Nancy Guthrie and Courtney Doctor discuss pre-written Bible studies and their usefulness for Christians studying the Bible. They address:
- The value of expertise in pre-written studies (0:54)
- Gleaning benefits from well-stewarded work (1:48)
- Recommendations for finding good and helpful Bible studies (2:29)
- The most important elements of producing a good Bible study (5:15)
- Creating user-friendly, helpful resources (6:31)
Find more from TGC on this topic:
- Is Your Bible Study a Christian Bible Study?
- 6 Questions for Assessing Bible-Study Material
- How to Study Your Bible in 2020
This episode of TGC Q&A is sponsored by The Gospel Project—a chronological Bible study for all ages, explaining how Scripture points to Jesus, encouraging us to live on mission. Visit gospelproject.com/tgc to download a free eBook and try additional resources.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Courtney Doctor: Nancy, you and I have both written Bible studies, you quite a few more than me, and I’ve loved your studies, but we are here because we want to talk about the pros and the cons of prewritten Bible studies. And so what do you think are some of the pros and cons as somebody who writes them and uses them?
Nancy Guthrie: Yeah. Well, I think that if it’s written by someone who has some expertise, someone who’s very committed to bringing out what is in the text and feels hemmed in, in a sense of making sure that the applications are really tied to what is in the text. I think that’s great because some of us need some help getting started in the Bible. Some of us sometimes, and this still happens to me, I’ll read a passage in the Bible and it hits maybe a hard heart and certainly a hard head at times and I just need a little help unearthing what is there. And so I think a Bible study written by someone who asks me an appropriate, targeted question about something that I’m seeing in the text can really be helpful. What do you think?
Courtney Doctor: Well, I completely agree with you because when somebody has spent time studying a certain book, I think of professors, or I think of people who set time aside to really study a particular work. I glean from their work. It’s part of how they’re stewarding their work and I’m benefiting from the fruit of their labors. And I think we were actually designed to learn from each other. And so whether it’s the shoulders that we stand on that have gone before us in history, or whether it’s people we’re currently walking this Earth with, I think we benefit from each other’s thoughts and labors and lessons. And so I benefit greatly from the work that other people have done.
Courtney Doctor: So if you were advising someone and recommending how to go about finding a good pre-written Bible study, what would you recommend? What tips would you give somebody? Because they’re not all created equally, are they?
Nancy Guthrie: No, and honestly, I get asked this all the time, so I’m happy to say. First thing I would say, if it were a woman asking me the question, is just because you’re a woman or maybe you’re in a women’s group, doesn’t mean you have to do a study written by a woman. And I’d also say on the other side of that, just because you’re a man, doesn’t mean you have to do a study written by a man. So I think some people get very focused on those, gender wise. And so we can be much broader in who we might look at.
Nancy Guthrie: I would say be wary of studies that move too quickly to personal applications without focusing on what was the author’s intended meaning for his original audience. And without taking into consideration the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, those things have to be considered carefully before you jump too quickly to making it about you.
Nancy Guthrie: I would say look for studies that focus more on what Christ has done than on what you’re supposed to be doing, because so many studies can have questions, [inaudible 00:03:15] what are you going to do? What are you going to do? And those are appropriate. There are implications in what we study. But I’d be looking for things that the heavier weight is on what Christ has done and then therefore, what does that mean about what we’re going to do? I’d say be wary of questions about how you feel. Bible study should make you think, make you think and the word is what we want to shape, how we think. And I would say, as it shapes how you think, then it’s going to begin to shape how you feel. How about you? Do you have some good pointers?
Courtney Doctor: That is good. Well, similar ones. I mean, that is absolutely grounded in the text that it is a study that requires that your Bible is open in front of you and that the questions are requiring that you engage with the text. Go back and look, go back and look, good observation that forces you to go back to the text. And then the interpretation is coming out of the text, but also out of the whole counsel of God’s word, because we can be so prone to just lift a text out of its context. And so that’s having other scriptures help interpret scripture. And then just to reiterate what you said, that it is primarily a study about God and not primarily a study about you, but that I will find out who I am and what I am supposed to do and what I am supposed to think and what I’m supposed to feel as I learn more about who God is.
Nancy Guthrie: Yes, absolutely.Courtney Doctor: So as you’re writing a study, what two to three things do you really want to account for? What’s most important to you as you’re producing a study to put out in front of people?
Nancy Guthrie: Well, I want people to get the basic content of the text and that can sound like, that means it’s just going to be very rote answers, telling facts. And to a certain degree, I want them to look for those facts. But I think the next step for me is I want to push them to think about what’s going on underneath those facts and what’s going on underneath. What’s being said, and what’s being commanded? And so when I’m working on a Bible study and working on questions, I got lots of questions that might start, “Why do you think God did it this way?” Or, “Why do you think we’re told these things and not these things?” Because I’m pushing people to actually then step back from the details and really think through what’s happening in the text. How about you?
Courtney Doctor: Well, yes. And like we said already, grounded in the text. But on a really practical level, something that’s really important to me is that it is user-friendly. That is just really important to me that somebody, because we are all so busy and I want somebody just to be able to pick it up and open it and know what to do with it. And then one word that I pray over and over again, as I’m working on something, I asked the Lord to make it helpful. I want it to be helpful. I want to help my sisters. I want to help the church. So that’s a little bit more logistical or practical, but those are things that I look for and try to do. But Nancy, thank you for all of your work, all of your studies, it has been a blessing to the church. It has been tremendously helpful.
Nancy Guthrie: Well, back at you, Courtney. Thank you.