It’s been a while since I’ve talked Bible study, but it’s been on my mind quite a bit. My hometown Bible study ladies have been very sweet to let me test drive a Bible study I put together based on inductive study methods. The idea is to teach self-study methods while doing an actual study of a book of the Bible. My ladies have given me all sorts of feedback. Also? They’ve been known to bring salsa and warm tortilla chips fresh from the local Mexican place.
(Did you know you can keep chips warm on the way to study by placing them under the heat from the floor vents of your car? It’s true!)
I admit, we may not be the classiest group around, but we love the Word and we love Jesus.
We also really like warm tortilla chips.
And I’ve loved the last few weeks of leading these ladies.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing on Thursday nights for a while now – which is why my blog writing isn’t so very frequent.
The study is winding down now, so I thought it would be a good time to follow up on my “Five Things” post about Bible study by looking at the first important part of Bible study: repetitive reading.
When I was in college, and I really wanted to understand what my texts were saying, my go-to study method was to read repetitively: read the text over and over until I understood its meaning and related ideas. Repetitive reading seems like it should be obvious, but when it comes to Bible study, it is probably the one thing that we don’t think to do.
Most people cannot read a book (e.g. Philippians) one time and come away with a firm understanding of the big picture. Repetitive reading means reading the entire book all the way through, several times. With each successive reading, we begin to anticipate what is coming next, and the progression of ideas becomes clearer. These help us determine the purpose and main ideas and eventually lead us to finding the overall context of the book. And context is the first goal of repetitive reading.
Context is supremely important because it gives us boundaries for how we interpret individual passages. Far too often, we interpret scripture in a way that is not consistent with its context. Regardless of how well-meaning we may be, this kind of interpretation dishonors God and it can lead us astray.
Yet how many of us have read (repetitively) through a given book of the Bible until we firmly understand the context? Better yet, how many of us only read small fragments of a book at any given time? There isn’t anything wrong with that if we already know the context. But if we do not, then we should forgo trying to decipher meaning from the smaller passages until we have firmly established the context in our minds.
Can you think of a time when you wondered if you were interpreting a passage correctly or struggled over a difficult section of scripture? Ask yourself if you know the context of that scripture. If you do not, then you will probably benefit from repetitive reading of the book in which that passage is found. Let the passage sit on the back burner for a while as you read to establish context. It might make all the difference!
(There is a lot more to say about repetitive reading and inductive study. I will be posting more in the coming weeks, but there are plenty of resources available for you to find out more. Check out Precepts Ministries International for Bible study materials and classes on inductive study. Check out Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin or the resources on her website. Or, consider trying a LifeChange study. I have used several personally and highly recommend them, especially for beginner Bible students. If you are local and you think you would be interested in learning these methods with me, let me know on my facebook page. I’m looking to start up a study early in 2015 and would love to have you along.)
Happy studying, friends!
(the links above are not affiliate links.)