Friday, October 21, 2011

How do I study the Bible?

A thought for the day is that so many people who are not Vicar's or community/mission/home-group leaders in churches often feel ill-equipped, unqualified, not clever enough or just overly-daunted about studying the Bible for themselves that they never actually give it a try. Most pew-sitting Christians, certainly in the C of E, are not that different it seems from the pre-Reformation Church who had under law to let 'the Priest' alone distill truths for them (or as was more common hear the churches dogma and propaganda read out to them by often ill-educated medieval Priests in the form of pre-prepared sermons from the Bishop) . There was no [widely distributed] English language Bible available read by ordinary people until the KJV which is why the KJV 400 year anniversary celebrations are so important to take note of and follow. The common man could not read the Scriptures for themselves hence where we get the wonderfully chosen, life-giving and emancipating title of The Book of Common Prayer. Remember this, you were not permitted or able to read the Bible for yourself prior to the Reformation except if you were part of a monastic community or the establishment. It is stunning to me and ironic that never once as a child can I remember my Vicar (a dear and kind man) during one of the awe-numbingly boring journey's through the BCP liturgy suggest any of us actually read or study the Bible for ourselves which is exactly what it was supposed to birth a hunger for in us (as I am now Ordained in the C of E you could conversely argue that it did exactly that!). Boring though it seemed at the time, it did by God's providence and his grace get the stunning words of the Prayer Book into my DNA which have, as a consequence, been with me, blessed me and are within me to this day.

So it saddens me even more that still so few feel able or permitted to study the Bible for themselves and discover its treasure (particularly oddly sometimes in those that call themselves 'Bible-believing' churches) when there is such liberty and resource to do so. I will tell you what put me on to this realisation anew. A friend had to prepare something and to do this they needed to study the Bible. In order to facilitate this I gave them a few commentaries, told them to allocate some space and time, gave them a few pointers on how to do it and encouraged them that it wasn't that difficult. When I next saw them they were so enthused by their study and their revelations having been immersed in both the Bible and the commentaries. This really got me thinking.

I think most people, if they read the Bible's at all, do so as part of what has come to be known as 'a Quiet Time'. This is the time we allocate to be alone with God, read scripture and pray. All of these are good things. However, the next step on from this is what is called 'Study' whereby you decide to dig deeper into a book, a topic, a chapter or a word in order to find God's perspective on it. Our times of Facebook, 100 TV channels, the Net, Smartphones and innumerable leisure opportunities make personal study a less easy thing to embark upon. Few therefore seemingly may ever make this leap and this is such a sadness. I rightly or wrongly define study as simply 'reading the Bible with a pen in your hand'. Instead of your reading being just devotional it becomes participatory, interactive and life-transforming not just for you but for others.

I came across a book a few months ago that was such a truly helpful book when it comes to Bible study that I just wished I had found it years ago. Reading it made me immediately want to go out and buy everyone I knew a copy. It won't surprise you at all to know that Rick Warren author of The Purpose Driven Life is quite keen on equipping his people to study and it seems that doing so has proved incredibly fruitful for those in his church, thousands of whom have been sent out on mission. All I want to do is recommend this excellent book and believe just reading and applying the things it teaches will set you on a course that is unimaginably exciting for you. Do this for me. Allocate one hour, sit at a desk or table or in a coffee shop and read the first couple of chapters and prayerfully resolve to embark on ONE study. Even if you don't want to study the chapter called 'How to have a quiet time' is worth price of the book. It is my prayer though that some of my readers may even become preachers, teachers, pastors, missionaries and fully-equipped disciplers of others simply as a result of this post. I think it was J B Phillips who said that translating the Bible was like rewiring a house with the electricity plugged in. May this book help you I pray discover the power of the Scriptures for yourself.

So if you are someone who has never studied the Bible or if you are a seasoned Bible student and everyone in between I want you today to buy Rick Warren's Bible Study Method's and get started on some study.


Hannah Poulson said...

Thanks for this, David. I've taken your word and one copy is ordered and on it's way, whilst I was on amazon I took the liberty to buy one of the many other books on my gift list you've suggested: "Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?" Gary L. Thomas. Have a good weekend, Hannah and Andy

David Cooke said...

Thanks. Hope it blesses you!

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