Since May, I have been leading a disciple-making training at Grace, and for the past six weeks the focus has been on the various ways to take in God’s Word (hearing, reading, memorizing, meditating, and studying). When it comes to the study of Scripture, the most popular approach is the “inductive” method, which focuses on (1) observation, (2) interpretation, and (3) application. The goal of Bible intake should be life transformation, which is the goal of disciple-making. So, it makes sense then, that disciples should have a solid grasp of studying Scripture on their own.
In simple terms, better observations of the text lead to more faithful interpretation of the text, which should lead to greater application of God’s Word for the transformation of our lives. If I want disciples to be transformed by the Word, then it stands to reason that I must begin with observation – showing them how to be good “seers” of the text. Disciples should learn, for instance, to look for things emphasized, things related, things repeated, things alike or unlike, etc. They should see logical and grammatical connections in the flow of an argument, including main verbs, conjunctions, prepositions, etc. Could stuff so rudimentary be really essential to the disciple’s goal of becoming more like Jesus? I believe so.
One of the most practical ways of deepening my study of Scripture in the area of observation has been sentence diagramming for the purpose of observing the thought flow of the text. It is “rightly dividing the word of truth” with training wheels. In fact, I never preach or teach a passage without the first step of diagramming a text. What that said, I know the temptation is to think such a method is reserved for pastors or those responsible for leading the church in pastoral ministry. I would like to challenge that line of thinking and encourage all believers, especially those intentionally seeking to be reproducing disciples of Jesus to seriously consider employing sentence diagramming for greater Bible intake, ultimately leading to greater life transformation through the Spirit’s work through His Word.
In the follow-up blogposts, I will give the basics for doing this and how to do it with others, providing some examples I’m currently working through with others in my disciple-making class. I had several folks on Twitter and Facebook ask specifically for resources and tips on how to do this, and my hope is these articles will serve your purposes of knowing God’s Word and applying it to your life.
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Tim Brister has served as a pastor and elder at Grace Baptist Church since June 2008. Tim's passion is to demonstrate a life that trusts God, treasures Christ, and triumphs the gospel. Tim is the Director of PLNTD, a church planting network in association with Founders Ministries. He's also the director of The Haiti Collective, organizer for Band of Bloggers, and creator of P2R (Partnering to Remember) and the Memory Moleskine.
You can read more about Tim on his blog, Provocations and Pantings.