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Breaking Down Your Bible Study Type

No one likes to be labeled. If you’ve been subjected to a personality test, you know the feeling well. I do. But while I’m not sold on my “type,” the testing process forced me to examine my traits and tendencies. And this included the way that I do Bible study.

You don’t have to take a test to examine your Bible study habits. If the Bible doesn’t seem engaging or your readings seem arbitrary, something needs to change. Maybe the way you’ve been taught to study the Bible doesn’t work for you. Or maybe the way you’re prone to study isn’t helpful. We don’t like to think we fit into categories, but we certainly need to examine the habits that keep us from interacting with the Bible. Here are a few (non-exhaustive) Bible study “types”:

The Newbie. You’re new to the Bible, and its scope seems debilitating. You become discouraged with your Bible study plan when you hit the blood sacrifices and genealogies.

TRY THIS: Instead of working through biblical books systematically, opt to read the books and stories you’re familiar with. And then venture out to make connections. You don’t have to be a scholar to take on the Old Testament, but you do need to spend time creating and implementing a plan.

The Perpetual Planner: You’re organized and resourceful. You get a special thrill from crossing off your daily Scripture readings. It’s difficult to imagine deterring from your one-year plan—or anyone else deterring from theirs. You have a problem, though: Your Bible reading has become another item on your task list. It has lost its place of priority, and you’re neither hot nor cold about it.

TRY THIS: Consider other ways of engaging the material. Reading the text aloud is one way to experience the Word as it was originally meant to be heard. Let it resonate with you. Be open to the Spirit working in you as you read.

The Nonconformist. You don’t like feeling tied down. You feel claustrophobic when you look at plans. You need a way to be consistent, but you also need to keep your Bible study time from becoming monotonous.

TRY THIS: Shake up your daily routine. Read an entire book in one session. Other days, try mulling over several verses. Whatever method you employ, make sure your engagement is ongoing and intentional.

The Extrovert Extreme. You thrive in your small group, but you find it hard to sit down for devotional study time. Distractions are everywhere, and if they aren’t, you create them.

TRY THIS: Close the door, log out and open the Bible. Silent, devotional study spent meditating on God’s Word is necessary for our spiritual growth. We often think of Jesus’ instruction not to pray in public as a warning against hypocrisy. But He’s also talking about reducing distractions: “Go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt 6:6).

The Ascetic. There is a time to keep silent, and then there is a time to speak. But you aren’t invigorated by group settings and would rather not. You prefer quiet mediation over studying the Bible with others. Or maybe you feel like you have nothing to add to the discussion.

TRY THIS: Go to small group and church anyway. Community is where we find encouragement: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess 5:11). It’s where we’re challenged: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col 3:16). And we need each other: “For the body [the Church] does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.... But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor 12:14–19).

Take into account your own study habits, but keep in mind that whatever habits you choose to adopt or discard, disengagement is not an option.

All biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).