Last night we look at preparing a Bible study here is some of what we looked at, some are specific to Acts which we are studying but the general principle is obvious enough:
Listening to the text – these are basic questions to ask as you read through the text:
1. What amazes me and is worth praising God for?
2. What questions do I have about the passage?
3. What is Luke saying?
4. Why does he say it as he does?
5. Why does he say it like this in context?
6. What did it mean to the first readers?
7. What does it mean now?
8. What should we do about it?
To help with teaching it we then thought about two questions which we need to formulate prior to planning our study and working on the questions so that we know what we are aiming at:
1. What is the main teaching point of the passage? (try to get this into one sentence)
2. What is the main change in us the passage calls for? (in one sentence)
There will be other things the passage teaches us and other changes it calls us to but getting the main thrust (the melodic line if you think musically) is vital.
Applying the passage:
Having done the hard work on the text we need to do the work on our group, just as you examine and question the text we need to do so with those we will be leading in the study. Two questions are helpful here:
1. What pastoral issues and problems does this throw up for the group and its members?
2. What theological tensions does this passage raise?
Pastoral issues can be things like knowing what struggles your group is facing, where are they at spiritually; are they in danger of drifting, are they gradually disengaging from church, are they passionate and keen. Do they feel as God is distant? Are they praying and reading God's word? Does their life seem characterised by joy or joylessness? What is their marriage like? What is their family, work life like?
Theological issues can flow out from the above - for example questions about God's sovereignty and suffering, or why bother with evangelism, questions and struggles about the Bible and our interpretation of it and so on.
Knowing both of these will help us sharpen our application up so it is specific not just the generic - what do you think this passage has to teach us?
Application is vital but difficult. I personally find it helpful to think through the following:
A. Necessary application – how it must apply to all readers at all times.
B. Impossible application – how it cannot possibly apply.
C. Possible application – how might it apply personally?