As a pastor,I long to see my congregation dig into all of the treasures in God’s Word. You know that within the pages of the Bible they will find everything it needs to grow spiritually. But how can I help them get more from the Bible?
In his book Bible Study Methods, Rick Warren shares 12 different ways to study the Bible. In each chapter he tells you why that particular method is important and gives you step-by-step instructions on how to do it. He also includes a helpful Bible study form to use in applying each method.
Here are the 12 methods Warren uses:
The devotional method: Warren says this method sets the foundation for all of the others included in the book. If application is the ultimate goal of how we’re to interact with the Bible, then this method may be the most important for our spiritual lives. The method involves taking a passage of Scripture and prayerfully meditating on it until the Holy Spirit provides a concrete application.
The chapter summary method: This may be the easiest of the Bible study methods to use, and you need very few extra biblical resources to do it effectively. Using this method, you’ll get a general overview of a chapter. You can use the method to systematically go through God’s Word or you can pick various chapters that are of interest to you.
The character quality method: We’ve all got areas of our lives that need work. Using this Bible study method, you can work on positive character qualities that you need to improve on (such as honesty, humility, and diligence) and negative ones you need to avoid (such as pride and greed). Unless you really understand a character quality, you’ll never be able to develop it in your life. Through this method you’ll focus on one character quality, look at how biblical characters lived it out, and look for ways to build the character trait into your own life (or avoid it).
The thematic method: This study method involves taking a biblical theme (like interceding for others or “the hand of the Lord”) and asking no more than five pre-determined questions of the relevant biblical texts. This is another Bible study method that requires few reference tools, with a Bible and a concordance being the most important ones. It’s a great method to use when you’re preparing a Bible study or mentoring someone. It’s also a nice first step before digging into a more thorough topical study.
The biographical method: This study method is pretty self-explanatory. It involves picking a biblical character and studying his or her life as presented by Scripture. But it isn’t just about storing information on the person. The reason you study a biblical character is to see why the person was a spiritual success or failure. Once you discover that, you can either emulate what made them spiritually successful or avoid what made them fail. With more than 3,000 biblical characters, this form of Bible study offers an almost endless supply of opportunities.
The topical method: In many ways this method is like the thematic study, only more extensive. When studying the Bible topically, you typically attack a broad subject in Scripture (or in a specific book of the Bible) – like prayer or sin. Also, unlike a thematic study, you ask every question you can muster. What you get at the end is a broad idea of what the Bible (or a book in the Bible) says about the topic.
The word study method: Warren reminds readers that many of the great doctrines of Scripture revolve around a single word, such as grace, atonement, or faith. This study method allows you to focus on what some of these words mean in the original language. It’s one of the most reference-book-intensive studies of all the options, because you’ll need sources to be able to uncover the meaning of the biblical words in the original languages. The method is based on two things. First, the meaning you find from a word must be based on the original languages. Second, context must give you the ultimate meaning of the word you’re studying, not the English translation.
The book background method: This method helps you get a good feel for the background of the biblical passage or book you are studying. You do it by focusing on understanding the history, culture, geography, and political events surrounding the passage. Of course this method is highly dependent upon collecting quality Bible study reference tools.
The book survey method: In chapters 9, 10, and 11, Warren explains three methods that must be taken together. The three methods are best understood as a whole. In the book survey method, you get telescopic view of a book of the Bible. By doing this step first, you understand how the pieces of the book fit together. It helps you ensure that you won’t mistake the forest for the trees when you study the book further through the next few methods.
The chapter analysis method: Next, you focus your study on a particular chapter from the book you just surveyed. Through this method you’ll look carefully at each paragraph, sentence, and word in the passage you are studying. As you study the chapters of the Bible in this way, you’ll limit outside help and ensure that you’re getting your own insights on Scripture.
The book synthesis method: This is the natural conclusion of this set of three methods. After you’ve looked at the book as a whole and then analyze the different chapters within it, you’ll conclude by putting the book and all of the insights you’ve gained back together again. It’s a particularly important step after you’ve torn the book apart in the chapter analysis method.
The verse-by-verse method: In this method you take a particular verse of Scripture and study it in detail by asking particular questions, looking at cross-references and paraphrasing each verse. You can either use this study to work systematically through a passage or combine it with the topical method to look at all of the Scripture related to a topic.