The goal of a Bible study is not information, but transformation, and this is what the application phase of the conversation is all about. Here are five characteristics of application questions that will help your group respond well to what Jesus is doing in their lives.
Just as God’s Word is compared to a double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12), great application questions or challenges are SHARP:
We’ve probably heard someone say at the conclusion of a study, “I’ve learned I need to surrender more of my life to God.” While that sounds great, the problem is that it’s too vague to be actionable. If it’s true you need to surrender more of your life to God, what is a specific area where that is difficult for you to do right now? Good application questions will pinpoint clear places in our lives where we need the Holy Spirit’s redemptive work.
Honors the text
If a passage of Scripture challenges some aspect of our thinking or behavior, the call to response should reflect that challenge. We must resist the temptation to shift the topic to avoid facing the implications of a passage. Writing application questions that are faithful to the core message of the passage honors the soul-penetrating power of God’s Word.
Just as the best Bible studies happen in community, the most effective application happens when we make ourselves accountable to others. As we share about specific areas of our lives uncovered by the text, we need trusted friends to ask us questions like, “What specific step of obedience is Jesus asking you to take? When will you do it? What obstacle(s) will you need to overcome? How can we help?”
A powerful truth about life is that there is no growth without risk. When we take risks out of obedience to what God has spoken to us, we place ourselves in a deeper posture of dependence on him, which in turn strengthens our faith. Our response to a Bible study should be risky enough that it pushes us to rely on God. As one Bible study veteran cautions, “We must avoid general responses that any person could do even if they weren’t a Christian.”
As the parable of the sower in Mark 4 reveals, spiritual transformation does not happen automatically, and it definitely does not occur apart from the work of the Spirit! Without God’s work to soften our collective hearts, any number of things can go wrong: Satan can snatch the Word away, our shallowness can prevent sustainable growth, or our worries and fears can choke the spiritual life out of us. Our application response needs to be covered in prayer, asking God for conviction and the help we need to act on his Word.
The more your application questions or challenges include these characteristics, the more powerful and transformative your group’s response will be.