3 ways to lead a deeper Bible study

Today’s blog post is a guest post from a good friend, Mike Livingstone. Mike is a content editor on LifeWay’s adult Explore The Bible studies team, a position he has held for 23 years. Explore The Bible is a book-by-book study used by over 1.2M people every week. Prior to serving at LifeWay, Mike was as a pastor and missionary in Kenya. Today he leads a weekly Bible study at his church and blogs at mikelivingstone.com. Find him on Twitter: @m_livingstone.

Here are Mike’s thoughts about creating  “deeper” Bible study:

I’ve never met a Bible study leader who said, “I want to lead a shallow Bible study.” Neither have I met anyone who attended a weekly Bible study with the hopes of being bored by pointless superficialities. Regardless of our group members’ level of biblical knowledge or spiritual maturity, depth is what we aim for as Bible study leaders—a depth that informs the mind as it also cuts to the heart (Acts 2:37). Consider these three ways we can add depth to our Bible teaching:

  1. Lead a deeper Bible study by exploring the biblical text in its context. Teaching that uses the biblical text as a jumping off point for our own objectives is not Bible teaching; it is proof texting. D. A. Carson said: “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” You might be a proof-texter if you are not examining the biblical text in light of its historical and literary context. To lead a deeper Bible study means we allow the biblical passage in its context to set the agenda for lesson and to speak for itself. Put simply, we say what the Bible says. Let’s be Bible teachers, not proof-texters.

  2. Lead a deeper Bible study by aiming at the heart of the group member. Various opinions exist regarding what constitutes deep Bible teaching. For some, going deep means telling people something they didn’t already know (explaining the meaning of Greek and Hebrew words, for example). Deep may involve that, but deep goes beyond imparting new knowledge. We can parse Greek verbs all day and yet never move out of the shallows of a text. We can impress group members with our knowledge of Bible culture and history yet still be superficial in our teaching of a passage. Why? Because the depth of teaching is measured not simply by the amount of biblical knowledge imparted; it is measured by how deeply the truth of the biblical text penetrates the heart. We can mark the depth of our teaching at the point where the truth of God’s Word intersects where the group members live. If you want to go deeper in your Bible teaching, be intentional about connecting biblical truth to where people are. In other words, aim not at their heads, but at their hearts in the biblical sense of the word heart—the totality of the mind, the will, and the emotions.

  3. Lead a deeper Bible study by teaching from your heart. Tim Keller wrote a book titled Preaching, most of which applies equally well to small group Bible teaching. In it, he said: “If you want to preach to the heart, you need to preach from the heart. It’s got to be clear that your own heart has been reached by the truth of the text” (p. 166). His point is obvious: Leading a deeper Bible study involves more than preparing the right words to say about a passage; it involves the preparation of the teacher. We teach by who we are, not just by what we say. Consequently, a deeper Bible study is, to some degree, the overflow of what God is doing in the depths of the leader’s heart. That’s a very different proposition than merely than going through the lesson material and presenting what’s in the book. Your leader guide and other lesson helps will help you add depth to the content of your teaching. Building relationships with your group members will help you connect God’s Word to where they live. Your personal study of a biblical text in deep pursuit of God—and not just in search of lesson material—will take your teaching to another level.

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