Preparing for Sunday School/Small Group Using the Inductive Bible Study Method, Part 3

Thursday 24th April, 2008

In Part 1 of this series, I mentioned that we want to give God and our classes our best effort. I asked if there was there a process that would help us prepare well. Then I shared about one great method which helps teachers get immersed in a passage of scripture is called inductive Bible study. There I shared ten essential inductive questions as well as two Word documents to help you work through these questions (and more) as you study a passage of scripture (check them out/print them):

In Part 2 of this series, I shared seven steps offered by Richard Krejcir in an article entitled Why Inductive Bible Study?. He calls the process "Into Thy Word." The steps are (1) knowing the knowable: bringing our mind to be right with God; (2) how: the method of getting into God's Word; (3) observe and interpret it: ask "what does it say?" and "what does it mean?"; (4) questions: ask and learn; (5) know it; (6) application; and (7) charting your path.

In Part 3, I want to share a final, slightly different outline for doing inductive Bible study. It is offered in an article by the Campus Crusade for Christ entitled Inductive Bible Study Method. Their method has six steps which I will share in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • SELECT A PASSAGE. The article suggests 3-10 verses dealing with the same topic. That is a good length. Frequently we try to cover too much in order to really grasp (or teach) the truth. As I have stated previously, a random plan for study is usually not as beneficial over time as a balanced plan. Be sensitive at the point of choosing a passage to the Holy Spirit's leadership. I like the question asked in the article, "Why do you want to study this passage?" It checks on your motivation.
  • OBSERVE THE PASSAGE BY ASKING QUESTIONS. The article asks lots of great newspaper questions (who, what, when, where, how, and why). Here are a few of them:  Who is wrting or speaking and to whom? What is the passage about? When and where does this take place? Why does the author write what he does? What problems are the recipients facting? How does this passage fit in with the context? What are the ommands and promises? What are the cause/effect relationships? What are the repeated words and ideas? What do I learn about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and/or myself (or mankind)?
  • WHAT IS THE "BIG IDEA" OF THE PASSAGE--YOUR THEME? What is being emphasized? What is the main truth? What is the key idea? The article suggests that this can sometimes be "identified from the commands and the repeated words or ideas." You should be able to "sum up the main thought of the passage" in a few words or a phrase. This will direct any further study in the passage or any teaching of it.
  • ASK THE NATURAL QUESTION THAT ARISES FROM THE "BIG IDEA." THIS WILL USUALLY BE "HOW," "WHY," OR "WHAT?" Let's say the passage is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This is the description of love. Perhaps your "big idea" was that " we are to love others with agape (self-sacrificing) love." The "natural question" might be "how can we do that?"
  • ANSWER THE QUESTION YOU RAISED FROM THE PASSAGE. If your "natural question" that arised from the "big idea" was "how can we love others with agape (self-sacrifing) love?", then your answers will be ideas of how to respond in times when it is hard to be patient and kind, etc. in living out our love. These will begin to help you see ways you can live obediently in response to this encounter with God in His Word. The article suggests that your answers to the "natural question" "form principles of life and ministry (timeless lesson in the way God works, how you should live or in thinking God's way)." The article suggests three steps:  "you will want to explain it (interpretation), illustrate it (from the Bible or personal examples of how this principle is worked out), and apply it. The article suggests asking these questions: Waht are the meanings of the words? What does the immediate and broader context suggest? What do cross-references and commentaries suggest? What is the cultural meaning?
  • APPLICATION. This is the step of obedience. After having gotten a clear picture of the truth God is communicating to you in the passage, now is time to put it into action. I like what was said in the article, "Application does not happen by osmosis but by intent. God enlightens us from the Word, we apply what we've learned with our wills, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to carry out these choices." Break the goal down into obedient steps forward. The article also suggests focusing on one principle at a time. At this stage, the article suggests asking some great questions that flow out of 2 Timothy 3:16:  (1) teaching--What did I learn? (2) reproof--Where do I fall short? Why do I fall short? (3) correction--What will I do about it? (4) training in righteousness--How can I make this principle a consistent part of my life?

Inductive Bible study takes time. But it is well worth the investment. Your relationship with God will grow. Your understanding of His Word, ways, and will also will grow. Don't rush personal Bible study (or preparation for teaching/preaching). Start early. Observe. Listen. Apply. Obey. Be revolutionary!

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