Bibles and Bohemians – Discovering Jesus in Community
By Joel Wilson
This article was first published in the Summer 2007 edition of MOVE Magazine.
Jesus-followers and truth-seekers come together to grapple with the Book of Books.
From the next room it sounds like a lecture. Glance up at the photo on the left; it looks like a lecture. Sit down with the many 20- and 30-somethings and listen to Mark Surey, a scholar and evangelist, briskly explaining the roots of Jewish festivals with wit and wide-eyed intensity, and it feels like something else.
Once you’ve learnt a little about Hanukkah, the audacity of Jesus’ ‘I am the light of the world’ speech really hits home.
Later, after a meal where people share their insights and questions, drama teacher and filmmaker Catriona Heatherington rounds off the evening with an extravagant retelling of the story of Esther.
“I don’t know of any other people doing this kind of thing,” Steve Broughton, a new Christian, tells me. “I’ve had to alter my diary because Sunday evenings are now strictly for this.”
But how did this study series begin? “It was an accident really,” exclaims Agapé staff member Jo Blower. “I held a Passover meal for some of my non-Christian and new Christian friends. While they were hearing the story of the exodus I realised they didn’t know anything about it. They were surprised to hear the Israelites were in Egypt at all! Because they’re quite well-educated people they felt that they should know that stuff, so I offered to do a few sessions on the story of the Bible and give them a rough outline.”
The very first study session saw 10 people squeeze into Jo’s tiny living room. Another 23 folks expressed a desire to attend the second one. “I had to hire a coffee shop,” remembers Jo. “It was an extraordinary time.”
Jo pinpoints one reason why these evenings have hit a nerve amongst her peers. “There’s a desire to learn about the Bible as a book, not just the odd verse or passage. Christians and non-Christians are interested in God’s stories.”
“The intellectual level of the teaching is quite high but I always make sure the teachers don’t use any jargon that would exclude people that are not familiar with the Christian world,” Jo points out. This mix of storytelling and deep theology is aimed at prompting a thorough cerebral workout. “Once you’ve really allowed your mind to understand a bit more who God is then your spirit responds to that,” Jo reflects.
Steve sees significant changes in his life already. “Obviously, as you get to grips with the Bible you get more in touch with God. As a person I’ve calmed down a lot. I’m more focussed and more chilled out, because I’m filling up with more belief and love.”
Sam, one of Jo’s closest friends, has also been transformed by the sessions. “Her desire to absorb the Bible has increased massively. Because she’s had all these ideas, she passes on what she’s learning. She’s been a lot more inspired to share her faith at work.”
Jo expectantly ponders the next step. One possibility is to study the heroes of the faith between A.D. 90 and now. “It’s just one big story, isn’t it? My goal is to motivate this group of people to realize they’re a part of this story that God is unfolding.” Jo and Sunday evening chef Cathryn are consciously passing on their skills, so that new believers will not only be capable of leading a Bible study, but also creating the atmosphere conducive for it.
“I think a movement has started and I don’t know where it’s going. I feel like God has breathed this into being and he’s got to take it where he wants to go.”