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Bible studies

Bible studies from Credits and loans for small businesses – a Pillars guide

Group discussion guide with 12 Bible studies suitable for savings groups and self-help groups

2005 Available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese

Pillars magazines on a desk

From: Pillars guides

Practical, discussion-based learning on community development for small groups

These Bible studies are designed to use in small groups. They may provide a useful introduction to a meeting where different topics from the Guide are being discussed. Choose a study that will be linked to the topic you plan to study or that is relevant to your situation. During the studies, encourage people to reflect on what they read, to discuss the meaning and the implications of what they learn and, finally, to pray together about what they have learnt.

Revelation 22:13 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.’



Genesis 1:1 ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ … from nothing, by his word.

All of us at times dream dreams. There are things that we long for, but sometimes they seem impossible to achieve – so unlikely that thinking about them depresses rather than inspires us. We do not have much hope; we feel unable to change our circumstances.

Read Romans 5:1-11. In this passage we hear how a hopeless situation is turned upside down by God’s love demonstrated to us through the death of his Son.

  • What words can you find in this passage to describe what we were before Christ died for us? (verses 6, 8, 10)
  • What do we now have through Jesus? (verses 1, 2, 5, 9-11)

Even our sufferings produce perseverance, character and an unfailing hope because of the love God has poured into our hearts by his Holy Spirit (verses 3-5). It is hard for a poor person to obtain credit and for a person who has very little, to imagine how they might provide more for their family or improve their situation.

Now read again Romans 5:10. Romans 8: 32 also tells us: ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’

  • What do these two verses mean to you?


Read 1 Kings 12:1-17. Solomon has died and Rehoboam, his son, has gone to Shechem to be made king. Jeroboam, who has been promised by God that he will rule ten of the tribes of Israel (1 Kings 11:31), returns from Egypt where he had fled for fear of Solomon.

  • What do Jeroboam and the people of Israel propose to Rehoboam? (verses 3-4)

Rehoboam takes three days to consider this proposal and get advice. Before we make decisions and take action, we should listen to the people we are serving and seek advice from those with experience and wisdom.

  • What advice does Rehoboam get from the elders who had served Solomon? (verses 6-7)
  • Rehoboam rejects this advice and goes instead to the young men who have grown up with him. What do they advise? (verses 8-11)

Israel and Judah have been united and ruled as one kingdom by Saul, David and Solomon in succession. Rehoboam follows the young men’s advice: his harsh answer to the people of Israel leads to the split of Israel and Judah.

The Bible tells us that good advice is very valuable; for example in Proverbs 12:15; 13:10; 15:22. Of course, the very best advisor or counsellor is God himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Isaiah 9:6, John 14:16-17; Romans 11:33-34). However, it is of no value getting good advice if we are then unwilling to follow it.

  • Can you find ways to listen and respond more to those you serve?
  • Are you taking the advice of wise people and, most especially, God himself?

BIBLE STUDY 3 Counting the cost

Read Luke 14:25-33. Jesus here gives us two practical examples of the need to plan thoroughly before beginning a course of action.

  • What might happen to the person who begins to build something without properly estimating the cost? (verses 28-30)
  • What could a king do if, having considered the strength of the opposing army, he decides he is unlikely to win the war? (verses 31-32)
  • Have you considered carefully all the costs such as finance, time and other resources, that will be needed for the projects you are considering?
  • If your project seems unlikely to succeed after this analysis, do you have any other options?

Jesus uses these examples to warn us that before we begin anything we should consider fully and carefully what it is going to cost us.

  • What does Jesus say is the cost of following him and being his disciple? (verses 26, 27, 33)
  • What does this mean in our daily lives?
  • Do you believe it is a cost worth paying?

BIBLE STUDY 4 Making good plans

  • What is wrong with the plans of the people in these Bible passages?  • Genesis 11:1-9, especially verse 4  • Jeremiah 22:13-17  • James 4:13-17
  • We may make many plans in our hearts, but whose plans take priority (Proverbs 19:21) and who needs to build the house if the labour is not to be in vain (Psalm 127:1)?
  • How careful have you been to check that your plans are in line with God’s purposes?

Proverbs 16:3 ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.’

  • Have you made sure that there is no injustice in what you are doing and no exploitation of others?

Jeremiah 22:16 ‘He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.’



Read Acts 4:32-37. This passage describes a very successful ‘cooperative’. Verse 34 tells us ‘There were no needy people among them.’ What helps it to work?  • Verse 32 ‘All the believers were ……’ (what?)  • Verse 32 ‘They shared ……’ (what?)  • Verse 33 ‘They testified to ……’ (what?)  • Verse 33 ‘……was upon them all’ (what?)

The group is united by a common vision and their deep commitment to one another.

  • What is the source of income here? 
  • What is the agreement between the members of the group?

In your group, your agreement and situation will be different from the one here. What is important is that everyone who is part of the group clearly knows how the group is to function and keeps to the conditions you have agreed upon.


All members of groups need to trust one another and be honest with one another. Read Acts 5:1-11.

  • What do Ananias and Sapphira do? (verses 1-4, 8)
  • Who does Peter say Ananias and Sapphira have lied to? (verses 3, 9)
  • What happens to them? (verses 5, 10)
  • What impact does this have on the Church and all who hear of these events? (verses 5, 11)
  • Are you being open and honest in your dealings with the group you belong to?

Reflect as a group on how you can encourage each other to be more open and honest with each other.

BIBLE STUDY 7 Overcoming difficulties

Most groups will at some point face difficult times. If these situations are not handled correctly, members may become discouraged and prevent the work going ahead.

Read Nehemiah 4:1-12. This passage illustrates several types of discouragement:  • Ridicule (verses 1-3)  • The size of the task (verse 10)  • Opposition and threats (verses 8, 11)  • Fear and anxiety (verse 12)

Read Nehemiah 4:13-23.

  • How does Nehemiah deal with discouragement spiritually and physically?  • Ridicule (verses 4, 5)  • The size of the task (verses 19-20)  • Opposition and threats (verses 9, 14, 15)  • Fear and anxiety (verse 15)

The people don’t give up (verses 6, 16, 21). They work together (verses 16-18) to help one another. They design a system so that they can respond rapidly if one group needs help suddenly (verses 19-20). They are dedicated to completing the work (verses 21-23).

  • How does your group respond when difficulties arise?
  • Could you overcome the problems by helping one another more?
  • Are you continually seeking God’s guidance, encouragement and wisdom?

BIBLE STUDY 8 Cooperation

These verses give examples of what can be achieved if we work together as a team. Read Exodus 17:11-13.

  • What would have happened in this situation without cooperation?
  • Can you think of any similar situations in the present day?

Read Judges 20:11 (If you have time, read the whole of Chapter 20).

  • What happens when people unite behind a common purpose?
  • How can your group help to unite people in times of peace?

Read Matthew 18:19-20.

  • Why are the prayers of several people more pleasing to God than one person praying alone?
  • How often do you discuss situations and pray about them in small groups?
  • How could you do this more effectively?

BIBLE STUDY 9 True values

Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-15.

  • What problem is there in this church? (verses 3 and 4)
  • What does Paul suggest is the proper attitude to different workers? (verses 4-9)

Only God can make things grow (verse 9); only God can make our work prosper (Psalm 127:1). He wants us to be his ‘fellow-workers’ (verse 9); each achieving the part of the work he has assigned to us (verse 5), using the gifts and qualities he has given us. Compare Romans 12:4-7 which has a similar message.

Jealousy and quarrelling cause division. If a project is to succeed, we need to value every person’s gifts – our own and those of other people – and work together.

  • Paul says he has laid a foundation (verse 10). Who is the foundation? (verse11)

There is no other foundation that will endure forever. We must also be careful how we build.

  • What will eventually happen to all our work? (verses 12-15)
  • How will what you are ‘building’ look in the ‘light of day’? Will it survive the fire? (verse 13)

BIBLE STUDY 10 Good use of resources

Read Acts 6:1-7.

  • What is the complaint of the Grecian Jews? (verse1)

The Twelve gather together all the disciples.

  • What do they propose? (verses 2-4)
  • What qualities do they suggest for the men who are to help in the food distribution? (verse 3)

The apostles pray and lay their hands on the chosen men (verse 6).

  • What is the result of the expansion in workforce? (verse 7)

It is good to employ people to do different tasks according to their gifts and skills and the anointing of God upon them. See also 2 Chronicles 19:11

  • Are you using your human resources effectively?


BIBLE STUDY 11 God’s vision

Read Haggai 2:1-9 and Zechariah 4:6-10. The Lord’s house is in ruins but the people have been told by the prophets to rebuild it. It must have seemed an immense task on such a great temple, but the people obey God’s word and begin. God continues to encourage them through the prophets.

  • What does God promise Zerubbabel? (Zechariah 4:9)
  • Who will be with the workers? (Haggai 2:4-5)
  • How will they succeed in such a massive project? (Zechariah 4:6)
  • What does God say about the ‘day of small things’? (Zechariah. 4:10)

If a vision is of God, it will succeed however improbable it may seem at the outset and whatever difficulties arise during the work.

BIBLE STUDY 12 Perseverance

There is great joy in persevering until we complete what God has called us to do. Both Paul and Jesus declare at the end of their lives that they have finished the tasks they were set: (2 Timothy 4:6-8, John 4:34 and 19:30)

  • Do you know what tasks God has given you:  • in your family?  • in your group?  • in your community?
  • Will you be able to echo Jesus’ words? ‘I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.’ (John 17:4)

God tells us that he is the Beginning and the End. ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.’ (Revelation 21:6)

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