Whatever Happened to Bible Study?

by Dave Miller on September 26, 2013 · 72 comments

Back in my day…

I know, all you young whippersnappers cringe when us old fogeys start talking about how it used to be, about the good old days when we walked five miles to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways. And I know that we often see with the fuzzy eyes of nostalgia. In fact, I’m convinced that there are many ways in which the church of today is healthier and better than the church of my youth. A true curmudgeon would never admit such a thing, of course, so I’ve not arrived at that place yet.

Having said that, I’d like to point out a modern trend that I find slightly disturbing.

It seems to me that simple Bible study – when we open a Bible and study it together – is slowly vanishing from the church.

Oh, we have studies and we call them Bible studies, but the primary source of the study is often a book or curriculum about the Bible, not the Bible itself.  The Ladies ministry has “Bible Studies” but they are really studies the thoughts and writings of Beth Moore or Mary Kassian or Lysa TerKeurst or Liz Curtis Higgs or some other well-known author and speaker. I’m not particularly offended by any of those ladies and I’m sure there is lots to be gleaned from their books and study guides. Men gather and study some book about being godly men and there’s nothing wrong with that! I even hear of preachers who do series based not on a book of the Bible, but based on someone’s book about the Bible. Small groups use this book or that study. And, in full disclosure, my life was radically changed at a pastors’ conference when we studied Henry Blackaby’s “Fresh Encounter” series, and later the “Experiencing God” curriculum was instrumental in a time of revival in my church in Cedar Rapids.

I am not opposed to Christian books, discipleship curricula and such things.

But I am just wondering, “Where did all the Bible study go?”

Back in college, I was a young loudmouthed preacher boy. Some folks asked me if I might “teach a Bible study” on a weekly basis. I took a crack at it. I was a Bible study novice and the only thing I knew to do was get a Bible, study it, and teach it to the unfortunate people who showed up. I tackled the book of James. Somewhere, I still have the notes from my study and it’s embarrassing to read them. But we had a Bible Study and we studied the Bible. We had no video curriculum (believe it or not, this was prior to the days of the VHS and no one had ever heard of Microsoft), no study guides, none of the aids that we depend on so much today. I just dug into my Bible and tried to share what I learned with others. There was a time when that was what Sunday School was. People studied the Bible, not quarterlies, and taught God’s Word to God’s people.

I realize (as I said, I still have the notes, so it is painfully clear) that my Bible study on James in 1976 was nowhere near as deep or insightful as the 100s of Bible curricula available today. But it was the product of my labor in the Word and I think there might be something to the process of actually digging into the Word, not just someone else’s insight into the Word, that is healthy. Could there be value to a teacher sharing the fruit of his own studies of God’s Word as compared to just being a “facilitator” for a discussion of opinions about the third chapter of the latest John Piper book?

I’m trying to avoid dogmatism on this. I recognize the value these books and curricula have. But I’m not sure that what we gain from them is always worth what we lose when our teachers have invested more time in understanding the words of the latest bestselling author than they have in mining the Word of the Author of life.

Dr. Howard Hendricks had a little saying in our Bible Study methods class.

“It’s amazing how much light the Bible sheds on commentaries.” 

Cute, I know, but he makes a crucial point. He reinforced it by not allowing us to use study Bibles in that class. All we were allowed was a bare text. He emphasized observation of the text as the first step in understanding God’s Word. No, he didn’t emphasize it – he drove the point home with a 10 pound sledge hammer. Read the text, observe it – before you check other peoples’ opinions and insights. Let the Spirit be your first teacher. After you have studied, after you have labored over the text and figured it out, then you consult the wisdom of the wise (often to see where you went astray).

Permit me to make a point that was recently highlighted in the international journal, “Duh!”

Bible Study should probably begin with and focus on studying the Bible!

Beth Moore or David Platt or Henry Blackaby or whomever else melts your butter can give you some insights into the Word, but ought we not be studying the Author, not just the authors who write to illuminate the words of the Author?

Maybe I’m just getting old…

 

1 James Ellis September 26, 2013 at 8:03 am

Amen. I have noticed theological debates and bible discussions where the bible is never even mentioned or quoted only their favorite books.

2 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 10:22 am

Well, James, Spurgeon said…oh, wait, never mind!

3 Tom Bryant September 26, 2013 at 8:04 am

I agree. I enjoy reading the commentaries and Bible studies and learn much from them both in content and sometimes in how to approach a passage, but when we stand in front of people it ought to be with an open Bible. We can almost develop a mentality of only the “superstars” can really tell us what the Bible means. We need to make certain that our people know they can actually study and understand the Bible for themselves under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

And, btw, sorry about my Rays eliminating the Yankees last night.

4 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 10:25 am

I think you touched on something significant – the superstar mentality.

I think a lot of us look at the big stars and realize we cannot top them, or even match them, so instead of giving them what we have, we give them what someone else has.

The food is good, but I still think there is a value to “homemade” food.

5 Dale Pugh September 26, 2013 at 9:12 am

We still do this every Sunday night. Open the Bible, read, study, discuss. Old fashioned, simple, and hardly earth shattering. Those who participate find it to be their favorite time together.

6 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 11:24 am

They like studying the Bible? Unique concept.

7 Dale Pugh September 26, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Yeah. Go figure.
Of course, it’s easy for us to do in a more intimate setting than larger churches might. We just use the home Bible study concept. I started in Genesis. We’ve worked our way through the Pentateuch so far. They want to keep going, so I will. I doubt I’ll live long enough to get all the way through the Bible……..

8 Daniel M Harding September 29, 2013 at 8:50 am

Dale,
I would be interested in your method in doing this? Did you start out prompting them with questions or do they provide their own? Do you tell them the week before what you will be studying,etc?

9 Dale Pugh September 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Daniel, I really don’t have anything amazing to share with you. I started in Genesis 1 and we’ve gone from there.
They know from week to week where we’ll be going in our study. We’ve basically taken a chapter at a time, but sometimes we will focus on one verse (for instance, we took 10 weeks to go through the 10 Commandments). I like to point them to other parallels in Scripture, especially where I can draw New Testament parallels. We are currently working our way through Deuteronomy.
I’ve asked if they want to take a different approach, but they all like the systematic “what comes next” way we’ve been going. Many of them grew up in church, but most of them have never looked at the Bible as it is, book by book. I believe it has really made a difference in biblical literacy for some of them.

10 Daniel M Harding September 30, 2013 at 8:55 am

Actually, that was the answer I was hoping you would give. I believe that a genuine knowledge of God is one of our greatest needs and this will only be fully found in Scripture. Thanks for the encouragement.

11 Ed Belding September 26, 2013 at 10:25 am

There is nothing wrong with using curriculum, books, or video series to guide studies but I absolutely agree that there is great value in a simple verse by verse study of the bible. It is foundational and we take for granted that each member does this on their own. No doubt some do but I wonder how many.

At a men’s ministry meeting at my Church I proposed that it might be worthwhile to offer one bible study series that is just that, a simple verse by verse reading and study. Perhaps go through various books of the bible in turn such as the Gospel of Luke followed by the Book of Acts; Leviticus followed by Hebrews; A study of epistles; Genesis through Exodus; and so on. Even among my age group (empty nesters) there is interest in this. We have recent converts from Roman and other liturgical traditions where personal bible study is not emphasized and they don’t have that foundation.

I think there is a void that this kind of simple study would fill even if the layman who leads it trips and stumbles over difficult passages such as Genesis 6: 1-4 or Hebrews 6: 4-6. The Holy Spirit is greater than our weakness as teachers and I believe He will bless our earnest efforts to study His word. Plus we can always use commentaries or borrow an M.Div from another class to help us through those tough spots. :)

12 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

If you borrow an MDiv, be sure to give him back later. They go bad easily.

13 Bart Barber September 26, 2013 at 10:52 am

“…no one had ever heard of Microsoft”

Oh, that it were still true today!

http://www.apple.com

14 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 10:57 am

Sip that koolaid, Bart.

15 Bart Barber September 26, 2013 at 11:12 am

Koolaid is probably the apt metaphor, since it is colorful and sweet—pleasing to the eye and to the taste.

Microsoft products would be chicken broth, or some other substance appropriate to a clear liquid diet devoid of pleasure.

16 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 11:22 am

But I can buy a Windows laptop without selling a kidney.

17 Bart Barber September 26, 2013 at 11:28 am

Yes, and I can buy a mobile home for a lot less than my house, too. That’s the key to getting the most value for your dollar: Buy the cheapest thing out there.

18 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 11:45 am

I am working hard on another snappy comeback here, Bart. I have three options – to admit you have won this war of words. Unacceptable. To labor for several hours to marshal some form of witty comeback to continue the repartee. Or, third, I can resort to name-calling and petulance.

Liberal.

19 Ben Coleman September 26, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Bart, some of just don’t like buying our computers and software from an arrogant and paternalistic company. Of course, that rules out Microsoft, too (yay, Linux!)

20 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 7:26 pm

In my musical theater days, I played Linux in the school play – “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

21 Bill Mac September 26, 2013 at 7:53 pm

You played an open source unix-based operating system developed in Finland?

22 Bart Barber September 26, 2013 at 8:31 pm

By any chance, in playing that character did you wear a red hat?

23 Bart Barber September 26, 2013 at 8:32 pm

I’ve got to confess: When I was in school I actually DID play Linus in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” It was in the days before video cameras (Thank you, Lord!)

24 Christiane September 26, 2013 at 8:59 pm
25 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Dave Miller as Linus - Morrison Academy's

26 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Me with my blanket – as Linus in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. For the record, Snoopy, the character to my left, is being played by Mike Myers, later the chief of staff for Ted Kennedy and one of the chief architects of “healthcare reform” (now known as Obamacare).

27 Mike Leake September 27, 2013 at 11:44 am

Is this from the days when “Black and White” wasn’t an option but the *only* option?

28 Dave Miller September 27, 2013 at 11:49 am

Spring, 1972, I think.

29 Ben Coleman September 27, 2013 at 11:58 am

I just figured it was back in the days when the world *was* black and white: http://calvin-and-hobbes-comic-strips.blogspot.com/2011/11/calvin-asks-dad-about-old-black-and.html

30 Zack Stepp September 26, 2013 at 10:53 am

Great post, Dave. I’m not sure if I still count as a young whippersnapper, but I appreciate these pre-curmudgeon posts.

I’m in my third year of being a small group leader at my church, and I’m ecstatic that, this year, we’ve eschewed a book or video series in favor of just straight-forward, verse-by-verse study of the Bible. This fall, we’re going through Philippians in 3-5 verses a week, and I couldn’t be happier. When we made the change, it was immediately noticeable how much was lacking before.

31 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 11:02 am

Great idea!

32 Bob Cleveland September 26, 2013 at 10:54 am

In our Wednesday night Bible study, we do just what you’ve mentioned. And it was really accidental. We started by going through a comparative study of the Baptist Faith & Message, and then did 8 weeks of Ken Hemphill’s course on Spiritual gifts. The guys wanted to keep meeting, so we just launched into Romans, which neither of them had ever studied. And we just went clear through Revelation, then went back to the gospels, and now we’ve gone through Genesis and are in Exodus. It’s been immensely rewarding to just let the Bible speak; no commentaries, etc. We’ve been at it about 6 years, best I can recall.

And despite what a lot of old Baptists seem to think about Sunday School, I tell my class we’re there to study the Bible. Period.

33 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 11:01 am

I was the pastor of a church in Virginia and instead of using the quarterlies (which at that point I had a very low opinion of), I was just using the Bible to teach Sunday School.

The deacons chastised me and demanded that I use the quarterly to teach Sunday School. I thought it was crazy that I was allowed to preach whatever I decided to preach at our biggest service, but was not allowed to teach a small group from the Bible itself. That church had some real moments!

But I think that was where this post began – about 25 years ago – when I was told that teaching from the Bible was not permitted in a Sunday School class. Absurd.

34 Adam G. in NC September 27, 2013 at 12:38 am

Had a very similar experience in north-central North Carolina. Our Sunday School class ALWAYS studied the Bible verse by verse and NEVER used the quarterlies. About once every coupla months someone would ask us where our “sunday school books” were. We’d all just show them our Bibles. I still believe that some of them thought we were slacking-off because we were not using the quarterlies.

35 Ryan Abernathy September 26, 2013 at 11:26 am

Our men’s group and a group of 3 men that I am personally discipling just use the bible for their text. It’s the nose effective discipleship we do. A guy made the comment at men’s study last night- I never knew there was this much to Noah’s ark. Awesome and exciting.

36 Nick September 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Biblical literacy is disappearing faster than an iPhone on launch day. For the group I teach, it is books of the Bible. I can teach the Word, and cover any nuance the text allows, by following the text.

For the group that meets in my home, we study the Bible. I’ve been in small groups that do book studies. They can be OK every once in a while, but it’s kind of like eating chinese food. It’s really tasty at the time but you’re hungry an hour later. Nothing satisfies like the Word.

37 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm

If you eat enough Chinese food at the local buffet, you are not hungry again in an hour.

Excellent comment.

38 Nick September 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I think that’s more from your blood thickening from the salt to the point of near death. Your body just ain’t hungry then.

39 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Yep.

40 Bart Barber September 26, 2013 at 1:13 pm

KUDOS!

For BOTH being on-topic AND indulging my Apple distraction at the same time. Brilliantly played, sir.

41 dr. james willingham September 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Dear David: Bible study has moved into small groups. We are attending our son’s church which has a well-attended Sunday School, but they also have small groups which study books of the Bible as well as some other subjects (I think). He has a working church, too. When we had to move due to the new Landlord kicking us out to get the trailer for his daughter, our son’s church had voted last year to use the parsonage for ministry after problems with the taxing folks over renting it (they did pay taxes on it). We had only 30-45 days to be out and no money for a month’s rent in advance plus a month’s rent, so the church invited us to move into the parsonage. I was also unable to move us, and my wife is an invalid. Anyway, I also had a wedding that day of the move, and at the conclusion of everything, My heart stopped beating and I collapsed, hitting two chairs on the way down. Thank God for modern helps. A defibilator gave my heart a shock and started it to beating again. Thank God for churches that help others. Good Hope where we were members contributed some 20-30 to help us pack, etc., and Berry’s Grove, our son’s church, where we now attend, contributed about about 50 people to help us move. He later wrote a letter to Good Hope, thanking them for the help, and adding, “And you really didn’t believe him, when he said he had 15,000 volumes, did you?” I think we heard the laughter all the way up here, some 19 miles North of Durham 10-12 miles need to be added between Durham and Carey. Anyway, I found the small groups functioning, quite effectively. The people participate as they wish, and there seems to be a good spirit in the church.

42 Clark Dunlap September 26, 2013 at 2:03 pm

“It’s amazing how much light the Bible sheds on commentaries.” Dr Hendricks! Wow. I love that. Now I can start my Bible studies quoting Dr Hendricks, THEN the Bible. ;-)

43 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I quote Dr. Hendricks often. One of my favorites: “The Bible is exciting. It takes a preacher to make it dull.”

44 Jim Pemberton September 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Spot on, Dave. I’d love to have a group for the purpose of studying together: not a lecture by someone who already did the work or an opinion session. But I’d like to see people who are willing to get their brains sweaty doing the work of seeking God in the revelation he gave to us for just that purpose.

45 David Housholder November 7, 2013 at 11:13 am

Excellent observation, Jim Pemberton. I’ve been in many sessions called Bible studies that were actually Bible teachings. They were Bible studied. A true Bible study should involve everyone in discovery activity.
The leader/facilitator must come prepared, but not to just be the expert. I asked an 8th grader recently about Sunday School in his church. He said “one of the pastors preaches a sermon” ouch.
And while I have the floor I’ll tackle another issue: “verse by verse”. We need to drop that approach. The Bible is not a string of verses. These are not sacred divisions. They help us find passages but it’s the sentences and, even more important, the paragraphs we need to study.

46 Ben Coleman November 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm

The leader/facilitator must come prepared, but not to just be the expert.

Would it help to have the leader/facilitator be a different person than the ‘expert’? That’s how it’s worked out in the home fellowship I’m involved in. I’m the one regarded as the ‘expert’ (which means the tougher questions get directed my way), but I’m not the leader/facilitator (which actually often gets swapped around from week to week). And while we do generally use a study book when the current study topic is a biblical book, in practice, in a particular session, we read the particular section of scripture and dig into it ourselves before turning to the study book for additional information. It’s not entirely unusual to find some point of disagreement between the group’s study and what the study book says.

“verse by verse”. We need to drop that approach.

I’ll agree. A ‘verse-by-verse’ approach can be a hindrance to developing the listening skill of following the train of thought in a passage, leading to, e.g., focusing solely on a verse that begins with a ‘therefore’ (or the equivalent) while ignoring that you *have* to pay attention to what came before to understand it.

47 Scott September 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Maybe bible studies using the Bible would be easier if the men coming out of seminary studied the Bible more themselves. The Bible is used mostly as a secondary text to the 1000′s of pages of commentary required in each class.

The people reflect their leadership.

48 Dave Miller September 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Actually, that was what I appreciated most about Dallas Seminary, though many discount it and even ridicule it because of the eschatological perspective of the school. But the fact is that the Bible was very much the textbook there.

You started with Howard Hendricks’ Bible Study Methods class (most important seminary class I ever had), then started in Genesis and studied your way inductively through the 66 books of the Bible over the 4 years it took to finish.

Our Greek and Hebrew classes were exegetical studies of books of the Bible (in 3rd year Greek you studied 1 Corinthians and Romans, in 2nd year Hebrew, you studied Psalms). The preaching classes were part of the Greek and Hebrew curriculum. You did an exegetical study of a passage and then you developed a sermon from your exegesis.

There were also systematic theology classes (each semester for 4 years) and some pastoral ministry classes.

But the Bible was the primary textbook throughout.

49 Scott September 27, 2013 at 4:42 am

I envy you your seminary experience.

50 John Wylie September 27, 2013 at 8:01 am

Dave,

Let me just say that discounting or ridiculing a Dallas Seminary education is in itself an exercise in ridiculousness. How do you get any greater minds than Dr. Ryrie, Dr. Bock, Dr. Pentecost, etc…? I would stack your Dallas education up against any other seminary in the nation.

51 Dave Miller September 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Having attended Dallas, and then transferring to one of our SBC schools, there was little comparison between the academic demands of the two. I carried 20 hours one semester at SWBTS and it was a breeze compared to just two of my classes at Dallas the previous semester (the 4th semestr of Hebrew and the sixth semester of Greek).

What was interesting is that at Dallas, they never made fun of SWBTS, but when I went to Southwestern, they used to ridicule Dallas all the time. And the jibes were ridiculous. “They just sit around and read Scofield’s notes.

In most classes, you weren’t even allowed to use a Scofield Bible.

Anyway, rant over!

52 Max September 27, 2013 at 1:51 pm

“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“If we don’t come apart; we will come apart.” (Vance Havner)

53 Art Stafford October 2, 2013 at 9:20 am

I’ve been in youth ministry for 20 years full-time and still teach from the Bible, mostly exegetically. Even when I go topical through a series, each issue is addressed from a key passage with supporting Scripture for clarity and context. I have taken youth groups through Paul’s letters, the Gospels, Genesis and Exodus, and the minor prophets. When I asked one group what their favorite study was, they said Amos. AMOS! I have not ordered our student Sunday school guides for years. The teacher has a guide and teaching aids, but the students need their Bibles. And when I teach on Wednesday nights or on retreats, they need their Bibles. Granted, some read their Bible on an iPhone app, but it’s where they are, and much better than depending on me to provide it on a screen. I love to hear kids ask me to repeat the reference so they can find the passage. And I even love to watch them find the book in the table of contents or mouth the words to the books of the Bible song as they look. It means they are trying to find their way around. Truth be told, I still have to do that sometimes, too. But then again, I still have to sing the alphabet song on occasion.

54 Peter Krol November 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Thanks for your helpful thoughts, Dave. I’m not old enough to decide whether or not this trend represents a change from the past, but I agree that it’s become common to study the Bible by studying Bible study guides. The average Christian alone with a Bible is almost as helpless as the average guitarist stuck with real sheet music. And it shouldn’t be that way.

55 Barbara November 7, 2013 at 9:42 am

I believe it’s good to study the Bible with a leader capable of teaching the Bible. To that end, I Kathleen Buswell Nielson (for us ladies) has been immensely helpful, and much different in both style and substance from the ladies you mention in your article. Her studies aren’t about personal observations and experiences, but rather about having the student to open up the Bible interact with the Scripture as she gives historical context and asks some very pointed questions to make you think, not about “what this means to me”, but about “What this means” and how that should then shape how I view God and how I should live before Him. It’s a world of difference and it helps to train women how to study the Bible effectively.

56 Bart Cline November 7, 2013 at 9:55 am

I would go so far as to say (no brainer really) that if the Bible isn’t your text then it’s not a Bible Study. At some point before I got there my church had scrapped Bible Study meetings for house groups. They all rely on pre-packed studies. None of them use the Bible as their text.

Some of us were sad about this so I asked the church if it would like me to start such a weekly Bible Study, the first one the church had had in ten years. You ain’t kiddin’ that this has gone out of fashion. Attendance is very poor. Christians in so many places don’t want the Bible. They want Matt Lucas, Philip Yancey, or whoever the flavour of the month is.

57 Jim Elliff November 7, 2013 at 11:51 am

Dave: Thanks for this post. In our ministry (Christian Communicators Worldwide, http://www.ccwtoday.org) we’ve made a considerable change in our activities related to the same concern. We’re having such an amazing response from leaders in various places when we have Bible Intensive Retreats, for instance. We put aside commentaries and other helps and just look at a small book of the Bible or a section of the Bible for 20 hours together. We’ve found that reaching for a commentary too quickly hinders the transformation that God promises through meditation on Scripture. One additional secret we’ve discovered over the recent past is simple but profoundly helpful: read the passage over and over. Repeated readings has opened windows of insight like never before. I could go on because there is so much value to returning to an emphasis on the Bible itself. May your tribe increase.

58 Dave Miller November 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Thank you, Jim.

59 Courtney Hill November 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Hey Dave, excellent article, well balanced and makes the point very clearly. I agree with you. I do see value to many of the books different brothers and sisters in Christ have written, and I’ve done studies with folks from my church through some of these books. We went through Platt’s “Radical” not long after it came out and it was an excellent study. But these things have their place. And that place, as you so aptly point out, is NOT in replacing the direct study of God’s Word.

I also like the emphasis your professor drilled into his students regarding letting the Holy Spirit be your first teacher. I’ve found that some of the most meaningful and passionate times of teaching I’ve done have come from first praying through and studying a passage for myself before taking into account any commentaries. But I still like to check these sources to make sure I’m not out in left field somewhere. Usually I’m not, but there are times where I’ve missed something that is very good.

Right now I am teaching our students through the book of 1 John and I’m privileged as well to be leading an adults bible study through the book of Philippians. This seems the best approach for an ongoing Bible study. I’m sure I’ll throw in a book study here and there along the way. Thanks again Brother Dave.

60 Dave Miller November 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Thank you.

61 DJ November 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Hi Dave,

Great article and much needed in our church today. I am going to be starting a Bible study in our home group and was planning on teaching through a book of the Bible exegetically and then asking questions or having discussion afterword about the text that was taught. Is this a good approach or should it be mixed teaching and discussion so the Bible teacher (myself) is not the only one speaking? This might seem more like a sermon than doing a Bible study. I wanted to know your thoughts on a good format for a home group. Thanks!

62 Mawia Mwendwa November 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm

When we lived in Detroit and attended the Metropolitan Church of God (http://metropolitancog.org/history) we joined a group that had started a Bible Study about 14 years prior and was just getting into the book of Habakkuk. They had been going through the Scriptures, verse by verse and meeting weekly before Sunday morning worship. I wonder what they are studying in the Scriptures today?

63 Roberta Brown November 7, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) is an interdenominational Bible study that uses ONLY the Bible, no commentaries, no study Bibles, just you and the word of God speaking to you. They have over 1000 classes in 40 countries. Go to bsfinternational.org to see if there’s one in your area!

64 Loren Sanders November 7, 2013 at 10:12 pm

After “leading” men’s groups through a number of different studies, with mixed results in each, I took on the role of outright teaching a Bible study to a group of about 12 guys. I spent so much time reading, studying and praying over the Word (and numerous commentaries old and new) in preparation for each week’s lesson, that I can’t describe the effect it all had on me as anything less than amazing. When we stopped, everyone involved agreed that it had been beneficial for us all (Thank you God!).

Like you, I also chose the book of James, and we spent 16 weeks in the first chapter! I think looking back on it, I could maybe whittle that down – or refine it – to about 12 weeks. LOL!

65 chuck kutchera November 7, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I have been involved in teaching sunday school for 6th grade boys, and what we have done is to do our own thing,which is bible study. We purchased bibles for them which stay at the church. When we read a verse we then highlight it. At the end of the year the boys get to take it home with them. I took a break for a year and started up with 3rd grade boys and have had them through the 5th grade and will have them next year. This year they are “getting it” as far as Scripture goes. We done Proverbs a lot, making right choices from what GOD says no what we say or feel. I want them to have a love for GODS Word.
When i became a CHRISTian I was blessed by great bible teachers on the radio, not positive and encouraging music , or talk which rarely mentions the bible, which is where most CHRISTian station are at now.

66 Peter Chubb November 8, 2013 at 5:10 am

We have regular bible study and prayer groups (well, sometimes we’re all really tired and just pray — we meet on a weeknight). But the way we work it is to read the passage, then have three questions: What is absolutely clear? What is unclear (can anyone else in the group clarify?) And, What do we need to do in response to the passage?

These three questions generate discussion. and usually more prayer.

67 Richard Speller November 8, 2013 at 9:23 am

In the housegroup that I attend we have recently been working our way through 1 Timothy without using notes or Bible stdy aids. We have not gone through verse by verse but read one chapter each week and then looked at that.

Sometimes we have also looked at the passage that the preacher will be using next week (i.e. the following Sunday) and worked through that, again without notes.

68 Libby November 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I am meeting with some gals teaching them how to study the Bible for themselves, going through 2 Timothy, inductively.

It is amazing to see the “lightbulb” moments when they have learned from the Holy Spirit by studying the Bible with nothing else in front of them.

I hope that we have a revival of true Bible study, very soon.

69 Granny in the Pew November 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm

So agree w/your article and I’ve been in SBC churches for well over 60 years. Love all the new guys and the techie ways the Word is connecting to this generation. But if you have not read the Word for yourself and can not see the printed Word on the page, any study or well written work will be milk and not meat. I have the opportunity to lead several groups each week and always open up the Word and read it, then use inductive skills to demonstrate how to gleam truth for yourself. My desire is that each will want to do the hard work for themselves but with a method that is reproducible over coffee, lunch, anywhere anytime.

70 Michael Karpf November 9, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this, Dave. We need to get back to the Bible. Prof Hendricks taught us well in how to study the Bible for ourselves. I am very thankful to the Old Testament and New Testament departments at Dallas Theological Seminary, who taught me exegesis, and the Pastoral Ministries department for teaching me how to “Preach the Word.” (2 Tim 4:2). We have lots of resources out there, and with the internet, they are readily available.
But instead of running for our commentaries or study guides, let’s study the text by itself to get the message. To exegete means “to lead out of.” It is slow, painstaking and detailed work. It is not something you can sit down and do in 10 minutes. Try 10 hours, and you will have barely scratched the surface (I often think so). But you come away with a much better understanding of what the text says, having done all this work. Then you can look at what the commentaries have said.
I understand not everybody has the opportunity to go to seminary. But many of them offer courses online, and often you can audit it just by watching online. But for those of us who have gone to seminary, to pastors and teachers that have had training in exegesis, preaching and teaching, we need to do our homework! I would much rather listen to a pastor who has done his homework than someone who hasn’t. I want to listen to a pastor who has done his homework. Pastors, if you have the training in exegesis, you need to do your homework. You need to set aside time for study. I need to push myself just as much to do my homework. And we also need to teach others how to study the Bible for themselves. Howard Hendricks has written an excellent book, Living by the Book, and it is available on CD as well.
Like you said, these material do have a place. I often use them. But they are the last step in the process.
I remember Dr Pentecost (who is 98 and still teaches 2 classes) coming into the classroom, carrying only his Bible. I had a pastor several years ago who would not take calls in the morning because he was having his devotions (except for emergency). I found out later that he read through the whole Bible every month. This man knew his Bible.
There is a drawback. Many don’t want to listen to a solid expository message. They want a “feel good” message instead. The word of faith gospel is rampant here (Bangkok). Joel Osteen can do his mantra, “This is my Bible etc.” Mr Osteen, do you really know what the Bible says? You will answer to God. So will I.
It’s Sunday morning, and I have 2 Sunday School classes to teach. I promise you, the Bible is my primary resource, and that is what I will be teaching. No gimmicks or special effects. Just God’s word.

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