One of the biggest things I’ve learned from my hermeneutics class this semester (by the way, “hermeneutics” is just a fancy word for Bible interpretation) is that the Word of God was and is meant for community. Understanding the Bible is a community-based exercise, not something you should exclusively do alone. Before you start getting worked up because Pastor Andy just said you don’t have to read your Bible on your own, hear me when I say that this does not replace personal Bible study! What I’m saying is that Bible study shouldn’t be an individual practice only.
When we read the Bible, there’s a lot that we don’t understand. But I may see something in a passage you miss, and vice versa. When we study together, I can fill in your gaps and you can fill in mine!
Plus, we each bring our own ideas to the Scripture and we have a tendency to read our ideas into what the Bible says, rather than allowing the Bible’s ideas to override and change ours. The only real way to “check your baggage” is by studying the Bible with others who may see a passage differently than you do. Dialogue with that community can quickly reveal your baggage and help you arrive at a fuller understanding of a text.
I guess the last thing to say about this is that community Bible study also helps keep us accountable. It’s like exercise. I’m much more likely to run if I have a running partner who will stay on me when I’m slacking. I’m – You’re – We’re much more likely to study God’s Word if we have a partner or partners who will stay on us when we’re slacking (and we will).