Preparing and Giving a Bible Reading
By Mrs. R.I. Keate
[By way of introduction : Sister Keate, née Helen McKinnon, was one of the three Bible workers who went from America to England in 1887, at the call of Elder S. N. Haskell, and began to give Bible readings in the homes of the people of London. The rich fruitage of the early seed sowing by Elder Haskell and his coworkers has become increasingly apparent during the years, and Sister Keats writes from the basis of extensive and successful experience.— Ed].
To give a Bible reading successfully, it is first of all necessary to have a definite outline. This may be either written or fixed in the memory. Having determined the subject to be covered by the outline, it is well to make a thorough survey of every text on the subject, choosing for the outline such texts as most clearly state the points of truth to be presented. The number of texts necessary for a complete outline will, of course, vary according to the subject and the method of teaching, but usually the outline need not embrace more than from ten to sixteen texts. The main point to be observed in making the outline is the consistent arrangement of texts, so that one point of truth follows another in logical order. Each text should so clearly state the point designed that there can be no uncertainty as to its meaning.
The introductory text is very important. It should make emphatic the subject under consideration. For example, in the outline on the subject of the " Second Coming of Christ," use as the first text, John 14:1-3: " I will come again; " or Hebrews 9:28: " Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time." From such definite statement, proceed in the outline with the how and the when of the second coming of Christ, making each text follow in logical order and form a complete presentation of the subject.
Preparation for giving a Bible reading embraces not alone sufficient study to produce a satisfactory outline, but extensive study and all-round information. We must be prepared to give much more information than we intend to present in connection with the study. It is the reserve supply of knowledge on any subject which enables one to speak with confidence and with convincing emphasis. Observe this statement: " If you take upon you the sacred responsibility of teaching others, you take upon you the duty of going to the bottom of every subject you seek to teach."—" Special Testimonies on Sabbath School Work," p. 59. In order to make the Bible readings interesting, and to keep ourselves from settling into a rut, there must be constant study, as well as the bringing into our teaching of variety and individuality.
Another essential element of preparation is the selection of appropriate helps in making the truth plain, such as charts, diagrams, and occasional illustrations. In every possible way we should seek to appeal to the eye as well as to the ear, if we would make the most lasting impression. But we must be sure that we understand our chart, diagram, or illustration, and can make its use effective. Our " helps " must be such as will drive the point of truth into the depth of the mind; they must serve as nails in a sure place, not simply be used as an interesting item to please the people.
When one first enters a home for the purpose of holding a Bible reading, it is the usual experience that we find an attitude of uncertainty on the part of the people. They do not know just exactly what we purpose to do, nor what is expected of them; hence it requires a good deal of tact on the part of the Bible worker to make every one feel at ease, and to proceed with the study in. a natural way.
First of all, take a survey of the Bibles in evidence. If the reading is with one person, of course only one Bible is needed; but where there is a class of several, each should have a Bible, and each should read the texts as announced, taking turns in reading aloud. Unless this plan is followed, the real force of the Bible study is lost. Because it requires patience and tact to help people find the texts, some Bible workers prefer to give the reference, and then read the text themselves. But by following this plan the Bible reading really resolves itself into a sermonette or talk, and many of the important points in the study are lost, while if the person himself reads the text, an impression is made upon his mind.
There should be system in announcing the texts. Experience in dealing with minds unaccustomed to the study of the Bible, leads to the plan of announcing first the name of the book in which the text is found, then the chapter of the book, and last of all the specific verse in the chapter.
In giving a Bible study, some workers precede the giving of the text by a question to, be answered by the text, while other workers precede the text by a statement of what the text will reveal. Personally, I like both methods, and use both in nearly every Bible reading I give. Variety is afforded, and sometimes a statement makes a point stand out more clearly than a question. Be sure that after the verse is'read the reader sees in it the answer to your question, or recognizes that your statement regarding it is verified.
It is often the case that a person will read a text of Scripture, and yet not have any clear idea of what it states. It is the duty of the Bible worker to review tactfully the text and draw forth from the reader an expression as to his comprehension of the truth stated. It is not the most inspiring experience to give Bible studies to a person week after week, and not have any indication of what he is thinking about in connection with the truth presented. At the close of each study it is a good plan to sum up in a few words the facts which have been presented, and secure the readers' assent to the truth presented.
Sometimes we find ourselves associated with people who want to talk too much, and consequently there is danger of failure in conducting the study in an effective, connected manner. Herein lies a test of tact and patience. To allow oneself to be sidetracked by irrelevant questions or talk in general results in confusion. If you do not keep your subject well in hand, you will find yourself floundering around like a drowning man, catching first at this thing and, then at that in the effort to get back onto solid ground for definite study. When questions are asked which have no bearing on the subject announced, and which if answered would lead away entirely and make the study a failure, it is best to control the situation by saying that in due time the studies will lead to the consideration of that particular point, and that if the questioner will wait until that time, the matter will be much easier understood.
As to the length of time required for giving a Bible study, it has been found, as a rule, that from thirty-five to forty-five minutes is ample time in which to give a clear presentation of any subject.
In my experience I have been led to conclude that it is better to offer prayer at the close of the study than at the beginning. My reasons are these: It tends to impress upon the mind the importance of the study, and makes the lesson seem more forceful and solemn because we have asked God's blessing upon it. It also prepares the way for leaving the home quickly and quietly, which is always the best plan to follow. With a few pleasant words of farewell and planning for the next reading, leave the reader with the impression that you have a very important work to do and must hasten on to the next appointment.
One thing it is well to remember, and that is that the Bible worker should never try to give a Bible study on a subject in which she is not interested, or a subject which she does not understand.
* Paper read at the Southeastern Ministerial Institute.
The Ideal Bible Worker (Concluded)
By Ida M. Poch
We have called attention to the threefold nature of the essential equipment for the successful Bible worker, — the physical, mental, and spiritual. But the Bible worker is not yet fully prepared for service. Equipment, however necessary and perfect, is but " sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal," if the element of love is lacking. Paul analyzes this essential element in his letter to the Corinthian church, and one of the most beautiful interpretations of love is this: " Seeketh not her own." It seems to me that this is the Bible worker's motto, for she must ever be forgetful of self, willing and ready to serve always, everywhere, in any capacity; giving always her best, — just her best. That is all that is required. She must be willing even sometimes to rattle around a bit in a place left unavoidably vacant by a larger personality; she may sometimes have to step into shoes which are too large for her; but she must be ready to meet every emergency just with her best, regardless of everything else. And she can grow.
To the analysis of love, Paul adds another word in his letter to the Colossians, where he calls it the " bond of perfectness." Through all the equipment must run this divine fire — the desire for the best good of another, regardless of cost.
Out of this divinely fused equipment must and will grow certain other necessary qualifications. There must be tactfulness,— divine wisdom in action; knowing how to do the right thing at the right time in the right way. There must be true courtesy,— love itself in action. Christianity makes true ladies and gentlemen, who need not the world's books of etiquette. Christ's life furnishes a textbook on true courtesy. Need we go farther and mention the high moral standard to be maintained — that purity of heart which " shall see God " now, day by day? Then there must be sympathy. Not the weak-kneed kind, but the sort of sympathy that keeps in mind the best ultimate good, and pulls steadily for it, unmindful of personal convenience.
It was my good fortune to receive a nurse's training under Dr. Kate Lindsay, the first woman physician graduated from Ann Arbor (Mich.) Medical University, and whose connection with our medical work in pioneer days has left a lasting imprint. Dr. Lindsay was at our home farm one summer, during threshing time. One of the men got his hand in the machinery, and when they got it out, it wasn't much of a hand. Some of the women fainted, and some just disappeared from the scene. But Dr. Lindsay got a pail of water, cleaned the hand, put the shreds of flesh together as well as she could, and bandaged it properly. Later, when talking of the circumstance, one of those women said, " I could not do what you did. I am too sympathetic." Any who are fortunate enough to have known Dr. Lindsay can understand the effect of her reply, in her Scotch brogue, as she said, " What good was your sympathy? Mine saved the man's hand."
There must be no lack of tenderness, pity, and concern, but it must be accompanied by the practical help needed. There is a verse which reads,
"To those who can laugh through their tears,
Can smile in the midst of a sigh, Can mingle their youth with their years
On the road to the sweet by and by."
Just that is what the ideal Bible worker will find occasion to do.
Then there must be integrity. There will be need of genuine moral backbone to stand for the right, but this must not be permitted to degenerate into obstinacy nor self-will.
There must be true humility. This does not admit of having a talent, even a very small one, put away in a napkin. Neither does it mean any belittling of the worth of the human soul, for which our Saviour paid an infinite price. It is possible to stand erect, with every God-given power on the stretch, and still be humble in the realization that we come far short of measuring up to the standard of perfection in Christ. Have you chanced to see some one who was as proud as Lucifer of his humility? And have you ever heard it said, " Christianity brings' us all down to one level," making of that distorted idea of humility an excuse for slovenliness? Christianity puts us all on a level, truly, but it is " the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." True humility keeps the eye on Christ. That is all, and that is enough.
And then there must come the vision such as Paul had on the Damascus road, taking in the full sweep of God's plan for a lost world, and the worker's individual part in it. Thus will be imparted the necessary earnestness, and we will ever press on, knowing that the king's business requires haste.
It has been my sincere purpose in preparing this paper to present before you an ideal Christian woman, wholly dedicated to God's service. The ideal Bible worker must be all that such a statement involves. And again I say, a vital principle of success is to believe enthusiastically in the merits of your " line," and to wear the goods you are recommending. In other words, believe and practice what you teach.