As we’ve noted previously, good Bible Study involves making observations, interpreting those observations and then making applications based on those interpretations. Thus the key to unlocking Bible-based life-change begins with making Bible-based observations. To do this, we need to utilize the Scripture text itself.
That may sound obvious, but it is often overlooked. To see what I mean, take your study group to Matthew 13 and ask them, “Why does Jesus speak in parables?” Then take note of how many people look down at the text for the answer. Of those, how many reference the actual text in their answer?
Lord willing, all or most of your study group will do this – and especially if they have been well-trained in understanding the importance of careful observation. However, many times I have noticed that people stare at me or off into space. The unchurched rarely do this; rather, they rightly assume that the answers are in the Bible itself. This is what you ought to encourage!
Note that this is most critical in the observation phase. It may also be important for interpretation and application phases if the text itself offers those answers, but it doesn’t always.
Some practical suggestions:
- If you find someone staring at you rather than diligently searching the text, direct them there instead.
- If someone gives you an answer (correct or not) without reference to the text, ask them where they got their answer from.
- If you’re feeling sneaky, you can occasionally ask questions that the text does not answer. See if they notice! (Note: I wouldn’t recommend this when working with young or frightened believers… let them get used to studying the Bible first.)
- Make sure that you yourself are not contributing to the problem~ When you ask a question, is the answer in the text itself?
What would you add to that list?