Seventh-day Adventists are sometimes called "wreckers." But we are only wrecking what is built upon the sands of tradition. Thank God, we are fundamentally builders, and our building progresses by means of the Word of God. We are counseled to take heed how we build. I like to think that every study I give goes into the erection of a safe and sure refuge for the soul of the person with whom I study, particularly when the iudgments of God fall upon the world.
Recently I had an experience with a Roman Catholic family which taught me this principle. I knew, when I first entered this home, that they felt very secure in their own religion. But I was there to "wreck" and to "pull down" the strongholds of the false ideas in which they were reposing. Had I attempted this without first building spiritually for that which I was to pull down, my purpose would have been defeated. A teacher of the Word should lay down such a firm foundation, and erect upon it such an impregnable fortress, that upon entering its precincts, the seeker for truth will be satisfied to make it his eternal habitation.
Prayer plays a fundamental part in preparing a Bible study. The aid of the Holy Spirit should be invited both in preparing and presenting the study. He alone can teach, and make effective the written Word. The promise is that He will bring all things to our remembrance.
Knowledge coupled with experience is power. But knowledge does not come by inheritance or accident. Every teacher of the Bible must be familiar with the Bible, and true Bible knowledge can be acquired only by intelligent comprehension, based on accurate information. Our skill in handling the Word establishes confidence. The master musician knows his keyboard. He approaches the instrument with confidence. And the result is that he not only gets, but holds, the attention of his audience. Surely the Bible teacher should approach his work with the same degree of knowledge, precision, and assurance.
In preparing a Bible study, all pet theories and opinions must be set aside, and a childlike, teachable spirit must be cherished. In every study Christ must have His rightful place. All truth must be centered in Him. Great care should be exercised that the arrangement of texts shall be such that they will not lose their effect when presented. Study the outline until it 'is your own, until you do not present it in a stereotyped way. One must enter into the life and spirit of the study, if he expects his readers to enter into it too, and comprehend it.
If the topic is such as to call for historical facts in order to clarify the truth, one should cull from reliable sources such passages and statements as will be clear and to the point. It is well to be equipped with both Catholic and Protestant works, if the subject requires it.
There are many contributing factors that go toward making the study a success. Dignity and self-possession should characterize the one who is to open the sacred Word of God. Above all, be Christlike in everything, including the posture and attitude in prayer. Especially should this be remembered when working with members of the Roman Catholic faith.
1. Do not ask the reader to pray audibly at first.
2. Do not ask the reader to read the text, unless you know he desires to do so, as he may become embarrassed if he has difficulty in locating the books and chapters.
3. Do not use too many texts and quotations bearing on the same point.
4. Do not permit yourself to be drawn aside by the injection of questions foreign to the subject. Keep to your subject.
5. Avoid controversies and arguments. State that later on you will be glad to take up certain questions. Ever bear in mind that it is not by force of argument that a soul is brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
6. Avoid triviality and cheapness. You are standing between the living and the dead. One unguarded word may cause the loss of the soul for whom you are working.
7. Avoid an air of scholasticism, for this will tend to make the reader ill at ease.
8. Do not let the reader become weary of the study. Watch for any indication of this nature.
9. Never leave the minds of your readers in a state of confusion. They may, have:disturbing questions which you should take time to answer. Or their questions may afford a basis for another study. If so, arrange for a later study covering these points.
10. Avoid reading hurriedly and inarticulately. Read distinctly, giving emphasis to the point under consideration.
11. Avoid reference to notes if possible.
What to Do
1. Always open the study with a short prayer. This impresses the reader with the sacredness of the hour.
2. State the title of the subject you are about to present. Ask questions to arouse the interest of the reader.
3. Make each text a message to your student. Emphasize the particular truth you are teaching. Give the study in a convincing manner. Your sincerity and earnestness will impress hearts with the importance of the truths you are presenting.
4. The use of charts, symbols, and diagrams is helpful in making the study stand out with clearness. The optic vision is perhaps the greatest avenue to the mind.
5. If you notice the student is not grasping your point, simplify, or give the thought in a different setting.
6. Be sure of your facts, both Biblical and historial.
7. Before closing the study, sum up or crystallize the main thoughts. Take, as it were, the various threads and weave them into one fabric.
8. Close when the interest is high. Closing remarks should be of such a nature as to awaken interest in the next study.
9. Close with an earnest appeal and a prayer that the principles of truth may be lived out in the life of the reader.
10. Courteously decline any invitations to remain for refreshments after the study, and avoid anything that tends to detract from the study you have just given. Leave as soon after the close of the study as is consistent.
* Presented at Atlantic Union Institute.