We’ve completed our study of Philippians using Bruce Epperly’s study guide (Philippians: A Participatory Study Guide). This is the second time I’ve taught Philippians using that guide, and I’d like to compare the two experiences. This will tell you something of the nature of the guide.
The first time I used this, it was in advance copies, and with a class that was much more interested in the facts (or perhaps data) and discussing the theology of the book and how it applied. They appreciated substantial sections of the book, but were not interested in what I consider the main feature, which is the spiritual exercises/activities. I don’t mean this as a critique of that class–a class or small group can be formed for many purposes, and they definitely found enough of the material they were interested in the book and in the discussion questions. We ran out of time on every lesson.
In the more recent study, the class group was much more interested in spirituality and spiritual disciplines. Members repeatedly commented on how they normally don’t like printed prayers, but that the prayers were exceptional and right on target. We used the prayers and the accompanying meditations or actions in every class session, even to the exclusion of time to complete all the questions. And if you’re being serious with this guide, you won’t have time to discuss everything that is offered.
Used in this way it is a transformative study, and that is the greatest strength of this particular study guide. I really enjoyed working through the book myself.
For those who may decide to use this guide I do recommend following the suggestions for readings. In several cases we read passages from The Voice during the time in class. One might use The Message instead (in fact, I still prefer it), but there was a good deal of discussion of The Voice online during the course of our class. But simply reading the passages from the different versions in class time often opened enlightening discussions and times of meditation.
We’re taking a brief interlude now in this class before we start another Bible book. The group has chosen to read the new book by William Powell Tuck, The Journey to the Undiscovered Country. There will be an opportunity to let more people in the church know about our class and invite them to join us on August 26, and then we’ll start a new study, probably using Ephesians: A Participatory Study Guide by Bob Cornwall.
Note: This class was formed with the intention to use the participatory method and guides and continue regularly studying Bible books and passages.