When I first started at home repair, I started by replacing a regular light switch with a dimmer switch. How hard could it be? Disconnect some wires, reconnect some wires… just like replacing a light bulb. Take the old one out, put the new one in. Simple, right?
I followed the instructions to the best of my ability. It wasn’t long before I learned how little my ability actually covered. I knew something wasn’t right when the light not only dimmed the dining room chandelier, but it also switched off the basement lights! Thankfully, with the help of a family member, the error was corrected and the lights worked as intended with the new dimmer!
While I’ve gotten better at home repair, it’s taken a lot of learning. When I think of the amount of times I’ve phoned a family member or friend, or ventured into Home Depot with nothing but iPhone photos (and the ability to point to them like a caveman who’s only form of communication is audible grunting) and still complete a project…. well, it’s amazing!
Am I an expert at home repair? No. But I’ve gotten better.
What’s true for home repair is also true for Bible study.
No one starts as an expert in anything. They must learn. Athletes practice and train to be their best. Craftsmen practice and train in the workshop. Christians need to do the same. That means that if Christians are going to follow Jesus, they must learn what God has said and learn how to apply it. No one is born with the ability to instantly know and apply what God’s Word says. It takes practice and training.No one is instantly able to know and apply God's Word. It takes practice and training. Click To Tweet
So where can you start? How do you begin to study God’s Word for yourself?
With the help of friends, I’ve compiled a list of favorite resources for DIY Bible study. This list, by no means exhaustive, is simply meant to be a launch pad to give you the skills necessary to beyond a surface reading of the Scriptures. I’ve organized this short list into paid and free resources depending on your own budget. Plus, these are my favorites, and aren’t meant to ignore yours! Feel free to share what your favorite resources are for DIY Bible study in the comments! (PS – There are no affiliate links below).
Paid DIY Bible Study Resources
- The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesburg. This book uses “manuscript Bible study” from an inductive approach, and is the best approach to dealing with the text without undue prejudices regarding interpretation. The idea is that even our favorite Bible translations impose their understanding when it adds headers to particular sections, and the manuscript method simply lets the text be the text. You determine ideas through contextual observational study (click here for an example). This book also does more than give you steps towards understanding. It gives you a framework in important convictions as you approach studying Scripture, including authorial intent (seeking to understand what the author says before I impose my experience and assumptions). It provides guidelines for gaining background information on what you are studying, and how to start “stepping into their shoes” to understand the original audience culturally, and it gives you opportunities for application. Highly recommended by pastors and bible teachers who I respect, this resources is a great starting point for DIY Bible Study.
- Deep Preaching by Kent Edwards. I find this book enormously helpful in understanding the goal of study, and the questions designed to help get at the main/big idea of a natural unit of Scripture are powerful primers. While it is focused on how to communicate and preach Scripture, the goal of biblical preaching is to understand and communicate what God said to the original audience. While this book doesn’t include resources for gaining insight into background on culture and context, it teaches you how to ask the right questions regarding the text, and how to wrestle with applying what you learn.
- We live in a different time than the one in which the Bible was written. We need help in understanding the culture, lives and language of the original audience. Some resources for this include the New Bible Dictionary and the Bible Background Commentary. For general life and times of the ancient Biblical world, check out The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times. Once you have studied the text and come to your own conclusions, you can compare your ideas (and further questions to) the New Bible Commentary in general and the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentaries (buy the entire set or just the book you are studying). (PS: don’t use the commentaries until you’ve come to your own ideas regarding the passage! The goal is for you to learn before consulting what others have learned!)
Free DIY Bible Study Resources
Sometimes cash is tight, so here are some resources that will cost you nothing to get into DIY Bible Study! (But start saving those dollars for the purchases above!)
- http://intervarsity.org/bible-studies/communal-discovery-method – While designed for group use, this can be adapted for personal study.