As I write, I have a fairly specific audience in mind. The Community Group leaders and members at First Baptist Church. But if that is not you, please know that you are welcome to listen in. For the last few years, we have been providing sermon-based questions to our groups, enabling them to discuss the sermon text during their community group time. Providing sermon-based questions, specific to the sermon and text is not currently possible, but our group leaders are still interested in how to study the sermon text. This led me to develop some inductive study questions, that can be used by a group to study any passage of Scripture. These questions can be used for the sermon text, or can also be used to study through a book of the Bible as a group.
Why inductive study method?
The inductive study method allows a group to open a text and ask intentional questions of that passage in order to understand, interpret and apply the text. There is no one single way to go about an inductive study and each group will choose to use a different set of basic questions. Although there is a basic assumption that the Scriptures are worth reading and understanding. We approach the text wanting to know what it says, what it means and how that informs our lives. We begin with the text. We ask questions of the text. Our lives are then informed by our new understanding. There are many reasons to do an inductive study within your group, but here are a few:
Everyone begins in the same place
Studying the Bible inductively as a group allows everyone present to engage in the conversation. If someone new joins or if group members were not able to complete the assignments between meeting times, everyone starts at the same place. This also helps people who are new to the faith or only exploring faith to be engaged. We all begin by reading the Bible, and then seek to understand together.
We build a habit that aids our personal Bible reading
The questions we ask as a group are the same questions we can ask in personal Bible study. As we process the text together in the group, we build habits that will help our personal Bible reading as well. This will help those who have been following Jesus for many years or even those who are simply exploring faith. Many people report being intimidated by the Bible, but doing an inductive study together as a group can help to reduce the fears people have of personal Bible study.
It makes space for God's Spirit to lead
God wants to transform our minds and hearts by the power of His Spirit through the revelation of His Word. We should never forget that the point of our Bible study is not to simply know more, but to know God more. It isn't simply to understand the meaning of the Bible, but to understand the meaning of God's work in the world. Pre-planned questions are helpful, and typically the one who authored the questions has done so with the right intent, but pre-planned questions are also not as flexible. They have a goal in mind. They lead the group in a direction. An inductive study method is more flexible and can allow God's Spirit to work more readily through the study of the text, as we ask good questions of our Bibles together.
What questions should we ask?
I have compiled six questions that are helpful to ask as a group. Here are the questions with a brief explanation of why each question is worth asking.
What does the passage say?
This is a basic question, but one we often skip. Before we talk about what part "was impactful for me," we should take the time to ask ourselves what the passage says. What is God, through the author, communicating to the audience. One helpful step in answering this question is to attempt to restate the passage in your own words. Before moving on, take a moment as a group to discuss what the passage says.
What stuck out to you when reading the passage?
Here is when it gets a bit more personal. There are times when we read our Bibles that God's Spirit will open our eyes to a certain verse or phrase. As we read, we see it in a new way or have a fresh understanding of what it means. Share your answers with one another about what jumped out at you as you read.
Did these verses raise any questions for you?
Some questions can be answered by the collective wisdom of the group. Others may require the consultation of a commentary or other scholarly resource. Some might be rhetorical. Others might be outside the scope of human understanding - God's thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways God's ways (Is 55:8). This question is not intended to find answers to all the questions the passage raises, but simply to speak them to others. This will prompt good discussion and increase our understanding.
What in the passage helped you see more of Jesus and his cross? Or what moved you to love him more?
We cannot forget the point of our study. We are not there to only grow in knowledge. We want to love Jesus more and find our joy in him. Some passages will present answers to this question more readily. Others will require some more reflection and awareness of the Bible as a whole. But this question cannot be left out of the discussion. Press one another to see the good news in the text, specifically in the person and work of Jesus.
As a result of your discussion, what is one application step you believe the Spirit is leading you to take?
Following Jesus means that our lives are continually being transformed. As our lives are renewed through relationship with Jesus, we are called to be obedient to what we read in the Bible. Do not confuse obedience with legalism. One is required by our Lord, the other is a characteristic of someone who rejects him. As we read and study together, we should ask ourselves how to apply the passage, specifically what action step should be taken in the immediate future.
How can you share the joy, peace or conviction you have been given through studying this passage? Who might you share it with?
We are called to give testimony to the work of Jesus in our lives. We are his witnesses in our immediate relational contexts and also to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Don't leave the study without asking how you can share what you learned with someone else. Take it a step further and ask who you can share it with. This is a great way to share your faith. Get in the habit of telling others what God is teaching you and how he is changing you.
We have put together a one-sheet document that outlines these questions. Use it when you meet as a group. You can use it to either study the sermon passage or to go through a book of the Bible as a group. These same questions can be used in your own personal study as well.
What about you?
If you have some experience doing inductive studies, either on your own or as a group, would you let us know in the comments section? Share some of the questions you use to help guide your inductive study. Share some of the ways you have seen yourself or your group grow through this method of group study.