In all my time being in and around small group settings, one of the most common struggles people have is their interaction with the Bible. It is not that they don’t have time to read or don’t have the want (though that does apply to some), it’s more that they don’t know what to do with it. Once you sit down and read a few versus, now what? Do I even understand what it means? Do I know what I’m meant to get out of it? And more importantly what am I supposed to do with it and how does it apply to my life.
Fear not! You are not alone in this struggle, there are methods to help you with this.
One of the most popular Bible study methods is SOAP.
Let’s take a look at each section of SOAP and how they work.
This is the easy one, but still very important. In a notebook or a journal, write down the scripture you just read. Why do I need to write down the scripture I just read? Firstly, you are going to be writing down more stuff in other sections, it is useful for reviewing to already have the associated text with it. Next, the word of God is our defense. Knowing some verses is never a bad thing. Study shows that the more ways you can receive a piece of information the more likely you will remember it. And lastly, but certainly not least is you never know how God is going to reveal things to you. Maybe taking the time to write a scripture out is how he makes that verse come to life for you.
You’ve just written down and read a verse, what did you…wait for it….observe? Who were the people in it the story? Who was speaking and who was spoken to? Where were they, why were they? Did anything stand out to you? What caught your interest or was confusing. Jot these down.
This is the biggie. There is something in the verse that God wants you to know or something he wants you to take action on. At first, this can seem daunting, but as you practice this will be a little easier to do. But you do want to work through it. What is the overriding theme of the verse? Is it about loving others, anger, finances, there is something there that you are meant to take away. And you know what the cool part is? The next time you read this exact same verse, the takeaway may be different.
When you have figured out what it is God wants you to hear or do, pray about it. Ask for help in doing it and sticking with it. Pray for clarification if you don’t know how to apply it to yourself. And if you could not find the thing, pray that. Ask God for guidance. “I know there is something you want me to know or do, help me see it.”
There it is. It’s really not that difficult. Need an example to help drive this home? Check one out at Love God Greatly.
Ok, I told you all of that, now I have to tell you this: There is one caveat with using the SOAP technique. That caveat is how do you interpret the verse. Last time I checked I am not a linguist. I don’t know Greek. Maybe you do. Is there ever a time that when you read “the” it might not mean “the” as you know it? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
So how do you overcome that. It is important to first understand what you are reading for. If you read a verse where the theme was about “being still”, you don’t necessarily need know if there are any translation concerns. However, sometimes they are important. This requires work. You can do the quick and easy Google search or you can read some commentary. There are lots of sites that will give you verse by verse commentary. Some have many commentaries by different authors.
A good one that I use is Bible Gateway.
It is my sincerest hope that this article has been of use to you and helps you better engage your God and his word.
If you have any comments, suggestions or alternate Bible study methods let us know in the comment section below.