Monday, August 20, 2012

Discovery Bible Study Part 2 - Method

Discovery Bible Study was started as a way of church planting and disciple making; however the principles and methods are just as effective for individual use as they are for a group. Applying the DBS method in individual devotion and discipleship will make DBS with others flow much more naturally. The examples of DBS in Miraculous Movements come from rural church plants in Africa where church planters use loose, flexible or impromptu curricula, and items like paper, and notebooks are not necessary (though encouraged and helpful). City Team has developed online resources for more affluent contexts, including guides, curricula and pre-made forms for DBS. In this post I'm going to skip some of the essentials for group study and focus on the core DBS perspective and method, the next post in the series will highlight principles for group study.

When we do DBS, we follow a process that can easily be put into three columns. Each participant creates his own workbook with three columns that he fills out himself: "What does the Scripture passage say?" (This is a literal transcription of the verses being studied); "What does it say in my own words?"; and "If this is true, what must I do to obey?" 

You can download a PDF of this form here.

You don't necessarily need to have the three column format in your studies; just use the following format to study the Bible together:
  • Say "Let's see what the Bible teaches us this week." Read this week's passage. (Scripture)
  • Read or listen to the verses [. . .]
  • Focus on the Scriptures, not human opinion.
  • Ask for someone to retell the passage in their own words, as if he was telling a friend who wasn't there. (understanding Scripture, accountability, evangelism)
  • Ask the group, "Do you agree with this retelling? Is there something he added or left out that he shouldn't have?" As long as the group doesn't miss a key component of the passage, continue. If they miss something read the passage again. If someone states something that isn't in the passage, ask, "Where did you find [what he said] in this passage?" Reread the passage, if necessary. (group correction, focus on one passage)
  • Your intention is for the group to start asking these questions as they go further in the process (group correction). Make sure that you develop this; otherwise, you won't establish the process that keeps from going into heresy. You will get answers such as "My imam says this," or "My friend said that." When that happens, keep bringing it back by asking, "What does this passage of Scripture say?"
  • Ask, "What does this passage teach us about God?" (discovery and Scripture)
  • Ask, "What does this passage teach us about humanity?" (discovery and Scripture)
  • Ask, "If we believe that this passage is from God, how must we change?" (discovery, Scripture, obedience)
  • Ask group members to formulate their personal response to this passage by starting with, "I will . . ."

- Jerry Trousdale,  Miraculous Movements  p. 194-195

This may seem like a simple inductive Bible study, and really that's what it is. These are simple guidelines for inductive study aimed at obedience rather than doctrinal knowledge. I found the method personally edifying, and easy to follow, which is somewhat unusual as I like freedom to roam in my Bible studies.

 At first, I was hesitant to put this into practice in groups as I was sure everyone would rather talk about what they already knew; however, that has happened very little. The simple questions are narrow enough to hedge people in, as is the focusing question, "What does this passage of Scripture say?" The questions lead to discovery about who God is, who we are, and how that should impact our daily lives. It's transforming Bible study in its simplest form.

DBS hones our hearts and minds in on what's important. For westerners this isolates us from all the teaching, doctrine, ideas, and culture that distracts from the simple Word and what it means about our basic relationship and identity with God. It also pulls us away from learning simply for knowledge and sets our feet on a path of obedience, which really is the path of discipleship. Discipleship is far more a discovery of God and obedience to Him than it is a discovery of doctrine or ideas. In following posts we'll cover starting a DBS, DBS in evangelism, which I've already touched on briefly, and see some more examples.

Read Part 1

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