Typically, when we meet together as the church, we study through Scripture. For example, back at the end of October, we completed a long study of the Book of Genesis. Before that, we studied the Gospel of Matthew together.
Between long studies of specific books of the Bible, we often take breaks for topical or shorter studies. This is what we’ve been doing since November. March is the last month for one of these shorter studies, and I’ve been asked to plan our study for that month.
For several reasons that aren’t really important here, I’ve chosen the book of Colossians for our study. So, beginning the first Sunday in March, we will read through Colossians each week. Then, we’ll study one section of the book each week.
Typically, when I teach, I use a combination of lecture and discussion styles. The study of Colossians will follow the same patterns with one slight modification. Each week I’m planning to ask one person in particular to teach a part of that week’s passage. (Of course, each week, everyone will be encouraged to read and study the passage and to take part in the teaching session.)
I’m hoping that by asking someone to help me teach each week that I will be helping that person learn to study and prepare to teach. I’ll also be available during the week before to talk with that person about their passage and to help in their study and preparation.
I thought that I would also use this as an opportunity to share my own study and preparation methods on my blog. As far as I can remember, I have never shared this before. Now, before you get too excited – or too bored – this series, if you can call it a series, will be very casual and perhaps a bit random. I do not necessarily have a set study pattern and methodology that I use. I mean, I don’t have fourteen steps or seven objectives or ten whatevers. In fact, I typically allow the text itself guide my study.
What do I mean? Well, I always begin the same way: reading the text… the whole text… over and over again in different translations (and in Greek of course). In a book like Colossians, I read it the whole book in one sitting as many times as I can.
Once I begin to understand the flow of the text, I let the text choose how I proceed. For example, originally I had planned to teach Colossians in four weeks. However, after reading through Colossians several times, I realized that the flow of the text naturally led to five divisions (more actually, but I’m planning to combine a couple of divisions). So, I’ve decided to teach the book in five weeks now. If I had not taken the time to read through the text, I would not have realized the need for an additional week until it was too late.
Now that I understand the general flow of the letter, I will next attempt an outline. Of course, this will be a preliminary outline. I will not try to create a complete outline until I have had more time to study the details. In other words, I am starting with the big picture before I move to the details. Then, I allow the details to fill in or modify the big picture slightly if necessary.
In the last few years I have begun to understand how important the big picture is for exegesis of the biblical text. Sometimes this “big picture” is called “context,” and that’s a good word for it too. Before I begin to understand what exactly an author means by a particular word, phrase, or sentence, I have to try to figure out the purpose and context of the entire letter.
So, I’m going to give my readers (at least the ones who decide to continue reading) a glimpse into my study of Colossians.
In the next post of this series, I plan to share my preliminary outline as well as an explanation of why I divided Paul’s letter like I did.
Just like during my teaching sessions on Sundays, I encourage my readers to comment on this study at any time during the process.
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Alan Knox is a PhD student in biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a web developer. His interests include PHP and ecclesiology. His dissertation topic is the purpose of the gathering of the church in the New Testament. By God’s grace, he tries to live what he is learning about the church.
He writes about how our understanding of the church affects (or should affect) the way the we live our lives among other brothers and sisters in Christ. He's found that many aspects of our understanding of church (gathering, leading, teaching, etc.) are woven together such that it’s almost impossible to focus on only one aspect.
Find out more on his website, The Assembling of the Church.