Tuesday, September 9, 2008


By Dr. John H. Roller

I’ve been a Christian for 39 years, and during all that time there’s been no experience in the Christian life that I’ve enjoyed more than Home Bible Study.

Usually, I’ve had that experience by being one of a relatively small group of people – anywhere from 2 to 20 or so – sitting in a circle, perhaps around a kitchen or dining room table, or maybe in a living room, with Bibles open and an opportunity for everybody to share the insights that God has given them in their own personal study of His Word.

In my own case, I’ve usually been the “leader” of such a group, studying the selected passages ahead of time so that I could present the major points of the passage, which then leads to the free-wheeling discussion that I enjoy so much.

But, I recently had the opportunity to be a “visitor” in a Home Bible Study that was very much like the others that I’ve been to, with one unusual “twist” – the “leader” wasn’t in the same room as the rest of the group; in fact, he wasn’t even in the same State! And neither was I.

The group had started out “normally” enough – my friend, Rev. Rick Searles, and several of his friends, meeting on Monday nights in a home in Torrington, Connecticut. But, some time later, Rick had moved to Briarcliff Manor, New York. That’s when the group tried something really different – they continued to meet, every Monday, with Rick “leading” – but, rather than in person, he was there by telephone.

At 7:30 every Monday evening, Rick calls the host family, and they put their speaker-phone on the living room coffee table, and that is now “Rick” for the next hour. Everything after that is just like most other Home Bible Study groups that I’ve participated in.

When Rick told me about this, I thought that it was a great idea, but I wanted to experience it for myself before I started telling a lot of other people about it. The problem, though, was that I don’t live in either Connecticut or New York. I live in North Carolina.

With modern technology, though, the problem was easily solved. At 7:30 Monday evening, Rick called me, then put me on “hold” while he called the host family. Moments later, the Home Bible Study had successfully expanded to include a “visitor” over 700 miles way! But the distance really didn’t matter: I could have been anywhere in the world, as long as I had access to a telephone!

The first item on the agenda is always to “go around the room” and identify where everybody is sitting. Since Rick had been to the meeting site many times before, he knew the location of every chair, couch and loveseat in the room. Having led the same group for many months, he also knew all of the people. So, after this “identification” ritual, Rick is able to picture the whole group in his mind, and it makes him feel a lot more like he’s right there. Of course, from the group’s point of view, he is – he’s on the coffee table!

Everyone was very friendly, and they welcomed me as a “visitor” even though Rick was the only one who knew what I looked like, and even he didn’t know the “layout” of my office in Concord, North Carolina. After about five minutes of informal sharing, and two minutes of opening prayer, we spent 50 minutes digging into Exodus 12:1–13:16, alternating between volunteers reading passages of the Scripture text and open discussion of the points, loosely led by Rick. The meeting wrapped up with 15 minutes of prayer requests and concert prayer (which I was given the privilege of closing).

After the host family had hung up, Rick and I chatted for about 20 minutes, evaluating the experience from both his point of view and mine, and brainstorming other ways this concept could be utilized. Here are some of the ideas that occurred to us:

1. With 3 speaker-phones, not only could one “leader” and one “visitor” participate, but 3 entire groups could “network” together, and there’s no limit on how far apart (or close together) they need to be.

2. Shut-ins could participate in “over-the-phone” Home Bible Studies, in the same way that I did.

3. A group member who was out of town, but available at the time of the meeting, could participate by phone rather than in person, thus not having to miss the meeting.

4. Using Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) instead of regular telephones could eliminate the cost of making the phone calls. To VOIP, it is also possible to add cameras, thus enabling participants to see each other as well as hear.

5. If the “leader” had a webcam, s/he could “conduct” the meeting over a website, and (in theory, at least) just about anybody in the world, with access to the Internet, could participate.

Well, I’m sure there are many more possibilities, but those are the main ones that Rick & I have thought of. I’d sure be interested to know of any that you might come up with. If there’s interest, maybe we can get another such group going! You can call me at 704-425-3911 if you’d like to talk about it.