Skip to content

Making the Bible Come Alive

This week’s adult Sabbath school lesson focused on the continued journey of the reformers in bringing the Bible to the world and how the truths of God’s Word transformed their lives. The ripple effects of their sacrifice in helping make the Bible’s truths accessible to all is something we continue to experience today.

This caused me to reflect on my journey with the Bible. Being raised in a home where the Bible was taught regularly, its power especially came alive for me during my teen years in youth group. In preparation for a mission trip, our youth pastor started a Bible study group called “spiritual disciplines” where we would look at a Bible story, read it verse by verse, asking questions and investigating answers along the way.

The goal was not to get through the Bible in a year, or try to find prooftexts, but rather to really let the Bible speak to our lives. We would read stories from the gospels, and take one story at a time—verse by verse—asking who, what, why, when, where, and how questions. We were challenged to use our imaginations and enter into the story as if we were one of the characters.

Most of the stories that I had heard my whole life suddenly took on a whole new meaning. Stories like Zacchaeus, Jesus walking on the water, the pool of Bethesda, and all the stories of the healings of Jesus. These stories, when we slowed down and really entered into them, suddenly came alive. 

Our youth pastor encouraged us that personal application was where God wanted to speak to each of us, which would look different for each person. As teens, we didn’t understand what personal application meant, so to help it make sense to us, we were encouraged to ask questions like, what character in the story do I see myself as and why? Or, depending on the story, what metaphor can I draw that connects to my life? For example, if we were looking at the story of Jesus calming the storm, we might ask, what is a storm in my life I need God to calm? We would write out our answers quietly and then share in small groups with each other. Through this method, we began to experience the power of the Bible in our lives.

Unbeknownst to me, what we were experiencing was inductive Bible study. Theological scholar, David R. Bauers, PhD, states that, “induction” refers both to an attitude of radical openness to the message of the Bible as presented on its own terms, and a process that emerges from and expresses that attitude. The “inductive attitude” is a “commitment to radical openness to the evidence wherever the evidence might lead.”

InterVarsity Press has a basic resource on inductive Bible study that focuses on three questions:

  • Observe: What’s there?
  • Interpret: What does it mean?
  • Apply: So what?

Some in our church worried that we were experiencing the Bible in some “new age” way, but the fruits of our experience with God’s word couldn’t be denied. On our mission trip, the Bible came even more alive, as we saw God’s power use us in ways that was beyond ourselves. When we returned from the trip and there was no longer a commitment to meet for Bible studies, we missed it so much that we asked our youth pastor if we could keep meeting, and maybe shift our new mission to be our school and church. 

As we continued this journey, the Bible continued to come more and more alive for us. Our small group grew from 12 students to nearly the entire academy in small groups by my senior year. Songs we had sung in church for years suddenly became relevant as we continued to fall in love with Jesus through the process of experiencing his word and allowing it speak into our lives. We even started teaching the adults at the church this Bible study method and traveled to different churches and conferences doing the same during the NAD prayer conference era of the 1990’s. 

In my time and career as a youth pastor and teacher, I have used this Bible study method with my students. Kids who hadn’t experienced the Bible past a head knowledge suddenly see and hear God in a way that they hadn’t before. For 30 years just within my experience, I have seen the power of God’s word come alive when we slow down and let God’s word into our everyday experiences, and especially allow the aspect of personal application to transform our lives. 

My experience with the Bible would not have happened had it not been for the many before me, including the reformers, who continued to release God’s word into the world. Although I had known the Bible and had memorized scripture, when I slowed down and entered into an experience with the Bible, it truly became alive and transformational. Rather than doctrinal prooftexts or a checklist of do’s and don’ts, imagine the ripple effects when the church lets the Bible open minds and hearts to a relationship with God. 

Image credit: Adventist Media Exchange

About the author

Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin is the former vice principal for spiritual life at Auburn Adventist Academy. She has served as a minister, teacher, and administrator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over two decades. She is currently completing a PhD in Transformative Social Change, with an emphasis in Peace and Justice Studies. More from Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Spectrum Newsletter: The latest Adventist news at your fingertips.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.