During the past several years I have been frequently asked to provide some personal perspectives and general comments regarding the study and teaching of God's Word in a Home Bible Study setting. I have always been convinced that Home Bible Studies are where the "real action" is for committed Christians. There are no hard and fast rules regarding how to prepare for or conduct a Home Bible Study, but there are some principles which may prove helpful.
Our Central Focus
One of the key secrets to a successful Home Bible Study, in my experience, has been to focus on an expositional study, expounding upon the text. There is a simplicity-and a fruitfulness-to focusing on what God has said in His Word, addressing one specific book of the Bible at a time. This has proven to be one of the most effective means to laying an in-depth foundation that will last a lifetime, and which will ultimately cover "the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27)
My personal method is simplicity itself. After serious prayer, and having selected a target book for study, I then collect a few selected commentaries on that particular book. I prefer to own my own, so I can mark them up and annotate the margins. Commentaries are not expensive, and they will quickly take their place among your most reasured investments.
Another issue is the tempo or pace of the study. I have found that for most books of the Bible, a chapter each week is usually about the right pace. This allows some real in-depth exploration without getting bogged down in too many details or tangents. There are, of course, portions of Scripture-especially in the epistles-that merit a more measured and penetrating pace, but you can lose your group's attention if you don't keep it moving.
After careful and repeated rereading of the chapter for the coming week, I simply glean the insights from each of several commentaries, underlining and annotating as I go. It's not difficult to stay a chapter or so ahead of your group. As the day of the study approaches, I prayerfully collect my notes from the annotations in each of my sources. It's not difficult or burdensome to gather enough to contribute a valid understanding of the chapter to be discussed. Along the way, some specific topics or issues will emerge, lending themselves to more specific investigation. This is where some easily available supplemental resources-such as a Bible encyclopedia or dictionary-can be handy.
Where to Start?
One of the most frequent questions I get is, "Which book should I start with?" There are many sound answers. Which book interests you the most?
I startle many with the suggestion of starting with the Book of Revelation! It is the only book in the Bible that declares a special blessing on the reader and hearer! No other book singles itself out in that respect. One of the reasons it is always such a special blessing is that a proper review will include supporting passages from virtually every other book of the Bible. (The 404 verses of Revelation include over 800 allusions from the Old Testament!) It puts God's entire plan of redemption into focus-from Genesis to Revelation.
Another sound suggestion is the Gospel of John. It has been said that it is shallow enough for a child to wade in, and deep enough for an elephant to bathe in! No matter how diverse your group-from the novice to the sophisticate-all will benefit from going through this book again. It deals with all of the basics. I've taught it many times-and each time results in new discoveries! Other suggestions include the book of beginnings-the Book of Genesis, the prophetic Book of Ruth, or the Book of Acts. You can really start anywhere. Let the Holy Spirit lead you. He always knows best, if you're listening. And here's another incentive: there's no way to better learn a specific book than to teach it.
The Role of Prayer
Prayer is, of course, your most formidable weapon. You need to be in prayer continually in preparing for the study; you must always open in prayer; and you need to have a prayer team committed to continuing to hold up the study in prayer. It is a warfare, after all.
It should be understood that these brief comments are merely suggestions for teaching the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher and He will teach you in ways that can neither be manipulated nor regulated. His diversity and style is very individual. My personal prayer is that Jesus would reveal and teach His Word to you in ways that you could never have imagined, and that you would take to heart the words of the apostle Paul: "Let the Word of God dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another..." (Colossians 3:16)
(See our series of articles: "The Joy Of Teaching God's Word" for more information)
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