Bible Study Methods: Spiritual Disciplines

Most of us have been there—sitting down in the morning, cup of coffee in one hand, Bible in the other. We flip through thin pages until we find where we left off the day before, and we pick up with the next chapter or verse. The tiny words dance in front of our eyes, as we try to concentrate, try to pay attention to what the Lord might have for us in His Word that morning. We read the section—a few verses, a few chapters—and although we know we did something good by taking the time to read the Bible, we’re left with the question “now what?” as we end. So we sigh, not sure how to approach this passage of Scripture, not really sure what to do with it, we close the covers of our Bibles and put it away until (hopefully) the next morning.

While I hope that this is not always the case for us, friends, I know there are seasons in which we need something fresh to apply to our Bible study. It is not that the Bible is insufficient. It is that our eyes and ears need some freshening up. We need to cycle back to the simple basics.

I have said previously that there is more to spiritual disciplines than the traditional evangelical “quiet time.” This is true. But regardless of what our spiritual life may look like, we cannot escape the importance of the Bible. It must find a place in our walk with the Lord—though what that looks like may vary based on our season of life or temperament. The Bible contains the words of God for us. It reminds us who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing. It shows us his way to live, inviting us into the abundant life of following his commands. We cannot set the Bible aside or shrug off the critical importance it holds for the Christian life.

But, sadly, as with many important things, our reading of Scripture can become rote, and we can find ourselves lost in a season of dryness or finding that we don’t actually know how to study Scripture well.

Some use pre-written Bible study guides, which guide you through the passage and offer questions to consider. This sort of guide, from a trustworthy teacher, can be extremely helpful.

Others like to dive into biblical commentaries and make a more thorough academic and theological study of what they’re reading. This is also incredibly valuable (how could I not say this as a seminary graduate!).

There are many ways to study the Bible. Today, I would like to offer several sets of questions that I have found to be helpful yet simple ways to consider a passage of Scripture I’m reading. I offer them to you as a tool. I’m quoting these questions from Adele Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

I. Artist Method

  1. What speaks to my heart? - Draw a heart beside the word or phrase that sparks something in your inner being.
  2. What new thought or idea comes to me? - Draw a light bulb beside the new thought or idea.
  3. What does Scripture move me to do? - Draw a hand beside the action you want to take.
  4. Consider how to apply one of these insights today. 

II. Detective Method

  • Read a narrative passage of Scripture and let the scene and story take shape in your imagination. Ask who, when, where, what?
  • Once you have these “facts,” interpret the facts: ask why and wherefore. What meaning did the actions have for the characters? What meaning do the actions have for you?
  • Then apply your study to your own life. Ask how will this change my life? What do you take away from the study?

III. Treasure-Seeker Method

  • Is there an example here for me to follow?
  • Is there a promise to claim or a command to obey?
  • Is there a truth to be applied?
  • Is there a prayer for me to pray?
  • Is there a sin to be confessed?
  • Is there a question God is asking me?

IV. Jesus’ Apprentice Method

As you read one of the Gospels, ask:

  • What seems important to Jesus?
  • What sort of questions does he ask people?
  • What sort of questions do people ask him?
  • What is Jesus inviting me to be and do?

Try picking one of these approaches and using it with your daily Scripture reading.