June 15, 2015
I am about to start my sophomore year of college. I am working a new job to help pay for school and prepare for the coming school year. I would like to start a Bible study for some of my classmates. My pastor back home gave me some ideas but after reading your great column for some time now I thought you might have some suggestions on what to include or anything else that would be helpful.
I love the Lord very much and have been saved since I turned thirteen. I don’t come from a Christian family but my parents are okay with my faith. I feel it is important to share the gospel with others as Jesus said we should, and also to study the Bible a lot. I think by starting a Bible study with others who are interested would be a good way to serve the Lord.
I would appreciate any suggestions you might have.
Thanks very much!
You sound like a very industrious outstanding young man. It is wonderful that you want to start a Bible study. I do have some suggestions for you.
Every Christian should learn how to lead a Bible study. If the Lord tarries, one day you might become a father. It is very important that Christian fathers know how to teach the Scriptures to their families because they are commanded to do so (Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:6-7; 11:18-19; 32:46; Psalm 78:3, 5; Proverbs 1.8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). By starting a Bible study not only will you be doing something important for the time being, but you will be preparing for your future, too. Christian mothers should also teach the Scriptures to their children (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20; 31:26).
To lead a Bible study one must first know the Bible. It is not necessary to know the Bible from cover-to-cover, but it is a goal that everyone should have who seeks to teach Scripture. It is best to teach through the Bible book-by-book. You do not necessarily have to start with Genesis and work your way to Revelation.
Choose a book to teach through and master that book. It is best to start with a book that you are familiar with. If you have limited knowledge of the Bible start with the general epistles (James through Jude). Begin with James by reading the entire book for several days. Pray for wisdom as you read through it (James 1:5).
Next write out a teaching outline. Write out discussion/study questions to give to your students. Memorize the key verses in the book. Spend as much time as possible meditating on that book. Continue reading the book once a day until you finish teaching it.
Do not think you must stick to your outline point-by-point as you teach. If the Holy Spirit leads you to teach on something that is not in your outline be sure to do it. If your class wants to focus on something that is not in your outline do so unless it is totally unrelated to the passage and you believe it would be a distraction.
As you study the Bible always keep the Golden Rule of Interpretation in mind:
When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate content, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicates clearly otherwise.
1. Determine who the message is being given to and why.
2. Determine if the message is to be understood as being literal or
symbolic; using the Golden Rule of Interpretation.
3. Determine the context (what is the subject).
4. Determine the dispensation and if the message is for us today.
5. Find as many passages dealing with the subject as you can.
6. Put together the message of all the passages to determine what is being said.
7. Give clear statements far more importance than unclear statements.
Base the message of an unclear statement on a clear one.
Before each Bible study pray by yourself for wisdom as you teach. Also pray that the Holy Spirit will give you and those in the Bible study wisdom. If one or more people in your study want to pray with you before the study, that is a good way to get started.
Before you begin to teach have a time of prayer with everyone in the study. Let some or all of the participants pray with the group. Pray as much as possible, for the prayer of the upright is His delight (Proverbs 15:8), and He hears the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29).
Encourage the students to pray short prayers. If someone prays for several minutes speak with him/her afterward and explain that in group prayer time it is best to offer short prayers. Set an example by your prayers.
Sometimes you can give the students discussion questions before you begin leading the Bible study. Ask them to write out answers to the questions before the lesson even if they don’t know all the answers. Read the verses or let the students read the verses that you plan to teach on.
Then ask them what their answers are for each discussion question. If they answer them correctly congratulate them. If they answer the question incorrectly give them the correct answer and explain the passage as much as is needed.
If they answer the question correctly you can explain the passage in more detail using cross references. Rather than spoon feeding your students the answers and lecturing them, motivate them to seek out the answers for themselves. Encourage them to study more, and emphasize the fact that a true disciple thirsts and hungers for God (Psalm 42:2; 63:1); for truth (John 17:17) and for righteousness (Matthew 5:6) each and every day of his or her life.
Also explain that as one grows in knowledge and understanding of the Word, one’s hunger and thirst for greater knowledge, understanding and wisdom grows. If you do not display a hunger and thirst for the Word in your life and in your teaching, your students will not develop a true hunger and thirst for truth.
Remember to explain that when one has an overpowering hunger and thirst for God, for His righteousness and the truth, it is important to study the Bible (John 7:37; 6:48). All of our spiritual knowledge, understanding and wisdom come from the Bible. It should be our primary source of spiritual food.
It is good to read books about the Bible and transcribed sermons by men who knew the Word and lived it. Some of the best heroes of the faith to study under are: John Wycliffe (1320s-1384), John Hus (1372-1415), Martin Luther (1483-1546), Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), William Tyndale (1494-1536), John Calvin (1509-1564), John Knox (1510-72), William Gurnall (1617-1679), John Bunyan (1628-1688), Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), George Whitefield (1704-1770), Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) and Miles Stanford (1914-1999).
Always keep in mind that when you answer a question from a student do not try to come up with a clever analogy. Rely on Scripture. Quote the Bible or turn to the appropriate passage and read it. Let God answer the question instead of you. It is the infallible, Holy Word of God that convicts people of their sins (Hebrews 4:12), produces faith in them (Romans 10:17) and gives them understanding and wisdom (James 1:5). Let God do the talking.
Most men who seek the office of pastor (1 Timothy 3:1) think it is necessary to graduate from seminary to be fully equipped. That is not true. All seminaries emphasize the study of commentaries and books by men they consider to be faithful to Scripture.
It is best to emphasize the study of the Holy Scriptures and avoid excessive use of commentaries and books; they will only cause confusion because we cannot be sure how the author gained his or her knowledge. Too many “teachers” or commentators simply repeat something they heard and never bother to fully study the Scriptures. But be sure to use Bible dictionaries and concordances. (I will leave you some resources below.)
The best way for a man to be properly equipped to be a pastor or Bible teacher is through daily reading, study, memorization and meditation of Scripture with intense prayer. It is the Word of God that prepares a man to be an under-shepherd of Jesus, not the study of denominational doctrines, commentaries and books.
Phil, if you follow these basic principles you will do well with your group. Please let me know how you are progressing once you are up and running for a while. More young men should be like you. You are setting an excellent example for others by taking your walk with God to others and not getting swayed aside by the secular entrapments that are so prevalent in colleges today.
God bless you and protect you as you move forward to serve Him in this very productive way.
In God’s love,
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Here are some good resources for you to assist with your Bible studies:
http://www.blueletterbible.org - An excellent resource for online Bible study.
http://asv1901.com/ - A full online presentation of the excellent and reliable 1901 Standard American Version of the Bible.
http://www.biblegateway.com/ - An exceptional site for looking up Scripture, all popular Bible versions are included as well as passage translations in a number of foreign languages.
http://www.e-sword.net/ - A fast and effective way to study the Bible online.
http://www.bible-history.com/ - Bible Maps, Study Tools, Archeology, Ancient documents and much more.
http://www.biblestudytools.com/concordances/strongs-exhaustive-concordance/-Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Online.
When I don’t use a computer to assist with my Bible studies, I like to use the items listed below when I need to look up something:
The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible - James Strong LL.D., S.T.D., S.T.D. Fully Revised and Corrected by John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament - Joseph Thayer
Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon - Francis Brown
An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon - Liddell and Scott
Exegetical Fallacies - D.A. Carson
A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature : Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains - Louw and Nida
Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 2003 Edition
Lexical Semantics of the Greek New Testament, Louw and Nida
Semantics of New Testament Greek, J.P. Louw
Bible Study instruction and Resource list extracted from, A Better World Is Coming Soon - Don’t Miss It, pp. 386-387, Kit R. Olsen, World Bible Society 2013.