Good preaching creates a hunger for deeper learning—it awakens our desire to know more of this God we hear proclaimed. Rather than “refilling our spiritual tanks” once a week, good preaching drives us to hunger for more truth than we had when we walked in the church doors. It whets our appetite for deeper study. (Jen Wilkin)
I often get asked, “How did you actually begin studying your Bible and loving it?”
My answer is simply, “On Sunday mornings!”
I’ve often heard wise Bible study teachers admonish women that being a regular Word-student must grow from daily study, well beyond Sunday worship times. In their attempt to draw women into a meaningful personal Scripture study routine, many of these well-intended teachers paint Sunday sermons insufficient, even deficient in some cases, for attaining such personal and regular theological growth and depth.
While Sunday morning Bible study should not be the only time a Christian soul delves into her Scripture, Sunday morning biblical sermons constitute some of the gospel’s greatest theological classrooms, especially for the busy women and hardworking mothers.
If you sit under a biblically faithful, passionate, ardent, Christological, excellent expository preacher (like I’ve been for over a decade now), Sunday mornings are the perfect days for you to start learning how to study and love your Bible well.
Here are a few quick tips I pray will help you get started on your own Sunday sermon learning and studying:
- Watch your pastor faithfully and passionately handle and deliver God’s very breath to you—His Word. Take one Sunday, for instance, and simply watch! See the passion of the preacher and praise Jesus for your shepherd and for God’s Word. Be encouraged by your pastor’s zeal for the Word. Do you even get excited (anymore) at the thought of opening your very copy of God’s Word on Sundays, and during the week?
- Pray for the same fervor and faithfulness in your life to open the Scriptures every day. This is a beautiful work of the Spirit. The pastor’s fervor is part of the Spirit’s gifting. If you are to have this passion, you won’t be mustering it on your own no matter how long, or how intently you are watching passionate people handle God’s Word. Anyone’s love for God and his Word begins with God’s work in them in the first place. When was the last time you asked God to increase your love for Him and his very written words? Be bold and begin praying for this today!
- Consider taking notes. If it helps you, bring your notebook with you and write down as you listen to the points your pastor is drawing from the text. Hands-on Bible teaching is happening before you, the Word dissected and delivered, explained, tossed, turned. Take notes on the sermon and on how the beautiful exposition is happening. Try this for a few weeks in a row and do the best you can! Notice the explanation of words, the highlights of repetitions, the references he draws from more biblical passages, the associations he makes with different parts of the Bible, the gospel truths he pinpoints in the text, the bigger themes, the story plot, how the texts fits in the bigger storyline of the Bible, the characters involved, how he draws personal applications, how the Word of God is never boring, exhausted, unintelligible, uncool, irrelevant, insufficient, closed off, dead, superficial.
- Ask yourself questions before and after the sermon. What makes the pastor divide the text like he does because in doing so he makes the text so understandable and come alive? What questions could he have asked himself to get where he is with his main points? How can the way he exposes the Bible be applied to other texts? Begin with simple questions. Simple steps.
- Hold an actual copy of the Bible in your hands. I am thankful for the abundance of electronic options out there, but for a few Sundays, bring an actual paper copy of the Bible. Make yourself circle and highlight the text as you follow your pastor along in his exposition and teaching of the biblical text. This will make you notice the text flowing and allow you to follow along with your pastor’s exposition. It will also help your mind see and frame your text in a bigger context than a screenshot would. Trust me, a paper copy brings a more glorious vision of the Bible story! You won’t regret doing it for a while.
- Write the references you hear from the pulpit in your Bible. Write the quotes you hear, also. Don’t be afraid to take notes in your Bible. Get yourself another clean copy if you need to own a meticulously kept one. But, by all means, get yourself in the habit to write, highlight, scribble, circle, underline, add question marks, exclamation points, hearts, smiley faces, frowny faces, puzzled faces on the biblical text. Remind yourself that your goal is not a clean and perfectly kept Bible, but a well-loved, studied up, stored-in-your-heart kind of Bible.
While it is true that sermons are not enough to teach us all the biblical knowledge in the Scripture, Christ-centered faithful sermons are excellent hands-on training grounds for beginning and growing in your own Bible study skills and habits. Building your own personal study on Sunday sermon’s teaching methods may prove more efficient and regular than you are led to think. It is a muscle that gets strengthened on Sundays to be flexed regularly during the week.
If you are not part of a church that upholds the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible, I strongly advise you to find such a biblically faithful church and sit under the teaching of a gospel-centered pastor. If you are already part of a such a church with a biblically faithful pastor, I challenge you to listen and study the sermon. Use it not to become a skillful critique of sermons, and do not insist on a perfect pastor, but be a humble student of the Word of God. Remind yourself that sermons are well-pondered, analyzed, dissected, worked-out, studies of the Word of God—an arena of gospel grit where pastor and inspired words work out and expose God’s intended purpose for each text, under the guidance and inspiration of the Spirit. Therefore, don’t take this sermon study for granted!
Good sermons not only create a hunger for deeper things of God as Wilkin writes but, in my view, they also model and teach how to begin getting that hunger fed and satisfied right away. So, come Sunday, sit yourself in your favorite pew, Bible on your lap, pen and paper in your hand, ready to learn about how to learn because you’re about to hear the very living and active words of the Bible, eloquently delivered to you by God’s anointed, not to increase your head knowledge but to change your heart.