I have to be honest with you - a major issue stated by most missionaries in the field is the fact that they have a very hard time staying spiritually fed and filled up. You might be saying, “What?! How is that possible? Missionaries are the experts, right? How could they have a hard time with staying rooted in The Word???”… don’t pretend like you’re not thinking that… I hear you. But the honest truth of the matter is that many, many, many missionaries become spiritually dry and shrivel up. They do a lot of teaching and preaching and sharing and serving, and sometimes they just have a really tough time finding someone who can speak in to their lives, who is willing to really sit with them and pour in to them and help to revitalize them on a regular basis, who will be open to really going deep in study with them. It’s a real thing, and it is eating missionaries alive all around the globe. It’s not a new thing… it’s been happening for centuries. And, it happens to us.
In Peru, we did a lot of giving and serving and teaching and pouring out to others. But, when it came to our own spiritual growth and development, we were drying up quick. Exhausted and, frankly, a little tired of hearing our own thoughts being taught all the time, we were just getting a little stale and run down in our spiritual growth. And with no mature believers around us in our community to help us and to study with us and to pour in to our lives… well, it was not a good thing. Oh, how we wished for a group of folks who would go deep, who would ask hard questions, who would hold each other accountable to the Scriptures and who would really struggle together in The Word! On the few occasions that we were able to study with someone in that way, it was incredible and life-giving! But, there were lots of long, dry periods between those springs of Living Water.
Several years ago, we were introduced to a method of Bible study that really made the Scriptures come to life for us. Inductive Bible Study is an investigative approach to the Bible using three basic components: Observation, Interpretation, and Application. Okay… don’t check out on me yet. Hang in there. This is NOT hard, and it is OH SO GOOD!!! And this whole story is going to come full circle, so hang in there!
Observation: Observation teaches you to look for and see exactly what the passage says. Observation answers the question, “what does the passage say?” Keep looking. Keep digging. What do you see? What else to you see? What else? Notice connections. Notice repeated words. Really pay attention. Slow down. When I teach this method, I tell people to look at it as if they were investigating like detectives or forensic scientists. Slow down and pay attention to everything. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Underline things that seem important or interesting. I like to use different colors. Make lists of anything that seems to go together. I often make lists of verbs/action words… for example, a list of all the actions that describe Paul in a chapter in Acts, or a list of characteristics exhibited by Jesus in a certain passage.
Interpretation: While observation leads to an accurate understanding of what the Word of God says, interpretation goes a step further and helps you understand what it means. So, where in Observation we were looking at everything with a fine toothed comb and asking the basic 5W questions, now we are going to look at it and say, “So, what’s that all about?” What does it mean? Why did the characters do that particular thing? Does the culture of the time have anything to do with this? This is the part where we really want to step in to the story and try to see it through the eyes of each character. How would you feel if Jesus said those particular words to you? What would you be thinking or experiencing if you were a player in this passage? What would it be like to actually be there? If you were in this story, who would you be? Who do you identify with? What are you feeling, thinking, seeing, tasting, experiencing… think with all of your senses and emotions.
Application: “So, now what?” That’s the question, isn’t it!? Now that you have really dug in and really experienced the Scripture, now what? How does this impact you? What are you going to do with your day-to-day life now that you have been impacted by this particular passage? How do you go forward and walk in this new knowledge of The Word.
I tell you all of this to get to the point of how Inductive Bible Study has made a major difference in our spiritual lives. When we moved to Spain, we still really longed for people to study the Bible with at a really deep level. What would that look like? Would we dry up in this new field of mission service? We didn’t know the answer, but we really prayed for someone to study with.
A couple of months in to our time here, I was asked to ‘bring the Word’ (speak or teach) to a small women’s study group one evening. Being a teacher who believes in the power of inquiry and discovery as a great teaching tool - so much better than just telling / lecturing and giving out information - I decided to take the passage of the Paralytic and the Matt Carriers and just try out the Inductive Method with this group. Folks… it got deep! There was some serious discovery and some big time lightbulb moments as people really dug in and observed, made connections, and saw Scripture in a whole new way. At the end of the evening one woman said, “I have read this passage and heard it at least a hundred times. But I haven’t ever seen so much or gotten so deep as we got tonight. This is amazing!” And the beautiful part is, I just bring the Scripture to the table and help guide people to dig and ask questions. And in the process of discovery and discussion, I, too, get to learn and process and see new things through the perspective and hearts of others!
Now, 18 months later, we found the thing that sustains us spiritually in the field...reading the Scriptures via Inductive study methods with others and having deep discussions and times of great growth! We have several different study groups each week, each studying a different passage or book of the Bible. One group has 12-15 adults studying stories of Jesus and the disciples. Our youth study group has 12 youth studying Jesus. We have a group of 3 couples who are currently studying the book of James. Billy meets one-on-one with another man to study a passage each week. And I study with a group of ladies in another town once a week. It is truly incredible how God has given us a great method (via some great teachers years ago) and this method has really appealed to those around us in Spain! We are definitely NOT shriveling up in The Word nowadays… we are THRIVING! Praises to Him!!!
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!