Bible Study Methods
Here at Lighthouse Bible Church, our Bible Studies vary based on the group’s leader and what he or she is teaching at that time. Lighthouse chooses our leaders to lead based on their knowledge and love of the Scriptures, as well as their love and understanding of Jesus. They chose a method of teaching, based on the group of believers they are working with. However, whichever method they choose, our leaders’ study diligently to assure that their teaching is aligned with and backed up 100% by Scripture. In other words, they let “Scripture interpret Scripture.” They do so to not lead anyone astray, praying the Lord will use them as a clean vessel guarding their words.
One of the ways to study the Bible is to use a method called Scripture Memory. Teachers use this method when dealing with new Christians, especially children. Is it useful? You bet it is. This kind of study gives way to permeating the mind with Scripture. However, unless we go over those verses we already memorized, repeatedly, we may tend to forget them.
This style of teaching is often the starting point for young children, especially when we seek the verses that bring us to love and understand Jesus and His love for us. This method does help us to recall verses that may be relevant to answering questions posed to us by individuals looking to learn more about Christianity and what Scripture has to say. The Holy Spirit will help you to recall the right verse, at the right time. Some will use the following verse to show this method as being the best way to go. While it does have great merit, it is not the only way and does lack some essential elements.
Joshua 1:8 (ESV)
"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."
Notice that while this method is a great starter for many, memorizing certain Scriptures, leaves out the all part. Let us look at a few other methods.
Topical Bible Studies. As its name implies, a topical Bible Study covers, certain themes, ideas, or subject matters, by searching through the Bible, concordances, notes, and commentators, that wrote on such topics. If the leader is diligent enough to use the Scriptures to ensure that all presented is exact and backed by the Bible, then this can be a great study. However, far too often this kind of study tends to go searching through the Bible for key verses that support the topic and neglects the surrounding theme of those verses (see our article on “Verse by Verse or Topical”). This kind of study requires a great deal of diligence, to keep true to what Scripture teaches, thus maintaining the “so that you may be careful” (Joshua 1;8 above). If a leader is to use this approach to a Bible Study, then the leader must be highly knowledgeable and have a good deal of discernment. He or she must be painstakingly careful to examine the Scriptures to verify what its accuracy according to the Scripture(s).
Bible Study Guides - This kind of Bible Study can be extremely good, or extremely bad. The Bible leader
(teacher) must have a good deal of knowledge of Scripture as well as abundant discernment, not only in its use, and the material covered, but in selecting the author of the Book they choose. There are many great Christian authors, both men and women. However, there are many that, while they may be well meaning, are not as discerning. A well-versed leader that has good discernment exposes these authors. Some authors, sadly to say, are out to attempt to discredit the Bible. Others are out there for the fame and fortune. Be careful choosing this kind of study. We are!
This kind of study most often uses a format that will assign homework, or simply have a discussion of these questions at the group meeting, asking questions of its members. Some of these questions can be quite deep in nature and are far too often subjective to one’s opinion. Sometimes this kind of deep questioning leads to an individual feeling inadequate to answer and thus inferior to the group, so that they feel they should not continue to attend. A leader needs to be attentive to this kind of scenario and ready to address these issues, if any.
Good answers that are based upon and presented from Scripture when added together form a basis to a specific conclusion (deductive reasoning). All in the group will have a much better understanding and knowledge of the study providing the leader carefully exegetes surrounding texts. However, when left to our inductive reasoning, we will end up distorting the Scriptures, taking those verses out of context.
I have personally heard in some studies, questions like, “What do you think this Scripture is saying?” or “What does this passage say to you?” This may leave us with a variety of answers, not all of which may be true. Everyone has biases in his/her opinion, at least to a degree; have various levels of understanding Scripture; come from diverse backgrounds, that may have influenced, their understanding; have not necessarily taken the time to study the History or culture at the time the authors wrote the Scriptures. Inductive reasoning, therefore, is potentially dangerous.
Inductive Bible Study - Some suggest that the Inductive Bible Study is the way to go. This method is like the above “Bible Study Guides,” except it often leaves out the various commentaries and other sources of information.
Quoting one such source, “Inductive study teaches you how to approach the Bible so that you can arrive at biblical truth with confidence. Using questions, and the careful analysis of each text in its context, inductive Bible study can be the most exciting kind of study.” (Remember the “world” can be exciting too!)
Sorry, as explained above, inductive reasoning can lead to a large distortion of the truth. It is that this writer did not understand the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning, as explained previously. We cannot find the Truth through our own understanding (or should I say “misunderstanding”) of the Word.
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Psalm 14:1–2 (ESV)
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
The heart, as used in Scripture, means, the whole mind and thoughts of men. If we are truthful with each other, we will find that our hearts are naturally not in line with God’s will.
Psalm 14:3 (ESV)
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
Paul quotes the above in Romans.
Reasoning by our own sinful deceitful hearts can, and most likely will, lead us into error.
Character study. This kind of study, simply attempts to find out who the character(s) were and follow them through the Scriptures. Often, as we study the Bible, or as we hear sermons about a specific Biblical Topic covered (verse by verse in this church), we tend to take a quick glimpse over the character(s) found within the text. We hear their name mentioned, but quickly either peek at or simply do not take note.
Understanding the character(s) found within the text will not only reveal who they are but will help us to understand the passage much better. Studying them will show us how the Lord uses the various personalities and should unveil why He chose these characters to carry out His purpose. Some of these characters were weak and afraid; others were strong, but made weak; some were great speakers, while others were not. Some had a hard and bitter heart, like Pharaoh. One of the most famous characters, who imprisoned, tortured, beat, and who had put to death Christians, until stopped on the way to Damascus and directly asked by the Lord, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me.” (Acts 22:7b), was chosen by the Lord to become a new man in Christ. Saul, his Roman name, Paul (his Latin name), went on to preach and teach the Word of the Lord and wrote thirteen books out of the 27 found in the New Testament. All that God chose, He selected for His purpose and His Glory. Amen.