Bible Study Methods or Method?

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One of the strengths of Evangelical Christianity is the insistence that members of the body can study God’s word on their own. Churches, seminaries, and parachurch ministries have done a great job creating resources for people to dig deeply into the Scriptures.

A trend I’ve begun to notice is an over-emphasis on one particular way of studying the Bible, the “Inductive Bible Study Method”. The seminary I went to had a course entitled “Bible Study Methods” that in reality only taught one method, Inductive. While the Inductive Method is a helpful method, it certainly is not the only way to grow from reading the Bible.

In our Destino movement we have a value that students who graduate will be exposed to a variety of ways to study the Bible. We want them to experience diversity in examining the Scriptures that is often missing in evangelical training programs.

We’ve identified at least four different Bible Study Methods we want to train our students in:

  • Inductive Bible Study MethodPrecept Ministries has a good overview of the process: 1) Observe, 2) Interpret, 3) Application. We have led this method in the past and will continue to do so again in the future.
    In our experience this method does not speak to Latinos as much as it does to white students. It often comes across as dry and academic, focused on knowledge about God. Since we minister on a college campus it is easy for students to begin to think their spiritual life is about obtaining more information about God, rather than living for Him.
  • Lectio Divina en Familia – We modified the traditional Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading”) method so it could be done en familia, in community. Our study was written by Destino students for Destino students. Download “Lectio Divina en Familia”.
    Lectio Divina focuses on helping people “chew” on God’s word. A passage is read 5 times and the group shares how God’s Spirit is speaking to them through the Bible. It helps people learn to listen to the Spirit and how He is communicating with them. This method is helpful in settings where people may be hesitant to participate. It promotes group participation that is independent of your knowledge of the whole of Scripture. Anyone can participate and share.
  • CHAT Method (Essentials) – Steve Douglass helped developed the “Essentials” Bible study format along with the Cru ministry at the University of Central Florida. Written for a postmodern secondary audio learners (can read but prefer to learn by listening/discussing) this format focuses on application and multiplication.
    As our leaders became familiar with leading the Essentials format we adapted it and created our own Bible study over the book of Acts.
  • Contextual Bible Study – This is a method we are just in the beginning stages of learning about. It focuses on the specific context of the readers, an area that Inductive Bible Study is completely silent on. We haven’t written this resource yet but plan to use it in the Spring in our movement.

It is common to hear that Inductive Bible Study Method is the most effective way to study the Bible. While we believe it is a helpful movement, we desire to have our students exposed to broader methods. If one of these ways connects with our students and they continue for a lifetime, we are excited.

When it comes to studying the Bible, we believe the more diverse the methods people know the better. God is a great God who is known through a variety of learning approaches. Let’s not limit Him to revealing Himself only through one method of study.
photo courtesy: eyebiz

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Posted on September 1, 2011

About destinoeric

A white guy who believes Latinos will change the world, Destinoeric served with Destino from 2008-2013. You can read more of his posts here or on twitter.

6 Responses to Bible Study Methods or Method?

  1. BVirtue says:

    excited to see what you come up with on the contextual study front.  I’ve got the rough outline for something I want to write this fall related to context and bible study methods. I agree that hard core inductive approaches (and people) routinely neglect context.

    • destinoeric says:

      We have an Epic-LD-Team-Inspired “resource week” coming up after thanksgiving. This is one of the resources on the table we may work on. we’ll let you know what we come up with! (If you want to make our job easier make sure to get your article out earlier…:)

  2. Dave Lowe says:

    I agree and I disagree with your premise Eric. Let me explain. I think the most important thing is that the truth of God’s Word penetrates peoples hearts and transforms them. I suspect that you would agree with that. The question is, what is the best way to get God’s Word in people’s hearts? This is where I agree. A variety of approaches is best. I like the old Navigators illustration of 5 fingers to get a grip on God’s Word. Check it out here: http://goo.gl/9PTsT
    Bible Study is only one way to get God’s word into our hearts and minds. There are other methods that are necessary. Namely, reading, hearing, meditating and memorizing. I think some of the alternative methods you mention fit into these categories. Regarding Bible study itself, I would argue that the inductive method may be the best way for “studying” because it is the only way I know that teaches people to learn for themselves what the intended meaning of a passage is. And that’s important because too many people take passages out of context and make them say things that they were never intended to say, which is dangerous.

    • destinoeric says:

      Dave,

      Thanks for the comment and link to the Navigator’s “Word Hand” illustration. I remember hearing about it before but had forgotten about it.

      I’ll respond later today with more thoughts on the inductive method, just wanted to let you know I had seen your comments and had checked out the illustration. Thanks for passing it along!

    • destinoeric says:

      Dave,

      Thanks for your thoughts. As I mentioned earlier I think the Navigator’s “Word Hand” illustration is a great way to conceptualize the different ways that we can intake more of the Bible. I agree with what you’ve said about a variety of approaches being the best way to get God’s word into people’s hearts. 

      I could write a separate post outlining some of the shortcomings I see the in the Inductive method. I believe it is good for a certain audience. The longer I do cross-cultural ministry the more limited I believe that audience to be. Let me see if I can explain more fully:

      * Inductive method is a very cognitive approach to God word that depends heavily on formal education. I’ve seen uneducated Russian pastors struggle through parsing verb tenses and sentence diagrams because they don’t have more than a junior high education. Are we saying that they cannot “study” God’s word in an effective way? What about the substantial percentage of the world’s population that is illiterate? Or Latino students who can read but prefer to learn by listening (secondary oral learners)?

      * The inductive method makes a fundamental assumption that we are impartial observers examining the text from an a-cultural position. It ignores our current context and how that may shape how we are approaching the text. A middle-class white Christian in Dallas comes from a very different perspective than a poor pastor from Sub-Saharan Africa. They will arrive at different insights as a result, but the inductive method is silent on this. 

      I had a few thoughts related to your last comment, “many people take passages out of context and make them say things that they were never intended to say, which is dangerous.”:* This can easily happen with the inductive method as well.* I read a great book this summer, “Spontaneous Expansion of the Church” by Roland Allen. He makes a great point about converts teaching the Bible and whether or not their lack of knowledge (of scripture or a particular method of study) causes heresy. He says, “the spirit which breeds heresy is a spirit of pride which is puffed up with an undue sense of its own knowledge and is unwilling to be taught.” He would argue, and I agree, that heresy comes from an sinful attitude of the heart and not from a lack of knowledge or poor exegesis. * Another point from Roland Allen is that maybe our problem is that we are too worried about the dangers of people teaching the Bible incorrectly and not focused enough on trusting the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. Am I trusting a method or a Person to keep them from heresy? This was a HUGE area of conviction for me this summer. I had to come back this fall and repent to our student leaders of ways I have led Destino in the past. I’ve trusted God’s spirit in my own life, but I haven’t trusted Him in others’. It’s been deeply convicting for me.

      Sorry this got long, but it helped me to process more what I think about the topic as I responded. Ultimately we want to teach our students the inductive method. We think it is a good method that can be helpful. We just don’t think it is the “only” or “best” way. But we still want our students to be trained in it and part of a much more diverse approach to God’s word (your Navigators example was great).

      Would love to hear your thoughts if you are still reading :)  I feel like I’m still in process in this area.

      Hope Portland went well.

  3. Dave Lowe says:

    Actually, here is a better link to Nav’s “Word Hand” illustration: http://goo.gl/KvvO7