4 Ways to Refresh Your Bible Study

It’s part of my job to make Bible study interesting. I’m a Ministainer—a minister and entertainer, as Joey says on an episode of Friends. And I’ve learned a few things along the way that take the boring out of Bible study.

Make It about Relationships

I am all for corporate campaign funding of “Read the Bible in a Year” initiatives (obligatory political joke), but reading it out of religious obligation or legalism is problematic. Jesus wasn’t about “Got Religion?” slogans. When asked the greatest commandment, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4–5: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (ESV; see Matt 22:34–40). He followed this by citing Leviticus 19:18: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus’ response clearly indicates that the Bible is about relationships: with God and other people.

In his letters, Paul also emphasizes relationships: ethnic, social, marital, and familial (Col 4). He teaches that love, in the name of Christ, should be part of everything we do (1 Cor 13). When we read the Bible with the intent of understanding other people better—and learning how to authentically love them (faults and all)—Bible study suddenly becomes something we can’t live without.

Give Yourself Permission to Skip, Please

Although we risk invoking the nagging voices of our Sunday school teachers and mothers when we skip Bible passages, it’s actually okay to do so—for a while. Until contextualizing the Bible becomes easier, you’re allowed to resist a side order of Leviticus like you resist anchovies on your pizza. Remember how something like sushi or coffee was terrible the first time you tried it? That’s what Leviticus and Zechariah are—an acquired taste.

Leviticus will eventually win you over when you least expect it, like morning coffee did when you were camping (oh, happy thoughts). After your fifth or sixth reading of Isaiah 53—the Suffering Servant song that Jesus ultimately fulfilled more than 500 years after the initial prophecy—you will want to know what it means for Him to be a “guilt offering.” In that moment, the laws in Leviticus will pique your interest, and you will want help finding their context (Free hint: Bible software can help with this).

Look for What God Wants to Change

We all know we want change, we’re just not sure what kind, or how to go about it. The Bible can help with that. Embrace the Bible’s ability to be current, while resisting the impulse to read it like a ouija board—newspaper in one hand and Bible in the other. The Bible isn’t a mysterious document waiting to be unraveled. Christianity doesn’t hide truth behind a veil. The Bible is meant to be read by people who are filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). And when we’re guided by the Spirit, amazing things happen: we learn who God is and what He wants.

When Jesus looked at the Bible, He saw Himself—the fulfillment of the scrolls that the Hebrew people held dear (Luke 24:13–25). Christ is everywhere in the text; by knowing it, we can know Him. And by knowing Him, we will be known. God’s Word is meant to change us. The question is: will we let it?

God’s Word is also about change in the world. This is why the Bible continually talks about the need for justice and kindness, including caring for the poor, widows, and orphans (Micah 6:8; Exodus 22:22–24; James 1:27). We are expected to change and cause change.

Follow the Rabbit Trail

Like random, hilarious YouTube videos that keep you up too late, rabbit trails will keep your faith interesting. Just don’t become “that guy” or “that girl” along the way: the type who relates everything to the tribulation, justification, or another -ation. There’s a time to stop chasing the white rabbit and start following the mad hatter.

For example, I looked up “deacon” in Philippians 1, and found that today’s rendition of the office of deacon is actually a later church development. All Christians are meant to be deacons—serving as agents (or ministers) of the good news of Christ, primarily through their actions. When Paul says “overseers and deacons,” he is likely referencing “people in church offices and every other Christian.” “Deacon” isn’t a church office per se, but a regular type of activity (e.g., Paul is an apostle and a deacon; see Col 1:1, and 1:23–25); Christ is even called a deacon (Rom 15:8; compare Mark 9:25; 10:43). This usage of “deacon” is usually rendered as “servant,” but this is not a separate meaning—it’s just translated differently to accommodate the current use of the term. (Paul lists the ideal characteristics of a deacon in 1 Tim 3:8–13.)

Next time your Bible study gets boring, find some ministainment—try these four ideas. Let us know how it goes and how you entertain yourself: Bible study-ation speaking. (You can save YouTube and Fail Blog for your other friends.)

John is the publisher of Raysd, and the editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. He is currently writing a book titled The Infinite in Everything. Visit John's blog, The Infinite in Everything.