Chatting with a friend yesterday we were discussing experiences of belonging to Bible Study groups. Although the vast majority of our stories were really positive we had both experienced the type of Bible study where there are set questions that are designed to lead to the 'correct' answer. You know the kind of thing, where people all respond until someone comes up with the set answer and everyone beams securely in this affirmation of faith and life certainty.
My friend had inadvertently discovered how to tell if you were in this kind of scenario. If, she discovered, you asked a searching question or gave an off the wall answer, there would immediately be a gasp and a collective leap to head off the potential 'danger.'
For example, if you were to enquire say, "Do people go straight to heaven?"
You'd hope that the response might be, "why do you ask that?" and/or "Lets have a look together at what the Bible says" and/or "That's something that quite a few people have wrestled with."
While the closed Bible study might look frightened and leap in with, "Yes of course they do!"
We decided that bowling in a tricky question or an off-the-wall answer could be an important thing to do in order to ascertain whether the group you were part of were open to grappling with the Bible or merely wanted to live in the black and white safety of pre-prescribed answers. In honour of my friend I'm going to name this testing process as the Bosworth Googly!
Your job is to throw in a Bosworth googly at your next Bible study to test this in non laboratory conditions! Have fun :-)
It's also worth noting that if you are leading discussion with teenagers then there will always be Bosworth Googlies! How you handle these will very much dictate whether trust is established and whether real discussion will take place. Sometimes they are genuine questions that may sound off-the-wall to you, BUT often too there will be deliberate absurdity; either way though how you handle the googly will dictate whether the discussion that follows flys or crashes and burns!