This summer, we are studying the letter from Apostle Paul to the Church of the Ephesians. Ryan Potter, a staff member at Michigan State University and seminary graduate, explained the study to the leaders the night before the students arrived. There is always a little bit of fear going into a new book of the Bible. The spectrum of knowledge of the students coming into the summer ranges from very knowledgeable to almost no bible study training at all. The question that needs to be answered is simple in nature but complex in application. What kind of Bible study will foster an environment where the depth of the Bible is grasped while retaining the beautiful truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
The summer is organized so that for each day of the summer, there is a scripture that is to be studied going along with STP theme “NEW.” Some days, students will read a whole chapter or the whole book, but most of the time, they will study through three or four verses from the book of Ephesians or a related passage. By August 3rd, the students will have read through the book of Ephesians three times.
The whole purpose of reading through the book three times is to – as Ryan Potter says –understand the forest from the trees. With each week that goes by, the students move close to see the details and wisdom of the passage and then step back to see the overarching purpose and meaning of the entire book.
This week, staff members introduced a method of studying the bible that gives the students the tools to properly evaluate the meaning of the passage that they are studying. Larry Martini, a staff member at the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, walked the students through the Inductive Method of Bible Study. The Inductive Method of Bible study comes in three parts: observation, interpretation, and application. The whole purpose of the method is to start at the surface level of the text and dive deep into the meaning and practical implications of the passage. The following explains, in short, the purpose of each of the pieces of the Inductive Method:
Observation: The purpose of observation is to help students point out what the text says without inferring too much about what the text means. Observation strives to answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. It includes repetitions, pronouns, and possible reference words like therefore, but, and however. In this section, students should be able to objectively distinguish important parts of the text.
Interpretation: The purpose of interpretation is to answer the questions brought up in the observation section using concentric circle context. Concentric circle context encourages students to look at the immediate passage, the immediate chapter, the immediate book, other books by that author, and then other scripture. This teaches the students that many answers of tough questions lie in the text that they are studying.
Application: The important purpose of application is to give the students practical implications that the text has for their lives. The focus on application should not be how now the student must act, but instead focuses on how the text should connect to the heart. This helps the student find the heart-level meaning of the text and looking for realistic ways that they can apply it to themselves.
As the summer goes on, we pray that the Lord gives the students a passionate desire to know Him more through His word. We believe that scripture is the inspired Word of God, and because of that we find that it is crucial to the growth of any believer. Sometimes the Word of God seems like a scary forest, and by studying and searching through small portions of it this summer, it is our hope that we come to see Jesus more clearly and know Jesus more dearly.