In her book Bible Study: Following the Way of the Word, Kathleen Nielson points out principles for Bible study:
- The Bible is God speaking.
- The Bible is powerful.
- The Bible is understandable.
- The Bible is a literary work.
- The Bible is one story.
With these principles in mind, she indicates what is distinctive about this approach:
The distinctive of this approach is that it begins with the Bible itself and what it asks of us, rather than what we need and would like to "get out of" Bible study. Many bible study groups these days start with some sort of poll, seeking to know what the people in the group desire from the study, and then the study is designed or chosen according to that poll. It is indeed important to recall that what every human being needs most fundamentally is to hear God's voice - to take in the food of his Word, which is a more basic need even than daily bread.
This has characterized too many of the studies I have attended. Those studies were not the ones with the lasting impressions. The ones with the lasting impressions were Word centred, and sought to reveal more about God through His word.
I sometimes wonder if what people want out of Bible study -- and I am thinking of women, especially -- is a kind of counselling. Women attend Bible studies to help them with issues and problems. I don't think that ought to be a goal in a group Bible study. There is a place for biblical counselling, but it is not within the group Bible study venue. Looking for therapy in a Bible study is probably not the best goal to have. If our goal is therapy, we will try to bend and shape the Scriptures to answer our questions rather than taking Scripture for what it is.