For Christians, growing in faith begins with the Bible. In the New Testament, Acts 17:11 commends believers who "examine the Scriptures daily," taking the time to check what they hear against the text, which many churches teach is the inspired, infallible Word of God. Bible-reading plans and methods come in a multitude of sizes, shapes and forms for anyone who desires to become more familiar with the holy scriptures of Christianity. Regardless of which reading plan you choose, Pastor Keith Hamilton of Calvary Chapel Worship Center in Hillsboro, Oregon recommends that the best way to read the Bible is to "make the time and then take your time."
The best way develop a Bible-reading habit is to commit a certain time that works with your schedule, perhaps 10 minutes to start. Relax, and find a quiet place. Pray and prepare your mind to interpret the text accurately and objectively without importing any preconceived meanings into the text that aren't there. Francis Chan, founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, explains that when reading the Bible, the reader needs to "start with the text and draw out its meaning, rather than starting with an idea or conviction, then searching for verses in the Bible to prove your point."
Study for Knowledge
Many reading plans divide the Bible into 365 daily readings to complete the entire Bible in a year. This works for some people, but if the pressure of adhering to a rigid schedule detracts from your enjoyment or understanding of Scripture, remember that deep understanding of a few verses is better than a scriptural marathon with no retention or application. In the devotional method, the reader meditates on a few verses to discover a personal application. Chapter-by-chapter study lends itself to thematic summary or a detailed verse-by-verse analysis. Character studies can focus on the characteristics of one biblical character and the lessons the reader can glean from his life. In the same way, the reader can seek out verses throughout the Bible that address a particular topic or theme. A word study seeks to discover the original meaning of a scriptural word and how it is used in various contexts in Scripture. An inductive book study can delve into the historical, geographical, cultural, scientific and political context of the recorded events.
Various Bible-reading methods have developed over time to help readers process the messages in the text for better understanding. The SOAP (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer) method asks readers to choose and write out a short scripture passage that speaks to them and then make observations about the who, what, where, when, why and how, looking for key words and topics, commands, warnings, lists, comparisons, questions and answers.
The reader then considers the message in context and interprets how the lesson or theme applies to his life and writes a prayer asking for guidance in applying the truth in daily living. John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, advocates repeated readings of the same text for up to a month at a time for a deeper understanding.
Many Bible readers find that they receive much insight during their reading times but have trouble remembering the lessons later on. Keeping a journal of the passages, observations and applications provides a concrete record of the understandings that come to light as you study each passage. The process of writing down your thought processes reinforces the concepts for better retention and helps you focus in on the most important points for later reference and more consistent application of the lessons.
- How to Study the Bible; The Open Bible, New American Standard Version
- Getting the Most Out of Reading Your Bible - Handout; Keith Hamilton, Assistant Pastor, Calvary Chapel Worship Center, Hillsboro, Oregon
- Wabash First United Methodist Church: 12 Bible Study Methods
- Grace to You: How to Study Your Bible
- Forgotten God; Francis Chan; p. 23-24
- The Briefing: The Swedish Method
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