Today Pastor Steve welcomes a guest writer: EBC's Women's Ministry Coordinator, Christina Devlin.
Christian book stores can be overwhelming, especially when trying to find a good Bible study. We want to be able to trust it all, but the truth is we can’t. As a women’s ministry leader who has spent a lot of time in these stores, I have learned a few things and developed a list of criteria that helps me choose good, Biblically-based Bible studies. These 10 tips may be helpful the next time you are looking for a good Bible study.
1. First, Be Sure You are Looking at a Bible Study vs. a Biblical Resource
When choosing a Bible study, this tip is so key. In a Bible study, you are doing just that, studying the Bible. So, look for Bible studies that go through entire books of the Bible or study through whole passages of scriptures, like an entire Psalm.Bible studies that are topical are more likely to take a verse out of context.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to go through a topical study (ie: trials, motherhood, finances, etc.) But those studies would fall under the category of Biblical resources. When an author has written a book on a particular subject, you are studying their study of the Bible on that subject, not the actual Bible. That is a Biblical resource.
Distinguishing between the two is paramount, so that we know when we are studying the infallible Word of God verses studying fallible studies based on someone else’s interpretation of the Bible.
2. Look for Steps in the Bible Study
When you are at the book store, looking for a trust worthy Bible study, do not just read the back. Have you ever read bad reviews of the book on the book’s own back cover? Of course not! So open the study and glance over the pages, look for 3 steps:
These are the basic steps every believer should be equipped with as they study scripture. Please do not compromise on this. There are studies out there that do this, for even the busiest of lives.
3. Ask ‘Who is the Bible Study About?’
If the Bible study has those 3 basic steps, the next question you need to ask (yes, while standing in the middle of the book store) is who is this Bible study about? So many Bible studies will center its first observations in the text around the reader.
For example, let’s assume we are looking a study of Psalm 139.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.” Vs. 1-2
When the observations are centered around me, the reader, they may sound something like this:
While these may be true, we are beginning to study the Bible with ourselves as the center. This is a poor way to start out a Bible study.
All of scripture is centered first and foremost around God and who He is. Whenever we open our Bibles and begin to study scripture, our first question always needs to be "what does this tell me about God?" He is the center, the focal point, not us.
Going back to our example with Psalm 139, three God-centered observations would be:
God is a personal God
God sees everything
God knows everything
Yes, we learn about ourselves when we study scripture, but we only do so correctly when we learn about who we are through the lens of first knowing who God is.
4. Look for Room to Write.
A solid Bible study will leave you room to write. Again, you are not studying someone else’s study of scripture.
5. Look for Studies that Keep Personal Experiences to a Bare Minimum.
Everyone’s life experiences are different, and you can’t build your foundation on someone else’s experiences.
6. Look for Studies Recommended by Other Trusted Sources
(Ex: Gospel Coalition, or notable publishing companies such as Crossway Publishing.)
Red Flag Tips
7. If a Study is Taking up an Aisle and a Half of Space
That means it’s selling widely. Keep Matthew 7:13-14 in mind.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
8. If a Study has the Author’s Face for the Cover
In my time of researching and scouting for Biblical-based Bible studies, there is need for precaution to be taken here. Use discernment.
Definite ‘Put it Back on the Shelf’ Tips
9. If a Study or a Resource Promises a Happier Life.
Put it back on the shelf.
10. If a Study or a Resource Claims it has Unlocked any Great Secret of the Faith
Put it back on the shelf. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to following Jesus.
Be encouraged, there are some great Bible studies out there, and studying scripture well is worth your time and effort.