My conversations with Alexis lately have made me realize that I am very passionate about teaching--and particularly about helping people learn how to read the Bible in order to experience life change. The writing in this entry is extremely "academic." It's primarily for my own benefit... I might use it someday as fodder for something.
Many people feel that the Bible is hard to understand, even in "easy" versions. Those who do understand it well often call those who don't "hard-hearted," "rebellious," etc. This can be true at times; but I've found that other things can hinder the life-change process as well.
Vocabulary deficits. The average reader can be tripped up by words like "supplication," and there are passages that include more big words than Philippians 4:6 does (such as Galatians 5:19-21 in some versions). Often the consequence is that the person stops reading--and does not experience life change. This is something that can be remedied by consulting various versions. Sadly, a number of people are devoted to this or that version and chastise others for using other versions who may genuinely need to take advantage of updates to language that can aid in understanding. Language does change over time; and it is helpful to read translations that reflect current language customs.
Use of dictionaries and other study aids can also be helpful. Meeting in groups can also help with overcoming the impact of language limitations. Teachers, mentors, or friends who are knowledgeable in areas where we are weak can provide a great amount of help.
General comprehension difficulties. Books abound about how to interpret the Bible in light of context, writing style, etc. These are important resources, and these factors are important elements of Bible literacy. However, another key element that I don't often see discussed in these books (because it is assumed that people have adequate skill) is knowledge of grammar and its meaning in the passage. If a person cannot understand how ideas in a passage flow, she will not experience life change because she is bogged down in trying to figure out how the author got from one thought to another. Ideas do not necessarily flow from A to B to C. Sometimes they flow from C to B to A or from C to A to B. Jesus said that the truth was hard to understand; but he also taught those who were willing to listen. So should we! The fact that a person does not understand the C to A to B structure does not alone indicate a hard heart or rebellious spirit. It is often only in the teaching that we find out the state of the person's heart. The parable of the sower is a good thing for teachers to study here. We will never know where the seed will fall until we sow it!
Memory. Retaining what we learn is important: it is what causes the life change as what we learn becomes available to us at times when we can apply it. Sadly, we often memorize and hope to learn instead of learning and searching for meaning in order that we will remember. We need learning strategies that allow us to take hold of the meaning in what we are studying. These may not be the same from one person to the next. In my training today, we were introduced to John Ortberg's 7 pathways to God and the idea that everyone has a primary pathway but it's wise to develop more than one. I borrowed his book, God is Closer Than You Think, from the trainer. Without having read it yet, I will venture to say that utilizing a combination of pathways TOGETHER results in the greatest life change. We talked about using more than one pathway; but we didn't talk about putting together the pieces... My conversations with Alexis have revealed to me how important this process has been in my life during times of life change--and how lacking it has been during times when I have not experienced life change.
- Creation (nature)
This pathway is needed for Bible study. For some people it is either not developed or not connected to other pathways.
This tends to be a very strong pathway for many people. Combining the strongest of our relationships with reflection on what's happening spiritually in our lives can result in phenomenal life change. Sadly, many people relegate the spiritual to a private corner of their lives or to Bible study groups, where relationships are less well formed.
We often serve apart from our Bible study. What if our service was an outgrowth of the things we were studying?
Connecting worship with study is also a powerful way to achieve life change. Worship is much more than what happens on Sunday morning: it may be pulling a CD out, praying, or hummiong a tune in the shower.
For people whose primary mode of relating to God is activism, it can be very empowering to learn how study can empower activism. Those who don't study also tend to burn out and fall away.
For some people, this is no difficulty. For others, it is a huge challenge otherwise known as "quiet time." The challenge may be scheduling; but it may be a dislike of quiet or reflection. Journaling and/or meditation can lead to life change by providing opportunities for interpretation of difficult passages.
If someone's primary mode of relating to God is nature, an excellent way to build connections with other modes is by engaging in study, worship, contemplation, etc, outdoors, especially in a place where the person feels especially in tune with God.