What is the best method to follow in society Bible study? This is always a question, even a problem each time we set up our society programs.
To begin with, the one thing that we must realize is that method of study is not the most crucial issue. Far more important than method is the matter of spirit, or of the attitude with which the participants take part in society meetings. No method can ever compensate for a bad attitude; and there is perhaps no method of study that will completely fail if the attitude of the society members is what it should be. Good society life is first of all a matter of spiritual self-examination and dedication among the members. When you come to society it is your spiritual attitude which is the most crucial contribution anyone can make.
Nevertheless, once this is dealt with, there are certain advantages to using good methods and good approaches, especially those which will help the members to make their own preparation for the meetings, and thus enable them to make their contribution to the study which is to take place. In this there should also be left room for variation and change. To just keep on doing the same thing year after year tends to stifle the kind of freshness and spirit, the sense of excitement and interest which should be sought, especially among young people who are first engaging themselves in the activity of searching out the truths of Scripture in study and discussion among each other. There should always be opportunity to use new and different approaches as long as they are adapted to growth in the knowledge of God and His Word and not to some other pursuit.
Perhaps the most common approach to this which has been followed through the years has been the direct study of particular portions of Scripture, most usually a chosen book of the Bible. This is a perfectly good and desirable method of approach.
If, however, there is one danger that should be avoided in this, it is too great a concentration upon details and individual verses. So easily a society can begin to focus upon individual details in words and phrases until the overall message and the flow of thought that runs through the book is lost. A study of a book of the Bible should take fairly large portions at a time with concentration upon understanding the general message of the author, rather than with an analysis of its various details. Although the later approach might have its place among scholars, it is not generally beneficial for a society as a whole.
In turn, in all direct study of Scripture there is attention which should be paid to parallel portions of Scripture which present the same truths in different settings. We should always remember that the best and most reliable commentary on any portion of Scripture is another portion of Scripture teaching the same truth.
But there should also be a place for a more topical approach to the study of Scripture. That is, there is real benefit to be gained from taking a certain doctrine, a certain spiritual problem, a certain Scriptural truth, and tracing its development through the whole of the Bible. Such an approach does have advantages:
- It gives an opportunity for developing experience in the use of basic Bible study tools by all members of the society, tools such as a good cross reference Bible, a concordance, and a good topical Bible. Besides this there are opportunities to make beginning use of such things as books on Dogmatics and doctrinal studies simply as a means of finding related references to various portions of Scripture teaching the same truths.
- In the study period opportunity can then be given for everyone to present their findings of passages bearing on the subject in question. Each can participate on this level, bringing out the portions of Scripture he has found.
- Discussion can then be made about the meaning of these various portions of Scripture and how they relate to each other.
- Such study develops within the members of a society a familiarity with the whole of the Bible and an ability to find their way through the Scriptures in pursuit of any spiritual question with which they may need guidance.
But above all, regardless of what method of study is used, we should all try to find and develop the joy and sense of excitement which can come only from dealing in a lively way with the most vital body of truth this world has ever known, God’s Word with its answer to every need of human life. To have pleasure in its study is among the richest blessings we can know.