What’s your motive for reading the Bible?

“The Bible is boring. I try to read it, but it’s just a bunch of words.  I can’t get into it.  I read it, but it doesn’t make a difference.”

For those of us who work with youth in the church, do any of these comments sound familiar?  Maybe we’ve even said them at one point in our lives.  Bible study and spiritual practices are crucial elements to our Christian faith.  And, while the church (and particularly youth ministry) is good at creating spiritual experiences, we haven’t been so good at teaching God’s Word. We’ve been even worse at showing others how to do it.  And the words above are concerning when we hear it from our students. It was even more disheartening when these came from one of my own teenagers at home.

This month I’ve been getting to know the good work and impressive leadership of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  One of IVCF’s many impressive leaders is Lindsay Olesberg, Inductive Bible Study Teacher and Trainer for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Senior Associate for Scripture Engagement with The Lausanne Movement. If you haven’t heard of Lindsay before, you will in the coming years. For years, she has been at the forefront of teaching and helping people to study the Bible and is now coaching multiple ministries and global organizations.

bs-handbookLindsay recently authored a book, The Bible Study Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to an Essential Practice (2012, IVP), that has been helpful to many college campus leaders.  These leaders have helped hundreds of college students, many of whom have no Christian background, to engage Scripture in meaningful ways and grow.

Here’s the deal:  Lindsay’s book is an incredible tool to help youth workers teach their students how to study the Bible.  Lindsay told me that she’s been getting notes from youth pastors now who had discovered her book and found it helpful with their youth work.

I recommend this handbook to every youth worker who wants to grow in his or her own study of Scripture and wants to lead their students in doing the same.  It’s super practical, very well written, you will grow in your own ability to study the Bible, and you’ll find ways you can immediately implement in your youth ministry on the next Wednesday night!

One of the issues that keeps people from effect study of Scripture is that they approach it with the wrong motives.  Lindsay notes a few of the common motives that block effective engagement of Scripture:

  1. We read the Bible solely to gain knowledge. Bible study is boring unless we see something new.
  2. We treat the Bible like a “Magic 8″ ball, expecting a mystical verse to tell us our fortune.
  3. We see the Bible like a government manual, full of rules and requirements that evaluate and critique our lives.
  4. We call the Bible a “love letter to us,” and thus reading the Bible is all about us and not about God (see interpretations of Jeremiah 29:11).  [taken from pages 23-24]

The Word of God is a shaping force that God uses to renovate our lives and hearts. Do we gain knowledge? Sure.  Can God speak to us through the Scripture? I hope so or it’s pretty inert.  Are there parts where God calls us to obedience?  Yep. And does God express his love for us in the Bible? Often.  But, it’s the motive for reading Scripture that often inhibits our study.

Given the recent Orange, Sticky Faith, and You Lost Me projects, one of the concerns has been the growing biblical illiteracy among church-going people. Perhaps it’s as simple as that A) we don’t know how to teach people to study the Bible and B) so we’re not spending time reading the Bible and C) letting it shape our lives.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to post a few highlights from the book. However, don’t wait for those posts, buy this handbook, read it, and then schedule in a few times to teaching your teens how to study the Bible.  If you can overcome some of the common barriers that students have, students who want to understand the Bible, you’ll be providing a foundation for a lifetime of spiritual growth and wisdom.