5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Bible Study
Just like that, January is over.
Chapter 1 of 12 is done, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to lose momentum. All last month we talked about the importance of putting yourself first, and this month we’re switching gears a little bit: from personal growth to spiritual growth.
This month we will be diving into the Bible and uncovering some key principles that have the power to elevate your mind; and change your life as well as the lives of people around you.
But BEFORE that, I want to address something that many of you have asked be about: When it comes to the Bible, what do you do when you don’t know where to start? It can be so daunting to know how to begin, which results in us leaning on preachers, bloggers and podcasts. While these resources are helpful, nothing beats your personal time spent with God — so here are 5 simple ways to get started.
NB: Please take the time to invest in exploring these — yes, life is busy, but think of this as one of the larger rocks in your time-management vase (if you’re not familiar with this metaphor, watch this short video about it here, it’s simple yet powerful).
And before I forget, I’ve got an exciting announcement to share at the end of the post, so keep reading!
Start with a good commentary
Commentaries are great places to start when it comes to reading the Bible. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what you are reading. Commentaries can open your eyes to meanings of the text that you may not have previously considered, or confirm your own thoughts and interpretations.
Some of my favourites are:
Visual thematic commentaries like the Bible Project! This covers the entire Bible on your website, YouTube channel and podcast. This gives you an overall summary of why particular books were written and what happens in each book (spoiler alert!). I also love how they explore themes like “Biblical Poetry” and Why the Bible is even relevant in the first place. Very accessible for everyone no matter how well you think your journey is going.
Websites that collate a number of commentaries like Blue Letter Bible, which also includes cross-references to the original Hebrew and Greek. My Word Search Bible is my favourite tool for looking up the Original Hebrew and Greek. Why is this important? Because the meaning of words shift overtime, so the closer we get to the original, the better our understanding is. For example, I recently learned that the word we see as ‘destroy’ in the Old Testament is closer to ‘ban’ than to ‘kill’ in the original language, which is major.
Collections of articles about themes in the Bible, such as the wisdom of Solomon on Bible.org
One thing to remember with commentaries is that the authors’ words are not final. Feel free to challenge what the commentaries may say. We learn how in Acts, some Jews didn’t just take what other people told them for face value, they searched the Scriptures to confirm the truth. I believe we can do the same, so don’t be afraid to challenge.
2. Engage in an in-depth Bible study
Beyond short plans on the Bible App, Bible Studies go in-depth to explore Biblical themes and get you more acquainted with Scripture. A couple of years ago I completed Beth Moore’s “Believing God” Bible study which opened my eyes to the richness of the Bible at a time where I was rediscovering my faith. Believing God promises to help you experience ‘a fresh explosion of faith’ and I can definitely say it was major for myself and the handful of friends that did it with me at the same time.
The entire LifeWay website is packed with Bible Studies from different teachers (mainly in America). But brace yourself, some studies are VERY in depth. Believing God takes 10 weeks for example, with a workbook that comes with it. This might seem daunting, but it’s worth it. As I said at the beginning, it’s worth the time investment.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions
Have you ever had someone tell you, rather sternly, “don’t question God”? I have, and unfortunately this misguided piece of advice does way more harm than good. Living a life of faith raises many questions…almost daily, I wonder why certain things are the way they are. Don’t feel bad and don’t shy away from your most difficult questions — lean into them. That’s how your faith actually gets stronger, and that’s how you develop a clearer picture of what you really believe.
If you’ve got questions, Apologetics might be a good place to start:
Apologetics: /noun/ “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.” — source. Take note that these are justifications based on logic and reasoning, not experience. So if you’ve been struggling with the reasoning side of faith, Apologetics is a great place to start.
One of the best resources for Apologetics is the Ravi Zacharias Trust, which does events, has YouTube channel and new podcast series. One of the first times I came across Apologetics was at an event held at one of the biggest corporate companies in the world. Listening to someone explain why God might just be real, even in a corporate setting was amazing.
4. Don’t do it alone
One of the most important parts of going ‘deeper’ in your spirituality is doing it with a community. Everything is better when we do it together, especially exploring the Bible. As mentioned above, I did my very first Bible study with a handful of friends — and since then we have read other books together and supported each other through the process of faith.
As I wrote in my book, we’re made for interdependence — so don’t go it alone.
And don’t think your friends aren’t ‘spiritual enough’ for you to study and pray with them. As Oyin mentions on our new podcast (more info below), start with the friends you have. If you’re all looking for stronger faith and a deeper understanding of Christianity, that’s all you need.
5. If you’ve got the time, take a course
Enrolling in a course is one of the most in-depth ways to get to grips with the Bible. You can start with Alpha, a free 10-week course (2 hours every week); which explores big questions such as the meaning of life, and ‘if God is good why is there suffering?’. It’s an open, judgment-free environment which was founded by an Oxbridge graduate and barrister, who strongly believed there was no God at all.
He decided to read the Bible to prove just how ridiculous it was, but by the time he was done he knew that Jesus was real, and that he was the saviour. In response he created Alpha. There are now groups all over the world, and you can find one near you here.
Watch Bear Grylls’ Alpha story below:
You can also enrol in an evening course or a bachelors/masters. A great place to continue your theological study in London is St Mellitus College.
And there you have it! 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Bible Study.
I hope these steps ignite a fire in you to explore what Christianity really is about, not just what other people (Christians and non-Christians) have told you.
If you’re craving some more after this blogpost, here’s a very short video by me on what to do when you feel like you’ve LOST YOUR DIRECTION.
Okay, now for the announcement: The Gathering Season 2 returns tomorrow night!
As you may (or may not) know, I’m part of the amazing team at The Gathering — honest conversations about life, faith and everything in between. Last year, we soft-launched with a couple of amazing interviews, and now we’re back and better with our podcast!
Follow us on Instagram and join the Gathering mailing list to get notified when the first episode is released tomorrow (Sunday 10 Feb). We are kicking off with a very raw and candid conversation on "Coasting, Losing Confidence and Finding Your Way Back". Watch the preview clip below and stay tuned.