Monday, June 15, 2015

Teaching Others How To Study The Bible

My Ugandan students are tasked with creating a hermeneutics class over the next seven weeks. What class are they studying right now? Answer: Hermeneutics. But what a way to work through the course! Building a course while you're taking a course! Imagine what seminary would be like if when you graduated you were able to walk away with a class you could teach from every class you took. That would be one amazing seminary education if you ask me. And you know what else? It would force seminary to be practical.

Well, my students in Uganda have this task. They are working in groups of two and three. They can do a general how-to-study the Bible course, or they can concentrate on what body of literature (e.g., Paul's letters, the Gospels, etc.) or biblical genre (e.g., prophetic literature, poetry, etc.). The students are wrestling with one of the greatest difficulties I've seen in local churches. We are so committed to proclaiming what the Word of God says that we overlook the huge value there is in teaching people how to study it for themselves. There's an English proverb that goes something like, "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime." I'm really pushing them out of their comfort zones with this class. Instead of a class on the prophetic books, teach people how to study the prophetic books. Instead of a class on the Gospels, teach people how to study the Gospels. Instead of a class on Paul's letters, teach them how to study a New Testament letter.

Teaching a class on a particular book of the Bible can be difficult. Studying the Word of God is pure delight for those who are like deer panting for springs of water. It doesn't mean that it isn't hard work though. Building a class on how to study the Bible isn't all that easy either. You have to show, not just tell. You have to lead others to drink, not just tell how amazing the water is. Seriously, teaching someone to study the Bible for themselves is akin to bringing someone to a beautiful oasis in a parched land. Not teaching someone how to study the Bible for themselves is like you running off to the oasis, drinking up all that good water until you can take no more, and then running back to the group with a canteen and having them ration it out until you go back to the oasis.

I'm convinced we should teach people how to study the Bible more. We might do well to not let people get their spiritual nourishment from our canteens all the time. The only way we can get them to drink is to show them how we get to the oasis (and back). Sometimes you have to let them get a little past thirsty too. People won't go to the fountain if the fountain comes to them all the time. 1 John 2:27 reads, "As for you, the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in him." That's a New Covenant promise. Jeremiah 31 tells us that with the New Covenant comes a freedom from teachers. It doesn't mean that teachers cease to function in God's eternal plan or his purpose now with the church. But it is not God's intention for his people to be forever leashed to a human teacher. When we fail to teach people how to study God's Word, we keep them on the leash. We keep them nursing well into adulthood.

I'm hoping for a generation of trainers, not just proclaimers. And with this generation, I'm hoping we'll see a drastic increase in the number of people who are equipping others to read and study the Bible for themselves. The fewer of Christ's brethren that have a fear of his Word (or feel like parachuting into any of its books is like dropping into the jungles of the Amazon without a map or a compass), well, the fewer the better. Let's train people. We'll still need canteens, but more will be leading others to the fount that quenches all thirst.

6 comments:

  1. Great Thoughts Prof. Thomas Hudgins. I am one of your students in Uganda and yes, we are learning alot from you. Blessings

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    1. Gerald, so thankful for each of you. I'm praying for you all every single day. Looking forward to seeing eternal fruit through what God does in this course.

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  2. Hullo TWH, I am Henry one of the students taking your class this year. When you told us to do this project, i told myself, "I thought we were supposed to be studying this stuff. Not teaching it." Well, at this point in the project, i am excited. It is still hard work. But it's exciting. Actually, i have already taught the first lesson to a group of people who could not wait till the whole project was done. What can i say, it is not easy; but it is worthy.

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    1. Very exciting, Henry! So thankful to the Lord for each of you.

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  3. Hello Prof. Thank you for this article. I am also one of your students. When I read the syllabus, my mind was a little stretched..."how do I build a course I have no idea about. I am not trained in these things. How will I manage?" Now I relish the whole project, however challenging it is. Thank you very muck

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    1. Thank you, Gilbert! I can't wait to hear how the Lord uses this class in each of your lives.

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