I have seen my wife grow in the past year more than I have seen her grow in our entire 17 years of marriage – and this growth didn’t require a new wardrobe. I am speaking of her spiritual growth and more specifically her love for God’s Word.
A couple of years ago she began to be impacted by a teacher of the Bible. Her name is Kay Arthur and she is a refreshing departure from the “Bible Study” norm. She doesn’t publish predigested opinions on how to interpret and apply Scripture. Unfortunately, much Sunday School, Small Group and personal material is called “Bible Study” but doesn’t actually facilitate much time “studying” your Bible.
What I almost instantly saw in my wife was that she began asking questions of the text: “How does this here line up with this over here?” She actually began to study her Bible – and not just study it but began to see more clearly its implications to her life. This enlightenment is 100% a function of the indwelling power of the promised Holy Spirit but I believe it was Kay’s method and paradigm that catalyzed the change.
I can see this very clearly in the form of an analogy. We all need to be fed – both spiritually and physically. As believers we typically gather once or twice a week corporately to “be fed.” This is absolutely vital for our spiritual health. At some point in our Christian walk, however, we must begin to feed ourselves – not in lieu of the corporate gatherings but in addition to them. Obviously, this should take place early in the Christian life just as self administering physical nourishment becomes a part the early development of any child. As our hunger for God’s Word grows we want more than we get on Sunday mornings – that’s just not enough.
So we feel compelled to be in God’s Word but many of us, if not most of us, have never been taught how to eat properly. Yes, there are manners and methods in our eating. Just as we can choke on food we have ingested too fast or experience a bad taste from food that has sat around because we’ve neglected it for a long time, there are certain ways in which you can properly and deliberately ingest God’s Word so that you actually realize the benefits of the nutrients within.
To take the analogy one step further and involve Kay’s influence on my wife, let’s consider fish. If we serve fish on Sunday mornings in our corporate gatherings, to be sure there will be some good southern fried catfish (or maybe sushi for some of us). So, in a healthy church where God’s Word is held in high regard and there is a commitment to teach truth, one can be well fed. But how do we teach people to fish – to catch their own fish throughout the week? So that day in and out they can “feed” themselves?
There is a world full of fishing methods and manners and to each his own. But, if there is a method that works consistently – a bait that repeatedly yields fruit, then by all means teach it to me! Kay’s studies don’t predigest the word’s of Scripture with the bold assumption that she knows what the Holy Spirit intends to teach you through a certain passage, she teaches you to fish. And she does not explain it in some pious instructional video where you have to imagine floating on still waters early in the morning but she takes you to the sweet spot, points out where you should cast your bait and then tells you why. She might give you some direction on bait types and the advantages or disadvantages of such but she gets YOU to catch the fish.
If you have ever been fishing or hunting and have been successful you know that joy of making your catch. Compare that joy and experience to hearing of someone else’s catch or watching it on a hunting or fishing show. Maybe the show or testimony whets your appetite but there is nothing like the thrill of the hunt and harvesting that fruit on your own.
Kay would be the first to tell you that inductive methods of Bible study are not original to her. However, God has unquestionably used her to help many folks learn to fish for themselves. She has simply assembled a few charts to give some structure to your thought and narrowed down a wide range of baits that you can use for any given passage and encouraged people to feed themselves – and she has quite the track record to back her up.
I have been cautioned, and rightfully so, that there is a place for the daily reading of God’s Word as opposed to an in depth study. The “study” it could be argued is what intimidates folks. First of all, I believe to neglect the general reading of God’s Word would be a detriment to your deeper study. If all you do is in-depth study then you’ll never get to some parts of God’s Word. You could easily find yourself only doing a deep study of two or three books in a given year. It could take you 30 plus years to get through the Bible that way – I don’t know if I have that much time left!
Allow me one last analogy; consider a mine shaft. Let’s say we are mining for gold. If I stop at the first few nuggets and spend the bulk of my time mining those, I could very well miss a part of the mine that has more and/or more significant nuggets. I could also not see certain pitfalls along the path if I am so caught up in the details. So, it would behoove me to regularly inspect the entire extent of the shaft to know its length and breadth as well as identify particular places. BUT, if we never dig out any nuggets, then we have never seen any real benefits from the mine.
It is certainly that way with God’s Word. We must consider and be familiar with the entirety of it – it is foolish not to. However, if we fail to glean any truth that is applicable to our lives, then our time there was much less than what God intended for it to be.
Reading the Bible through gives you an entirely different perspective. It helps you paint the overall big picture of God’s redeeming plan for His people and provides a context for the doctrines we will inevitably wrestle with as we do deeper study. But which comes first? We could debate that. All you have to do is be able to read to begin intentionally and systematically reading through the Bible, so in that sense it would certainly take less effort. So I’d say that for the newer Christian, that is certainly a great place to start.
However, those new Christians, and all the ones that are not so new, that aren’t “studying” God’s Word, MUST learn to fish at some point – and at my church, the latter outnumber the former. Kay has taken a timeless study method and designed a way to help even children of the faith begin to study their Bibles. As an additional point, I would venture to say that Kay’s approach is not only unintimidating, it will fuel the desire to be reading through God’s Word as well.
I really don’t mean to sound like Kay Arthur’s new marketing strategist; I have merely experienced firsthand the benefits of her ministry. Not only has God used her to be a catalyst for my wife’s spiritual growth, I have been using the method in my morning studies. I am convinced that the inductive method as she has so simply structured it is the best tool for anyone to not only catch their own catfish but to skin them as well.