I recently took a "Bible Study 101" class at my church and was surprised to find out how much I didn't know that I didn't know about bible study. As many of you probably know, I have been reading through a chronological bible study plan as a part of my 101 in 1001 goal list. Over 50 days in I started to wonder why I wasn't getting as much from the study has I had hoped I would. Well, turns out I was really just "reading" and not exactly "studying." The tools from this class have been incredibly helpful and although I do not use them everyday I have been trying to use them a few times a week. I know I cannot be the only person that struggles with this, so I wanted to share a few tips I learned.
1. Get prepared. In order to get started with a bible study, I truly believe you need a good study bible. I have a number of study bibles at home, but my pastor recently convinced us to buy an ESV Study Bible and it has made a HUGE difference in my personal study. The benefits of this bible are worth a whole post in itself. I also like to use a pen and highlighter, so having those handy is also great for getting started.
2. Make a plan. Choose a consistent time and place that works for you to complete your study. One that is free of outside distractions. If you know that you are more focused in the morning in your office, aim to use that time and location to complete your study. Do what works for you.
3. Have a goal or destination. The key here is quality > quantity. If my pastor were reading this he would be shaming me for my chronological one year bible study because it is more focused on quantity. However, I have found a way to still apply these tools a few days of the week to my study. It's all about doing what works for you without compromising quality. Maybe for you this looks like setting a weekly chapter goal and breaking it up throughout the week.
4. God is the one who transforms us, so why not ask him to do so through your study time? Prayers don't need to be long but they should be intentional. Pray for guidance, pray that God would work in your heart through your study, or pray that you can get through Leviticus (that's what I'm praying lately).
5. Again, quality is key here so it is important not to tackle more than a few chapters. In this step you should be reading for content, context, and flow. Highlight sections that stand out to you so that you know to come back to them later.
6. This is undoubtedly one of the most important part of your study. This is the part where you write down your observations (I would suggest in a journal) so that you can concretely process the information. What did you dig up in this passage? What stood out to you? What was the main theme of the passage? Maybe you write down a few verses. Maybe you write down questions you had. Nothing in the bible is insignificant so just write. Use your highlighted sections for guidance here.
7. Here is where we try to find out what the passage means. Interpretation requires using other resources, including study bibles! This is not about our own interpretation, but instead the interpretation of what the bible is really saying. Think of yourself as an investigator.
8. Begin asking yourself questions such as: Who is the author? Where is the action taking place? Why did the author choose this word? What is the significance of this phrase? The notes you made during the observation stage will become helpful here.
9. Investigate. Use cross references and study notes to see if you can answer your own questions! Consider the context, compare translations, or talk to your spouse or church community. Don't stop until you have decided how this passage relates to the work of Christ and the gospel.
10. The bible applies to us and asks things of us. This is where we process what we do with the information we discovered in our interpretation. Your study is not complete without considering how this scripture is useful so DO NOT skip this step! It might be helpful to list out a number of possible applications. Consider questions such as: Is there an example for me to follow? Is there a verse to memorize? Is there a command to obey? THEN choose one or two of these applications and consider in prayer how you might be faithful to them. Be specific about what you will or will not do, and whom you will ask for help (in addition to God).
I hope this was helpful. If you are interested I would be happy to show you how I use these tools in my own process. If you have any questions PLEASE ask me and if I cannot answer them I know of some great resources that might be able to.
So tell me, how is your bible study going?
Also, I cannot take credit for these tools. My pastor was a HUGE resource in addition to The Village Church. I am simply just combining and reiterating their existing resources.
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