Grasping the Big Picture in Bible Study

By Dr. Frank Crane

Editor’s Note: For 43 years, Dr. Crane served three churches as pastor. In that capacity, he preached, taught, counseled and managed church programs. Now he begins a new chapter in his career and is devoted to helping folks identify their deepest desires and find healthy strategies for meeting them.

I once heard a woman oppose her husband’s promotion and relocation because Jesus had commanded them, “Stay in the city.” (Luke 24:29). The most quoted text in Scripture is no longer John 3:16 but Matthew 7:1 “Judge not that you be not judged.” I don’t know what’s worse: not knowing the Scriptures or misusing the Scriptures we know.

I did some horseback research asking folks who seemed to know the Word fairly well, how they came to that. Secretly I was looking for “Well, pastor it’s the preaching and teaching I’ve sat under all these years.” Alas, the most common answer was, “My own personal study.” But these individuals were precious few. How to get folks to study the Scriptures for themselves, apply it properly to their lives, and help others do the same?

Enter The Covenant Story. Here’s a two year survey of the Scriptures that features a personal Bible reading schedule, a two page synopsis of each book of the Bible, lesson plans and discussion questions on chapters selected from the week’s reading. Participants get the reading schedule at the beginning of the year, the Bible book synopsis the week before they read that book, and discussion questions early the week of the class. When they arrive the lead teacher offers a brief introduction covering key points of the previous week’s readings and then the next forty minutes are devoted to group discussion answering the questions received. Our class meets in a large room holding five round tables. It’s not uncommon for each table to have six or seven people. Biggest problem? Noise! In the Covenant Story everyone’s a teacher and everyone’s a learner. At the end of the hour the lead teacher wraps it up with a few pithy summary statements.

covenantstory.jpgAt our church we’re on our fifth cycle of the Covenant Story Seminar. About half the congregation has taken it. We like to think of CSS as establishing a Christian Education baseline after which other courses become more useful. We want people to view the grand panorama of God’s grace, to thrill at the discovery of how an event in Genesis or Job enriches what first appears to be a throw-away comment by John or Paul. It’s when they see that God is serious about ushering in a new kingdom that they become serious about personal and cultural changes to be made. Covenant Story participants come to realize that Jesus is far more than a personal friend. He’s the King of glory calling them to conquer along with him all that stands in the way of mercy and justice.

Most importantly it seems to stick because they’ve discovered the insights for themselves. While doing so they’ve also encouraged others at the same table to do the same. Maturing Christians and brand new believers sit at the same tables with open Bibles. When the mature try to explain something to the novice, both learn. When the baby Christian finds respect from his elders, both experience love.

There is a lot more to say about The Covenant Story Seminar. Check out Hit the contact button or call 804.247.3985 for an introductory packet which includes sample sessions and other material.

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