I’ve been pondering the practice of communal bible study using potluck as a metaphor. I find the similarities intriguing. In both cases, participants are expected bring something to share with the group. There are usually general assignments made (e.g., in a potluck, often those with surnames ending A-L bring salad and a main dish, and M-Z bring dessert and a main dish).
The metaphor is helpful, as far as it goes, but there is a missing piece, for in practice, communal bible study is more like making a meal than simply consuming one.
A new metaphor: Stone Soup
I remember reading Stone Soup as a child (and many times since). One character (and the identity varies with the version of the story) comes to a village in which no one cooperates. He proceeds to tell the villagers that he can make soup out of a stone. They, of course, do not believe him. He persists. As he makes the soup, he mutters how much better the soup would be with carrots or potatoes or some such. One by one, the villagers proclaim that they can provide that very thing. In the end, a lovely soup is created by the village.
I am beginning to think that communal bible study is more like making stone soup: everyone brings ingredients and works with the Spirit to create the meal at the gathering. Each time the community gathers, the soup gets better, for the participants begin to discover the missing ingredients and commit to bring them the next time. As time goes on, the meal becomes tastier and more nutritious and the community becomes more reflective of Christ.
What other metaphors can you think of?