Community Overview

All the teaching materials on this site (text, video, and audio) are always available for your use, no matter where you may be in the world or what your schedule may be like. There is absolutely nothing wrong with never getting more involved than simply accessing the materials on this site as you see fit.

For anyone who does want to get involved with a group of like-minded individuals also interested in these same things, however, this site does formally run a community.

At present, there are three primary community channels:

  • A WhatsApp group
  • A web forum
  • Weekly meetings over Zoom (with local folks meeting in-person on one side of the call)

The following sections will go into much more detail about all three of these things, but before we do that, we'll go over how to join.

Joining our community

Requiring registration (rather than allowing anonymous posts) can help minimize spammers, but it can't stop truly malicious users. For this reason, for any online community to be truly secure, it must be possible to completely remove users after-the-fact, and therefore be invite-only rather than completely open and public. If a wolf in sheep's clothing pretends to be interested, there is no way to exclude them upfront without also running the risk of excluding people we wouldn't ordinarily want to exclude. So instead, we need a way to remove the sheep-dressed wolves if they should ever bare their fangs.

Ours is a community dedicated to Christian love and fellowship, and I am completely unwilling to expose people to even potential harm. For this reason, our community is much more private than many other online communities, and does require getting formally invited before one can participate.

Fear not though, there is no high bar here, and interest is really the only true requirement. If you fill out the form below, I will invite you to the forum and/or the WhatsApp group (depending upon what information you provide). The email address is needed for registering on the forum, and the phone number for WhatsApp. (You can choose to fill out only one field and then participate through only one channel, if you so wish. You can always contact me later to get added to the other too).

I do not share the information received through this form with anyone. Please note that filling out this form to join our community is not the same as signing up for the BibleDocs mailing list. You can read more about the BibleDocs mailing list here.

Non-US people: please provide your country code in your (mobile) phone number (including the plus). So, for example, a UK number entered into the form might look like +44 000-0000 (not a real number, but that's the format).

Links to join our weekly Zoom meetings are posted on the forum in the pinned info thread and also posted on the WhatsApp group, so once you are active in at least one place, you will be able to join the Zoom meetings. Our weekly meetings are explained more thoroughly below.

Our WhatsApp group

Our community is international in scope and globally-minded, with folks from

  • The US
  • The UK
  • Nigeria
  • Australia
  • Etc.

We use WhatsApp because it supports talking (voice-over-IP) and text chat for folks across the world, without needing to worry about expensive international phone plans and the like. WhatsApp is used quite a lot internationally (although perhaps not quite as much in the US, for whatever reason).

WhatsApp doesn't itself support much in the way of searching through and organizing past conversations, but it does have a plaintext export feature. I manually clean up the chat export and format it as a searchable HTML page so that we can still find things from past conversations. This file is kept up-to-date on the relevant pinned thread on the forum. (Don't worry, some text-editor magic means it really doesn't take me that long).

Our forum

Link: https://community.bibledocs.org/

If conversations get a bit longer and more technical, it can be a good idea to move them onto the forum. The forum is great because it makes it easy to link back to past conversations over time (rather than having things get buried), and also supports splitting up conversation by topics/threads to keep all related discussion together. (Topics can also be independently categorized and tagged for future reference too, another plus in the content organization department).

There is a bit of a learning curve on the forum, but all the above advantages make it worth it. If you ever get intimidated, please don't be shy in reaching out for help in getting familiar with the interface.

There are three main sections on the forum: a section for wider discussion of the Bible among believers, a section for people more formally on-board with the teachings of this ministry and Ichthys, and a debate section.

When invited, everyone starts out in the first general discussion section. Over time -- upon request, or once I get to know you better -- I may add you to one of the other sections (you won't lose access to the main discussion section). The other two sections are restricted in visibility for slightly different reasons:

  • Regarding the section for people more formally on-board with the teachings of this ministry and Ichthys, we are able to better discuss the specifics of what we believe and help one another learn if we don't have to constantly defend the teachings themselves from skeptical parties. It is more intended as a community of students helping one another learn than a discussion board. (Different purpose).
  • Regarding the debate section, it takes a certain sort of personality and mindset to do well in an environment of sharp disagreement and formal debate (in particular, a willingness to make certain concessions in how conversation proceeds for the purpose of keeping the peace). It is honestly not the best place for many normal Christians, and for that reason, it is kept mostly to people who truly want to be involved in constant arguments regarding the truth to sharpen their own positions and to better understand opposing positions so as to be able to argue against them more effectively. (Again, different purpose).

As a rule of thumb, if you are part of a group that tends to disagree sharply with Evangelical Protestantism writ large (things like sola fide, sola scriptura, and so on) -- for example, Orthodox folks, Catholic folks, Mormons -- you are still welcome on the forum, but we do ask that the general discussion section be kept free from arguments about things that most Evangelical Protestants take for granted. That's a bit hand-wavy (and the lines are admittedly blurry -- define "most"), but just be aware that the boundary between discussion of scripture amongst a somewhat homogenous group of Christians sharing a strong belief in the Bible (the general discussion section) and arguments about anything and everything amongst a much less homogenous group (the debate section) will be strongly enforced. If you are ever unsure, you can always ask, or just err on the side of caution and post straight to the debate section. Myself and the mods will move improperly-located threads at our discretion, and if it becomes a repeated problem, you will hear from us. I doubt we'll have huge issues, but please do try to operate within the goals of the framework as it has been established.

Our meetings

Quick reference

Here are links to a calendar of meeting dates and times, and a map of how to get to my house where the in-person meetings are held:

These things are also embedded below for quick reference:

The house should be easy to spot since the house number (101) is in white lettering on my black mailbox -- take care not to show up at one of my neighbors' houses!

To join over Zoom, you'll need the link to the Zoom meeting (which changes week to week), so you'll need to be active on either the forum or the WhatsApp Group, where the weekly Zoom link gets posted. You can read about how to join the forum and WhatsApp group above.

Scheduling updates, practical info, prayer requests, etc. are typically disseminated through the WhatsApp group

One of the sections above discusses how to join our community, including getting added to the WhatsApp group. A following section gives an overview of the WhatsApp group.

The meeting schedule

We avoid Sunday meetings so that people don't have to make an exclusive choice between our fellowship and their other church groups, but can benefit from both, if so desired.

While we do typically give people a few minutes to trickle in, we will actually start reasonably close to the scheduled times, so just plan accordingly. It is least disruptive for everyone if most people are there when we start, but if you do end up running a bit late for whatever reason, just try to slip in quietly while minimizing the amount you disturb others as best you can. It's alright — life happens.

Our Bible study meetings

Serious, formal study

For various reasons that we shan't get into here, there are not a great many meeting options available presently for people who wish to study the scriptures in a deeper and more technical way -- more in the manner of formal academic lectures than motivational speaking.

There is nothing wrong per se with spending time on the basics -- Christian self-sacrificing love, God's love for us through His Son and His sacrifice on the cross -- but we are called to learn more of God's truth than just the very basic things. Our goal should be a thorough understanding of the entirety of scripture -- a lifelong task that we will never complete in totality.

In pursuit of such a goal, our Bible studies are definitely on the more formal side of things. We do not try in any way to make them unapproachable or unnecessarily erudite or complex, but it is true that the focus is on getting a deeper technical understanding, rather than staying at the surface level in an attempt to be more accessible.

Equipping and training

In this, we try to focus especially on equipping people to go back to their other communities to teach and lead others in turn, with the end goal that a focus on and deeper knowledge of the truth takes increasingly greater hold across other local communities.

Going that level deeper in serious Bible study -- the form of study that sometimes goes underrepresented in other forms of church gatherings -- makes it possible for a "ripple effect" of sorts to take hold.

Finding true (rather than only apparent) unity in the truth

The body of Christ is in fact composed of all people who truly believe. However, from wandering around local areas, one might be forgiven for thinking that the body of Christ is instead composed of a plurality of separate groups that co-exist without much interaction among each other.

It's not that we want to encourage a form of ecumenism where truth is the casualty; quite to the contrary, the truth in the Word of God is the very thing that unites us. If we focus our hearts and minds upon learning, believing, and applying the Bible -- to the exclusion of most all else -- we will find that it is easy to find ourselves running side-by-side with a wide variety of people from all sorts of backgrounds.

In other words, if we dive deep into the Word of God (with that as essentially the only focus), we will see superficial differences fade as the truth takes front-and-center.

Finding this form of fully-realized unity in the truth (no matter our other differences) can be considered another primary goal of these Bible studies. It is a beautiful thing.

Our fellowship meetings

Overview

While the Bible Studies embody the more formal side of our community meetings, the fellowship meetings embody the more personal side of things.

We talk through situations going on in each other's lives, and encourage and exhort one another in the truth. We do still try to keep the Bible in view at all times, but a greater emphasis is placed on discussing it in terms of the specific situations actually going on in our lives.

We have a wide variety of men and women across ages and cultures represented in our fellowship meetings, and everyone is welcome to come and hang out with us more casually.

Why Saturday afternoons?

We have our fellowship meetings on Saturday afternoons primarily because this is when the most people globally can make it. Places in Africa and Europe tend to be around 5 hours ahead of EST/EDT, and Australia (depending on where you are) is about 14 hours ahead (so Saturdays for us are Sundays for them).

Saturday afternoons are thus the time during the week when we are likely to be able to chat with the largest group of individuals.

We meet at my house, which has been set up to handle larger volumes of people, both in terms of dining, and also in seating people for Bible studies.

Shared meals

Anyone coming in-person is welcome to join us for a meal before the evening Bible studies on Friday and Saturday. The food is provided, although we do encourage anyone who can afford to help out to chip in to keep things sustainable (we support Venmo, PayPal, Cashapp, etc.). I will usually send out a poll on the WhatsApp group a bit earlier in the week to get a rough head-count for both days, so that we will have a better idea of how much food to prepare.

Parking

As to parking, try not to block any of the driveways of my neighbors, and try to park somewhere in front of my house rather than in front of someone else's house (so that we don't get in trouble with the folks that live around me).

If there is space on my driveway, we do encourage people to park there (it will fit two cars side-by-side for two layers deep -- although it's a bit tight -- and then another two single cars after that, for a total of 6), although do keep in mind that you may get boxed-in, which might prove inconvenient if you need to leave partway through or need to make your exit promptly at the end of our meeting due to another schedule obligation. The driveway is pretty steep for some of its length, so parking with the parking brake on may be necessary, depending on where you end up.

Childcare

I am very open to figuring out how to best accommodate children given our meetings, but thus far have no system in place.

You can contact me to discuss things further if this will be something important for you.

Let me emphasize: you do not need to be local and in-person to enjoy our fellowship! All of our meetings are tied-in to Zoom, so everyone is welcome to join us, no matter where you may be in the world.

We use a different meeting room every week to protect our privacy. The link to join the Zoom meeting is sent out to the WhatsApp group every week, as well as going in the pinned info thread on the forum. You are welcome to join from a desktop or laptop computer, or from your phone. Whatever works best for you.

We do ask that most people stay muted when not talking, especially if you have noise around you.

Meeting recordings

All of our Bible study meetings are recorded and posted publicly on YouTube. This not only lets a wider audience benefit from our discussions, but also lets people who miss a week for whatever reason easily get caught back up.

(Note: the more personal fellowship meetings are not recorded, to help protect people's privacy, and to encourage everyone to open up a bit more and be comfortable talking casually).

Because the Bible studies are recorded and posted publicly, we try to keep things to just first names, and the conversation steered away from the deeply personal. I remind everyone every week to be watchful as to what is said when the recording is rolling, and always carefully announce when we are starting the recording to make sure people are never caught off-guard by such.

Because it is beneficial, we do typically have some discussion between "takes" on the recording, meaning I will pause the recording at certain points to let everyone have a chance to ask questions or just share their thoughts without the pressure of having their words forever memorialized on YouTube. You needn't feel bad about only talking when the recording is not rolling, as this pattern is in fact somewhat encouraged, to make sure the videos we create and share are largely focused and on-topic. Occasionally we do get a bit off-topic and end up not formally recording as much for a given week, which is fine too.

One important note: if you ever join one of our meetings late, do be conscious of the fact that the recording may already be rolling when you join. It is safest if you always act like the recording is in fact active, until such a time as you are sure it is not. Usually you will be able to figure out relatively quickly whether it is or not (one rule of thumb: if it's mostly only me talking, and I'm actually going through slides or talking about something pretty formally, we are very likely recording), but it is just better to be safe than sorry. I can edit things out in post if I absolutely have to, but it is time-intensive and unpleasant, so I very much prefer to not have to do such.