Studying the Word

Thursday night's meeting of the First Baptist Church's women's Bible Study class gets started. The class is part of a movement at the church to develop events geared toward women.

Once a week, Tricia Johnson gathers up her reference books, greets a dozen familiar female faces and combines fellowship with faith.

“We feel that studying God’s word is important to spiritual growth,” she said. “It’s a good way to ground the ladies in the scripture.”

Johnson, wife of First Baptist Church’s Senior Pastor David Johnson, leads the women’s Bible study at the church. The group gathers for an hour every Thursday at 6 p.m., and typically consists of about a dozen people ranging in age from their early 20s to late 80s.

“It’s very informal,” Johnson said. “We almost always eat chocolate. We share burdens and things with each other that we might not necessarily share with the congregation.”

But the casual atmosphere doesn’t mean the group lacks diligence. Its members practice inductive Bible study; they don’t read interpretations to tell them what Bible passages mean. Instead, the group keeps everything as close to the original language and context as possible, and derives its own interpretations from the passages.

“We don’t use a Bible study book,” Johnson said. “We simply study the Bible itself.”

This involves decoding a lot of Greek, which Johnson has learned to do with the help of a few reference books. She’s also taught the women in the Bible study, so they, too, can study that way.

“You get a better picture of what God is saying to you,” she said, adding the group takes the Bible verse by verse, section by section.

Sometimes, Johnson assigns homework.

“I usually make an outline,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll leave it blank and make them make their own outline.” The goal, she said, is to teach everyone to make their own observations of the scripture.

Laraine Goskesen, a First Baptist congregation member since 2002, said she looks forward to the women’s Bible study every week.

“I started going right when it started,” she said. “It’s great. We study God’s word one verse at a time.”

Goskesen has been director of the women’s ministry at First Baptist for two years. The women’s ministry holds a number of events, including dinner and a movie night, which take place a few times a year and is open to the public. There are also ladies’ retreats, including one that consists of about 500 women from various congregations meeting at Iowa Regular Baptist Camp in Clear Lake, Iowa.

“Our ladies have participated for a few years now,” Johnson said.

Goskesen said a number of women from the ministry will show up for women’s Bible study, and vice versa.

“It’s nice just to get together with the ladies,” Goskesen said. She said it gives the women involved a chance to share things with one another they may not feel comfortable sharing in a larger group setting.

“It helps me keep my focus vertical,” Goskesen said. She said the Bible study has taught her how to better make observations on the Bible verses, and she has found many applications to her daily life.

Johnson said although most women in the group are from within the congregation, any woman is welcome. She puts notices up in First Baptist’s weekly bulletins and also on its Facebook page.

“We have constant participation, which is always important,” she said.

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