Bible Study Fellowship rewrites the rulebook

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Most Monday night for the past two years, Naomi Ruth Jackson has ridden a climb on her 22-speed bike or taken an after-work bus to the Westover Hills Church of Christ in Austin, TX. She meets about 450 women there for a Bible scholarship course. The 30-year-old is not your typical lay-focused ministry participant, having majored in Bible and theology in college. Her own church offers only unstructured Bible study, and her work as a medical records clerk gives her few opportunities to re-engage her skills in interpreting the scriptures.

The course lasts two hours. It begins with a worship time at 6:40 p.m., turns into discussion and fellowship in small groups, and ends with a 40-minute lecture. But rather than a deterrent, the breadth and commitment to the 30-week program are draws for Jackson.

“I think about the scriptures a lot, but there isn’t always the opportunity to have an audience or to be surrounded by people who want to discuss it,” she said. “So for me, personally, it meets that need. “

After singing a few hymns in a gospel of John class earlier this year, Jackson and a dozen other women entered the church’s “weeping room” and formed a comfortable circle on rocking chairs and a misplaced bench. A group leader, in his mid-forties, encouraged everyone to share a few words based on questions relating to each chapter of the book.

Jackson had a lot on his mind. She was worried about her younger sister, who had been in a car accident.

“I was frustrated and angry and prayed for her,” she said. “I thought to myself that I should be an advocate for my sister,” as the group studied John 14 on the role of the Holy Spirit as an advocate. “And just like that …

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