Small Groups (Congregational)

Hearing the Word

Who should read the Bible?

When it comes to the Word of God, many members of the church act like starling chicks! They simply sit in the ‘nest’, waiting for the teacher to bring the ‘worm’ each Sunday or through Daily Bible reading notes. Either through ignorance or laziness they assume that only the teacher can understand the Bible, so there is no point in anyone else trying to read it by themselves.

The reformers rejoiced in the gift to the church of the pastor / teacher. They determined everyone should be taught the Word and everything should be done according to the word of God. However they also purposed everyone should have access to and be able to read the word of God for themselves as well. Our danger today is that, in encouraging total dependence on the teacher, we are effectively creating ‘a priesthood of the preacher’!

The work of any teacher is not simply to tell people ‘what’, but also to show them ‘how’. Observation in teaching is important but limited if not reinforced by guided learning. Watching a talented practitioner of sport or music will produce little progress until the viewer has a personal lesson and puts it into practice! In a similar way listening to someone teaching from the Bible needs to be complemented by method and guided practice if the hearers are going to be enabled to imitate what the teacher has done.
‘Hearing the Word’ has been devised to help teachers meet that need.

In the realm of art or sport there are basic principles which enable good practice. These are the same for – and need to be adhered to by – expert and beginner alike. The role of a teacher or coach at any level is to highlight these and ensure they are put into practice. The same is true of reading the Bible. ‘Hearing the Word’ identifies the main principles in Bible reading that are as applicable to ministers in their study as to enquirers on the fringe of the church. It is therefore suitable for the whole church, whether instructing those new to Bible reading, or as a reminder of good practice for the ‘hardened’ Bible student!

‘Hearing the Word, The Introduction’ is a way of introducing these principles to the wider church membership.

‘Hearing the Word’ – The Introduction

Overview – This 4-hour course can be presented locally. The Workbook includes six ‘Follow On’ studies in Mark’s Gospel, to allow users to practise by themselves. (For later, other booklets explain different styles of Bible writing.)

The aim – to enable ALL who read the Bible to ‘handle the word of truth correctly’ (2 Timothy 2:15).

The objectives

  • To provide a resource for the ministry of pastor / teacher
  • To show simply the basic principles involved in reading the Bible
  • To give a memorable model for Bible study
  • To create an opportunity for all, at whatever level of Bible knowledge, to come together and share round the Word of God
  • To provide an ‘add water’ resource, requiring little preparation.

The presenters
The material is simple to use and comprehensive. It may therefore be presented by anyone capable of following the instructions and leading a group. Nonetheless, there may be advantages in having an outsider initially presenting the Introduction, in that it
creates ‘an event’ for the church
reduces the stress on the church leader!
Several people across Scotland have experience in leading the course.

The materials
A work book – This contains all the teaching on the principles with accompanying explorations of the text and spaces to record responses.
A leader’s guide – This ‘Manual’ contains the thinking behind Hearing the Word. The middle section has the same content, layout, and page numbering as the Workbook. It also gives the leader instructions for group work, and suggests outcomes from Explorations. It should enable people who are competent leaders, but have limited biblical background of their own, to lead a group through the course with ease.
A Powerpoint – This helps the leader to handle the explorations. Projected on a screen for a large gathering with many groups, or on a TV in a house group, the leader can sum up contributions, give sample answers etc.

The format
After an introductory section on approaching the Bible, the course works through a single passage, Mark 10:35-45, in four stages, using a Teach, Try, Talk format:

TEACH: The course leader reads out the material in the Course Book with the participants. (The material is comprehensive and stand alone.)

TRY: The participants engage in an Exploration by themselves, writing their findings in their Course Book.

TALK: Responses are discussed in small groups. The leader can share the answers given in the Leader’s Guide

The Event
1) A large gathering,
A church leader can go through the Teaching in the booklet, before splitting participants into small groups and encouraging them to Try it out. Talk back would occur first in the group, then in plenary, as people share and comment on the groups’ findings.
2) Small groups
A church leader can gather house group leaders and go through it with them, before delegating to them to work through it with their groups.

The timing
The course may be run in various ways –

1. as a whole (roughly 4 hours) eg Friday evening and Saturday morning; Church Weekend; Day conference
2. in four sessions of one hour each, eg Midweek meeting, house group, ‘Evening service’

The follow on
After the four sessions on Mark 10:35-45, there are studies on the next six passages in Mark. Participants look at the passage at home using the ‘Hearing the Word’ outline, then meet to share their thoughts. The church leader gives feedback either when folk come together midweek or through a sermon on the passage on the subsequent Sunday.

Once grasped, the model may be used by groups and individuals and applied to any passage in Scripture using the HtW Bible Studies.

Testimony: ‘I can read the Bible’ by Mana Hazlett

I can remember when I first realised I could read. One evening I was sitting up in bed waiting for someone to come and read me a bedtime story. The story was chosen but for some reason there was no sign of an adult. I started to look at the text and realised that I could see that there were several paragraphs and that the story wasn’t very long. So I started to read it and just read the whole story from beginning to end – and then read it again – and again. It was a wonderful feeling!

Fifty-five years on – the same sort of experience happened the fourth time I did our summer Bible study with the format of LOOK, LEARN, LISTEN and LIVE. First lesson, well, I was struggling. The second one, hmm, not much better at all, in fact I was quite bamboozled. I could see the general idea, but I certainly wasn’t clicking. So, the third session was my BIG problem because I was one of the leaders and really wasn’t sure how I would cope when I didn’t know how to get from one section to another!

Fortunately the other leader was happy to prepare with me and on the night, the session went well. I was immensely relieved! People felt they got a lot from it and I didn’t have to confess I hadn’t a clue how the whole thing ‘joined up’! So, you can imagine my joy when I started session four. There was no pressure as I didn’t have to lead. When I started going through the format, well, I just got through it and it all clicked. It all fell into place and made sense. It was a wonderful feeling, a bit like when I discovered I could read, all those years ago while waiting for a parent at bedtime. The next day, when I was seven, I knew I didn’t actually need anyone else to read anything, the world was my oyster.

So here I was all these years later, waking the next morning knowing I could do the series of strategies in LOOK, LEARN, LISTEN and LIVE by myself and read the Bible for myself! I’m an independent Bible reader now, and have found my theological feet so to speak. It is a real feeling of being born again. The world is indeed my oyster.
Mana Hazlett Elder, Partick Trinity Church of Scotland, Glasgow

HtW Bible Studies

The goal is to place the readers in the position of the original hearers, with the confidence to read the Word of God themselves.

To this end Workbooks and Leader’s Guides have been prepared for six different genres of material in the Bible, e.g. Narrative, Poetry, Law, Letters, Prophecy etc

They give background information on geography, history, contemporary social customs, etc; some pointers on reading the different types of Bible literature; and then encourage the application of the HtW outline to the passage at hand. The first page in each week’s study explains matters that would have been known to the original hearers but not to readers today, and includes a ‘Word List’. The ‘Bible connections’ show where the Bible refers to similar themes.

Studies published by January 2014:
Law Leviticus
Letters Philippians; Colossians
Gospel Luke 1: 1 – 2:20 (‘A fresh LUKE at Christmas’)
Luke 2:21 – 4:30
Luke 4:31 – 6:11
Luke 22: 7 – 24:11 (‘A fresh LUKE at Easter’)
John ‘Seven Miraculous Signs’ (Leader’s Guide extended July 2013)
Parable ‘Six parables Jesus told’
Poetry Psalms vol I (19, 22, 23, 42, 51, 122, 150)
Psalms vol II ( 2, 37, 45, 83, 90, 95, 110, 115)
Prophecy Jonah; Amos; Isaiah (8 studies)

Mixed ‘Who is He?’ – 8 passages looking forward to Christmas, from
Genesis, Deuteronomy, 1 Samuel, Isaiah, Micah, and John

Rev PRM Malloch, a member at Torrance Parish Church, will be happy to answer your questions about the material, or discuss holding an Introduction Course in your locality.

To see the current list of materials, or place orders, contact
Hearing the Word
Torrance Parish Church Office
1 School Road, Torrance, Glasgow, G64 4BZ
Tel 01360 620970

Torrance Parish Church

Torrance Parish Church, 1 School Road, Torrance,  Glasgow, G64 4BZ

Telephone: 01360 620970. Email: