Study Groups – Why are they so Important?

As the years go by, and after having been attending study groups on a consistent basis for around 33 years now, I’ve come to understand the wisdom of the advice given by the Revelators to the early leaders of the Urantia movement back in 1955 where they advised them to form “thousands of study groups”.  Many of you are familiar with the Publication Mandate, but for the benefit of some of you who are not here’s an important extract from that document where the revelators are purported to have said by way of advice to the early leaders:

“We regard The Urantia Book as a feature of the progressive evolution of human society. It is not germane to the spectacular episodes of epochal revolution, even though it may apparently be timed to appear in the wake of one such revolution in human society. The book belongs to the era immediately to follow the conclusion of the present ideological struggle. That will be the day when men will be willing to seek truth and righteousness. When the chaos of the present confusion has passed, it will be more readily possible to formulate the cosmos of a new and improved era of human relationships. And it is for this better order of affairs on earth that the book has been made ready.

“But the publication of the book has not been postponed to that (possibly) somewhat remote date. An early publication of the book has been provided so that it may be in hand for the training of leaders and teachers. Its presence is also required to engage the attention of persons of means who may be thus led to provide funds for translations into other languages…

“(You) must learn to possess (your) souls in patience. (You) are in association with a revelation of truth which is a part of the natural evolution of religion on this world. Over-rapid growth would be suicidal. The book is being given to those who are ready for it long before the day of its worldwide mission. Thousands of study groups must be brought into existence and the book must be translated into many tongues. Thus will the book be in readiness when the battle for man’s liberty is finally won and the world is once more made safe for the religion of Jesus and the freedom of mankind.”

So why are study groups so important?  Well, from my experience the study group environment has been a valuable training ground where we are presented with opportunities to enhance our study of the book’s teachings at a comfortable evolutionary pace.  It provides a two-way street where we can be students and teachers at the same time. There is much to learn from other students of the book, and there is much we can teach our fellows as we share experiences and understandings.  By asking questions and sharing ideas and interpretations about what we’re reading in the casual, friendly non-threatening atmosphere of a study group, we can quietly grow together as a circle of friends in a little family of God.  The study group provides a special and unique opportunity to talk the language (or jargon) of The Urantia Book with others.  All this is really beneficial to our spiritual growth.

Another great benefit of the study group is that you get opportunities to find different ways of articulating your understanding of the book and its teachings.  You get to rehearse and experiment with different ways of talking about it.  You can hone your teaching skills as you gain a deeper understanding of the book as a result of sharing and socialising the teachings with other students.  We could all benefit by learning how best to share the teachings of this revelation with our fellows in ways that are wise and effective.  We can learn from Jesus how he did it; by studying his methods we can learn the art of attraction and avoid the common mistake of allowing our zeal to bamboozle our non-reader fellows with alien concepts that they can’t possibly relate to.

I’m sure many of you here, like my husband Trevor and I have struggled with trying to figure out how we can best serve our fellow man in the dissemination of this revelation.  Over the years we’ve spent many AGMs, conference presentations and workshops, strategic planning meetings, and casual conversations with one another about the various things we can do to help things along. We’ve established library placement programs, we’ve attended book fairs and expos, we’ve given books away to friends and acquaintances, we’ve given presentations at various institutions and public places, we’ve created and promoted study aids and secondary works, we’ve written articles and attended conferences, and we’ve promoted the idea of hosting and attending study groups.  We hope and pray that our efforts with all of the above have helped in some way to enhance an awareness of the book in our communities.  But in my opinion nothing is more effective than the individual’s possession of spiritual fragrance – the fruits of the spirit we bear as we become more spiritually real.  This obviously affects the way we conduct our lives and treat our fellow man which has the power to leave a lasting impression.  And that only comes about by our own inner life soul growth.  Spirit lead individuals have far more impact in impressing upon others the value of spiritual realities by the way they live their lives and treat others, than by an ability to give away hundreds of books.

In addition to our involvement in the many worthwhile projects and programs we undertake to spread the book, let’s stop and ponder the wisdom of the revelators when they told us that “Thousands of study groups must be brought into existence”.  Participation in a study can enhance all aspects of our journey with this amazing gift of the fifth epochal revelation.  Let’s see what we can do add to the number and quality of study groups in our regions.