I first encountered this type of Bible study in our church in Tennessee, Nashville First Church of the Nazarene. Our pastor taught a Wednesday night series on how to study you Bible. His approach was very much an inductive style of study.
So, what is the inductive style of study? Basically it is using the Bible itself as the primary source of information about the Bible. It is a disciplined way of slowing down and reading the text for what it actually says, not what we have heard in a sermon, or what we assume it says. It takes some serious practice in order to not read our own opinions and assumptions into scripture, especially if you are very familiar with a passage.
A great guide for this style is Kay Arthur's book, How to Study Your Bible. We have used several of her books in our study group, including 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2 and 3 John; Colossians and this year we are doing the gospel of John. This is not an endorsement of Kay Arthur -- sometimes I disagree with her conclusions and am not inspired by her questions -- but the books bring important structure to our group.
Here is the basic approach to my new style of Bible study:
- Read the text (an entire book or letter) in one sitting, normally in a translation I am not as familiar with, trying to read it through the eyes of the original recipients.
- Re-read the text, normally a smaller portion like a chapter, and make observations -- who, what, when, where and how -- writing down any unanswered questions or interesting points.
- Re-read the smaller portion of the text again, marking key words and main characters in the book, taking notes on what I learn from these observations.
- After this groundwork, I begin cross referencing other passages for answers to any remaining questions.
- Then I approach commentaries, or other sources of information to bring additional understanding.
- Of coarse, through all this, my prayer is to hear what God wants to speak into my life.
As I said, our group is studying the gospel of John this year. I will be doing a series of posts as we proceed through this book.
Have any of you tried an inductive study of Scripture? Or do you have a different style of study that you like? I'd love to hear from you.