WHY BIBLE STUDY DOESN’T WORK

Dr. Gerry Lewis, Executive Director of Harvest Baptist Association, is unfairly gifted. He is a talented musician and vocalist. He is an excellent preacher and teacher. He is a focused leader. He is an engaging podcaster and blogger. He is also a prolific author.

Dr. Lewis’s latest book is Why “Bible Study” Doesn’t Work: The epic failure of evangelicalism’s favorite discipleship method — and how YOUR CHURCH can do something about it.Gerry loves Bible study every bit as much as all Baptist preachers say they do. (He really does.) What he doesn’t like is people who make Bible study about as fun and attractive as forcing small children to eat their vegetables.

In chapter one, Gerry says that the end goal is not more Bible study and more prayer, but more Christ-life. This term means that our Bible study should make us more like Jesus and less like know-it-all Baptists. That means that we will demonstrate our newly-acquired biblical literacy with Christ-like love.

Chapter two begins with a painful reminder of a traumatic event in Gerry’s life. His office burned to the ground, taking with it precious heirlooms that were irreplaceable. I stood with him in the parking lot in the hot midday sun and surveyed the smoldering ruin. That was a hard day. Rebuilding presented many more hard days.

Gerry uses that experience to teach us about the chief Architect’s plans for his church. He details the three load-bearing walls that hold up the church.

Chapter three explains what Gerry means by Christ-life. It is all about living on mission with intentionality. It means loving who Jesus loves, obeying what he says, influencing the world for him, and demonstrating his character. In fact, it is all of that and more. Gerry writes about the need for accountability and support. We will never become the disciple-making disciples God intends without both accountability and support.

Chapter four hits pretty close to home. It reminds me of a short consultation I had with a young pastor. He wanted to lead his church to replace Sunday School with home-based small groups. Why? Because Sunday School was not effective in making disciples. After several diagnostic questions, I asked who would lead the home-based small groups. (Don’t get ahead of me here.) Most of the leaders would be the same people who were not making disciples in Sunday School.

Gerry writes about transforming Bible study into disciplemaking. He provides 10 Commandments of Powerfully Effective Small Group Bible Study.

Chapter five teaches how to use the S.O.A.P.Y Method of Bible Study. I have used the SOAP method for years. Gerry adds a new wrinkle that I had not considered previously. The “Y” asks a person to not only create an application they could do, but one that he or she will do.

Gerry also provides a 4 Question Method for Processing God’s Word Together. These four questions more deeply embed the truths of God’s Word into the lives of disciples.

The Epilogue reminds us to celebrate base hits. Sometimes we act like only home runs matter. Gerry asks three questions to help us more appropriately measure progress and assess the cumulative effect and forward momentum of small victories.

Dr. Lewis includes two appendices: Powerful Questions and Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. You need these insights.

Gerry told me today about the next book he is working on. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s the same idea I had. At least I can give thanks for thinking alike and along with our productive friend, Dr. Gerry Lewis.

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