I’m sure you’ve heard of Bible study. I’m also fairly sure you want to do your own Bible study. (No, I’m not psychic, I just know that you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. 😉 )
The thing is, what do you mean by “Bible study?” What does anyone mean by it? There are so many people talking about it, so many different seminaries and colleges teaching it, and so many different ways to do it that we suffer from “definition disorder.”
You can do a simple drawing in the margin of your Bible and someone would say you had studied it.
You could also give a doctorate thesis on the harmony of the Gospels and people would say you had studied it.
So what gives?
It’s time to give a basic definition of Bible study:
Bible study is the intentional discipline of thinking about and investigating what you read in the Bible.
Of course there are many different ways to do this. (As mentioned above.) But the gist of it is: if you’re reading the Bible, thinking about what you’ve read, looking up words you don’t know, searching for interesting facts about the time periods and people in the Bible; then you’re studying the Bible.
There are certain ways that help you get more out of your study, of course. But if you’re doing those things, you’re studying the Bible.
Three Common Bible Study Methods (that you can get started with today)
1. Bible Journaling
This is when you keep a notebook or journal with your Bible, and record things as you learn them during your daily reading time. This is the easiest form of Bible study because it doesn’t require any extra materials, just your Bible and a notebook.
When the Holy Spirit brings something to your attention and you notice a principle you didn’t see before, write it down in your journal so you can remember it.
It is also the first level because you are simply reading what you would normally read. Nothing fancy, just your regular devotions, but you’re internalizing them better.
You can structure this however you want to, but if you are recording what you learn in your Bible journal, then you are Bible journaling. 🙂
2. Word Studies
This is the next level of Bible study: really digging into and thinking about a specific word or concept. (I’ve been studying diligence lately. :D) This is a fun and extremely eye-opening form of study that takes you all through the Bible.
You have to be careful with this one to make sure that you’re studying the word in context. It’s easy sometimes to get hung up on the definitions and synonyms, but words sometimes mean different things in different contexts. Make sure you read the chapter around the verse you’re studying so you know what the author was talking about when he mentioned that word.
3. Book + Chapter Studies
When you break it down, the Bible is really a library of 66 individual books. They all have different themes, authors, and audiences, so it makes sense to study each book individually as well.
Choose a small book to start with. (Matthew and Acts are rather large: we’re talking more like 1 John, 1 Thessalonians, Ephesians, or Colossians.) By reading it repeatedly, digging into the book or chapter’s main themes and subjects, outlining the content, and writing everything down as you discover it, you’ll have a great start on book + chapter studies.
Hermeneutics is the kind of in-depth Bible study that your pastor learned in seminary. This is probably what you were thinking when you heard “Bible study” to begin with.
Hermeneutics incorporates all the simple forms of Bible study in a very detailed way. Theology students carefully sift God’s word for His exact meaning; looking at all the historical, linguistical, and societal contexts available to us.
This Bible study method is very important, but you should work up to it by utilizing all the other methods available to you. Eventually, as you get more and more comfortable with studying the Bible in many different ways, you’ll discover that you’ve been doing hermeneutics without knowing it! 🙂
Need to know where to start? The Thrive Resource Library is chock full of Bible reading plans, cheat sheets, and checklists to help you build a balanced Christian life. Click here for access!