On-Line Bible Study
Note: This article is based on a seminar I taught. It can be used for personal reading as well as to teach your own lay leaders. At the end of the article, I have hints from how I taught it.
Have some of you taken courses on how to study the Bible? How many of you use the Web for Bible study? Let's make this interactive by you sharing your thoughts as we go along. The Internet's so huge that as you minister to youth and use the Internet, you'll find helpful resources that the rest of us can use. So let's get used to sharing! Feel free to interject your suggestions or comments or questions as we go along.
Our Purpose: By the end of this session, you'll know the secrets of how preachers find all those verses and come up with such great insights. They don't have the Bible memorized. Like good carpenters, they just know how to use the right tools
Why Study Online? It's free. You don't have to purchase all these books. (Show my stack of reference books). By researching online, it's quick, easy, and simple to copy and paste insights and Scriptures into your Word Processor.
(Ask several people lead us in Prayer.)
So let's get started! I'll use the analogy of cooking and serving a meal to your students. We'll start with "How to Prepare a Nutritious Bible Study" and conclude with "How to Serve a Nutritious Bible Study."
How to Prepare a Nutritious Bible Study
If students just want to play games or meet people, they don't have to come to church to do it. Students want to know that when they leave your bible study, it was worth their time. They want to leave realizing that they learned something that is both practical and that they couldn't have learned elsewhere. How do you find nutritious, rich food to serve your youth?
To make things simple, almost all the resources I mention today can be accessed through two portals. In this way, you won't have to scavenger around to 50 different sites and keep up with their URL's. Save these two as your favorites and you're set! The portal for studying the Scriptures is "The Bible Gateway."
!!!Recommended Portal: "The Bible Gateway"!!!
I. How to Study a Topic (or simply find verses).
A. Brainstorm the key words related to your topic. If your topic's "prayer," think also of the words "intercession," "confession," "praise," etc.
B. Search a Topical Bible (Taken from the New Naves Topical Bible, containing over 20,000 topics and subtopics!). Go to http://www.biblegateway.com/tools/ and type your word into the "What the Bible Says About" box.
You can click on subdivisions to further narrow down the topic. (Example: Search with the word "Prayer," then click on "Answer to, Promised.") Does this give you all the verses in the bible on prayer? (No.) Why not? (It's not exhaustive.)
C. Search an Online Bible. (Related to a concordance. Also useful to find the reference to a verse you vaguely know. Take the most unusual word in the passage and search it in your familiar translation.) Click "Use Advanced Search Form" to narrow your search to a certain part of the Bible. Using two words, such as "love Jesus" will take you to only those passages that use both terms.
D. If you need more verses, search cross references of particular verses. In the Bible Gateway, click "Advanced Search" and "Passage Lookup" - Note: not all versions contain cross references. See the NASB for one that does.
E. Sort the verses by categories and narrow down the ones you want to use. Now you've got a basic outline to give structure to your message. Example outline:
Changing the World Through Prayer
A. Why Pray? (verses)
B. How to Pray. (verses)
C. Why Some Prayers Don't Get Answered (verses)
II. How to Study a Passage
A. Understand the immediate context. In the "Bible Gateway" (see above), click either "whole chapter" or "in context" (briefer surrounding passage).
B. Look at it in different translations. This often let's me know if there are different ways to translate it or interpret it. In the "Bible Gateway", type the passage into "Passage Lookup" and check the translations you want to see. (You'll want to remember that some of these are more literal translations, like the NASB or the NIV, and others are paraphrases, which are closer to commentaries.
Caution: Don't just look for the translation that says what you want it to say! Your goal is to find the translation that most closely represents the intended meaning of the text.)
C. Compare it to other Scriptures on the topic.
Note the Cross References. In the Bible Gateway, click on "Advanced Search" and "Passage Lookup" (Note that not all versions have cross-references. The NASB does.)
D. Gain wisdom from Bible Scholars and Preachers
1. Consult Classic Commentaries. Consult 12 commentaries on the New Testament and 8 on the Old Testament. (Why are they old commentaries? Because their copyright term has expired, allowing people to publish them free of charge.)
From the Bible Gateway, click "Study Tools" on the top menu. Then, click "Classic Bible Commentaries," which takes you to http://www.gospelcom.net/eword/comments/
2. Consult Current Commentaries. From the Bible Gateway study tools ( http://www.biblegateway.com/tools/ ), click under "Bible Commentaries" to find a valuable Inter-Varsity commentary on most New Testament books.
III. How to Study a Word or Subject
A. Consult a Bible Dictionary. From the Bible Gateway study tools ( http://www.biblegateway.com/tools/ ), find several by clicking under "Dictionaries," taking you to three older dictionaries at http://www.studylight.org/dic/ .
B. For a brief list of definitions as used in the Bible, consult a Lexicon (Definition: "a dictionary, especially of an ancient language.") From the Bible Gateway study tools ( http://www.biblegateway.com/tools/ ), click "Lexicons" and search the word of your choice.
C. To get more of a theological explanation (Much more discussion of the word, what different Christians believe about it, the history of the doctrine, etc.), find two helpful Bible Encyclopedias at http://www.studylight.org/enc/ .
How to Serve a Nutritious Bible Study
So you've purchased the food and cooked it well. Now you've got to decide how to serve it. There are two ways. One way would be to throw the steak into a bowl, dump the salad on top of it, cover it with blue cheese dressing and steak sauce, slosh the mashed potatoes on top, and pour the iced tea over it. Is it a nutritious meal? Sure. Would you want to eat it? Probably not.
The second way to serve the meal would be to put the salad in a bowl with a colorful array of carrots, cheese and other toppings, pouring a small amount of dressing over it. The steak is placed in a plate, next to the mashed potatoes. Tea is served on ice in an attractive glass.
Is the content of both meals the same? (Sure.) Are they equally nutritious? (Of course. That is, if you don't barf up the first one!) Yet, how many speeches have you heard with wonderful content, but delivered in a boring or impossible to follow format?
I. Learn From Others.
''It seems odd that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves should think so little of what He has revealed to others.'' (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, "The Prince of Preachers")
Before ruining your own creativity with other's thoughts, ask God to give you what He wants you to say to your group. If you're using a curriculum, read only the topic and the Scripture, then sit on the curriculum. Reflect on relevant Scriptures and reflect on how to communicate them to your special group of students. After your own prayer and reflection, consult the curriculum as a resource and explore other sources to get wise counsel on how God has led others to teach the same topic. Although we don't want to serve "take out" meals every week that others have prepared, we'd be foolish not to learn from the cookbooks of successful chefs.
Again, to simplify this part of your preparation, I'll give you a portal through which you can find most of your materials.
!!!Recommended Portal: "Youth Ministry Tools"!!!
Go to http://www.youthministrytools.com and click on "Bible Studies." (http://www.youthministrytools.com/biblestudies.htm ) to find several places to find youth bible studies free of charge online. If you go to the Reach Out Site ( http://www.reach-out.org ) and don't have a membership, you can click "Your Account" on the top menu to sign in for a free trial to check it out. The benefit of these lessons is that they are full-bodied lessons and help you learn how to study and teach as you use them.
II. Find Specific Garnish and Spices
Start with a good crowd breaker, intersperse contemporary illustrations and add learning activities to make your message exciting. Think first of any personal illustrations or activities you know that would highlight the subject. Next, go to our Youth Ministry Tools portal for more ideas.
Speakers' Illustrations - http://www.youthministrytools.com/illustrations.htm .
Bible Studies - http://www.youthministrytools.com/biblestudies.htm .
Games and Crowdbreakers - http://www.youthministrytools.com/games.htm
To make this simple, I've given you almost everything above by going through two portals: "The Bible Gateway" for the meat and potatoes bible study at http://www.biblegateway.com/ and "Youth Ministry Tools" for enhancing the presentation at http://www.youthministrytools.com . Play around with these sites and you'll become an expert in no time!
Other Online Bible Study Tools
Crosswalk.com ( http://www.biblestudytools.net/ ) is another great portal for Bible Study. A few tools it includes that Gospelcom doesn't: Robertson's Word Pictures (a commentary that concentrates on word studies) Torrey's Topical Textbook (another topical bible) and Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.
Answering Questions, Debunking Cults, Defending the Faith
Apologetics Index ( http://www.gospelcom.net/apologeticsindex/ ) . A cult member challenged one of your students on the doctrine of the Trinity. Another is in an online debate with an atheist about supposed Bible contradictions. This is the site to find all the information you need, plus much more!
Exploring Christianity ( http://www.christianity.co.nz/index.htm ) Some great articles that present Christianity in a simple way, in a language that's palatable for post-modern kids. Especially good for new Christians.
Devos and Gutsy Acts ( http://www.gospelcom.net/yfc/students/devos/ ) Devotions youth can receive via e-mail each day from Youth For Christ.
How to Teach This Lesson
I taught this in a seminar format to a group of lay small group leaders. I brought some of my study tools in book form so that they can look through them, including a Concordance, Topical Bible, Systematic Theology, Bible Dictionary, Commentary.) This not only helped them understand the tools, but let them know what a bargain they were getting by accessing them freely online.
I brought a notebook computer and hooked it up to the Internet so that they could experience working with the tools first hand.
Try to make it interactive so that they can tell what they've found online and ask any questions where they are confused.
Hand out this article so that they can have the addresses of each site in hand.