By Billy Doolittle
Whether you were asked to lead a Bible study or you were assigned to perform it, you are now preparing to teach a multitude of people and you have an idea of where to start. These are some helpful dont’s to aid you in study.
-Don’t underestimate your time.
Time is of the essence and the clock is always ticking. During my time at Southwestern, a professor informed the class that one hour of study equals one minute of teaching. This is true time and time again. To maximize my study, I free think through the text, reading it several times. If you read it thoroughly, you will be able to recall what you have read when reading through other texts. Sometimes the greatest artillery is recalling what you already know from similar passages. When John Piper prepares his sermons, he reads the texts and writes down related passages which he recalls. Reading and re-reading the text is the best starting point.
-Don’t be scared to use commentaries you disagree with
Use exegetical commentaries that provide legwork. Good biblical commentaries look at the text objectively, not seeking to explain the event within the text from extrabiblical resources. Keep in mind, the text is infallible and inspired in which we have received it. The historical data gained extrabiblically puts the text into a perspective which the biblical authors did not intend. How do I know this? Because the authors did not provide us that information. They have given the reader enough historical data of the event to understand the message they are sending. The final edition of the canon is the one which should be taught. A good textual commentary will guide you through the composition of the book and highlight what the text is trying to highlight for you.
– Don’t use a systematic theology book
This may seem a bit stiff-necked to some and to others it’s common knowledge. Systematic theologies can draw conclusions, which the biblical author was not intending to send. Systematics have its place in defending and teaching biblical themes and complex truths. With that said, bible studies should focus strictly on explaining the text in how the author penned it.
– Don’t misuse or under use your concordance
Just because the root of covenant means “to eat” doesn’t mean that’s how the Bible uses it (contrary to all of the potlucks I’ve attended)! To see the usages of a word and understand what the authors meant by it, use your concordance. Lexicons are helpful to provide meaning to foreign words. Test the meaning it gives from its usage in scripture. Words don’t have meaning, they have usages.
– Don’t go too fast
The detail that is involved in teaching the Bible correctly is tedious. Let it stick with them. I tend to speak really fast due to excitement I gain from the text. Your listeners are able to experience the same level of excitement if they catch what your throwing at them.
– Don’t worry about how much ground you cover
Its easy to make an intentional chomp on a large text and have the pressure of covering a lot of text. The cure for this uneasiness you feel is to create a handout of your presentation so they can visually see it when you gallop across the vast landscape of a chapter. They can easily refer back to it when they are curious about it the next day or if you are doing a series. Don’t be misunderstood, you still need to explain what you’re covering. Explaining scripture in the context of scripture means a lot of cross referencing and that takes time.
– Don’t go into theories from the text
Sticking to the main point of the passage is the product of thorough study. Sometimes it is helpful to say “[So and so] renders this meaning as [whatever]” but going in to great of detail can lead to a rabbit trail that you may not want your learners to remember anyway.
– Don’t ever give up learning the Hebrew Bible
The Bible was given to us in order for us to understand it. As weird as it may sound: God is infinite, we may never understand him completely, the Bible is finite, it is theoretically possible to understand all of it. We can understand all the Bible without understanding all of God, but we can grow in our understanding of God by learning the Bible. Learn the Bible to learn God. It won’t happen over night.
– Don’t give up teaching it
I have been through countless “discipleship” classes that have ended abruptly, I myself am guilty of this. One thing, in any area of discipleship, is do not stop. By continuing your study, you are communicating more than you can imagine. This practice of consistency will be one of the greatest gifts to give to your students. When I was being discipled by my close friend Ron, he walked me through the scriptures for 3 straight months with little break.
Billy Doolittle is a graduate and former Garrett Fellow at Boyce College. He is married to Brittany Doolittle and is a member of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. You can follow Billy Doolittle on twitter @BillyDoolittle