by talking about a theme in the Scriptures, such as the Lamb of God, using perhaps a list of references to lambs in the Bible as a starting point. Could not a group of people tell each other the story of redemption by talking about the various references to lambs, contributing the pieces of which they are familiar until a greater whole is formed?
It seems to me that such an approach could bring the scriptures to bear on our lives. Beyond that, it could create an environment of rich fellowship, so long as one is able to get beyond the idea that fellowship must be tied to entertainment or telling each other intimate details of one’s life (either in the form of testimony or prayer request). I would propose that fellowship can be built up using many different types of stones. Perhaps one type of stone is entertainment, another sharing a meal, another praying together, and yet another talking to one another about the stories of the Bible.