The steps I am about to offer apply to your personal quiet time Bible study, but they also apply to your group lesson preparation. I have said it previous blog posts, but it is essential that Sunday School teachers and small group leaders have a personal encounter with God in Bible study prior to leading a group to do the same. When that happens, the teacher/leader serves as a guide on a journey of discovery of God and His Word. For more thoughts along this line, check out Small Group Leader as Sightseeing Guide and the five-part series that begins with Leading Attenders to Meet God in Bible Study, Part 1.
These seven steps come from an article entitled 7 Steps for Studying the Bible which was based upon “Guidelines” by J. Vernon McGee. The article can be found on the Crosspurpose International website. I hesitate to use the word, steps, as used by the article. And yet I do like the order that is offered. In Part 1, I will share the first three of McGee’s seven steps in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- BEGIN WITH PRAYER. Open yourself to Him. Listen to Him. Praise Him. Lift up His attributes. Thank Him. Seek His forgiveness and grace. Ask for His help in understanding His Word. Ask Him to help you apply it to your life. Pray through scripture that you know (for ideas, check out Teaching Sunday School Members to Pray Through Scripture). Get your attitude right before God. I like what the article had to say here: “There is not a book that ever has been written by any man that another man cannot understand. But the Bible is different. The Bible cannot be understood unless the Holy Spirit is the Instructor.”
- READ THE BIBLE. Read out of the joy of knowing God, His will, and His ways. Read His love letter to you. Read with anticipation of what He wants to say to you in His still, small voice. Read with ears open to His truth, to His message for your life. Most important, read just to be with Him. Read devotional passages. Read assigned lesson passages. Read the context of the assigned verses. Read because you cannot get enough of God and His Word!
- STUDY THE BIBLE. Here is the part of Bible study that is most captivating to me. Prayer and reading the Bible are preparation for work I enjoy. I love to mine the truth contained within God’s Word. I love to look at the history and context of the passage. I enjoy reading other passages that relate to the events of the passage, the truth in the passage, or words from the passage. I enjoy doing word studies. I want to understand everything God has to say to me. I do agree with the article when it said, “Now you may be shocked when I say that I do not encourage devotional reading of the Bible. Over a period of years I have learned that a great many people who are very faithgul in what they call devotional reading are very ignorant of the Bible.” That is because they don’t study it for understanding and application. They study it to check it off a list.
Pray. Read. Study. In Part 2, I will share the next two steps, (4) meditate upon the Bible and (5) read what others have written on the Bible. Don’t rush these three essential first steps. These three along with the fourth step are what bring you into an encounter with God in Bibl e study. Listen to God before you listen to man (what others have written about the Bible). On which of these three first steps do you need to focus more in your private devotions? in your lesson preparation? What can you do this week to strengthen that step in your “routine?” Listen to Him. Practice the steps. Teach them. Be revolutionary!