I pulled this together for some of my students recently. I decided to go ahead and post this on Tumblr/Twitter. This is my adaptation of the OIA that I learned from Intervarsity Chapter Camp during my time in the fellowship in college at James Madison University. I did not use any additional sources to develop this rough instructional outline. Hopefully this posting encourages others to learn how to take some easy first steps in reading the Bible. Have fun and blessings to you on your readings journeys with the Lord!
OIA Inductive Reading Method for Students
Elisa Fernandez Style!
Hi! So, you are interested in learning how to read your Bible… AWESOME! To know someone, you’ve got to spend time with them. Ask them questions: Who are you? Where did you come from? Where are you going? Where have you been? What do you like to do for fun? You have conversations with that person and allow yourself time to get to know them — and in return, that person generally dedicates the same time getting to know you.
Cool thing: God already knows you backwards and forwards. If you don’t believe it, trust me. Jeremiah 1:5 in the Old Testament says,
Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—
that’s what I had in mind for you.
God knows everything about you - whether you’re cool with that or not! Now, today, can be your turn, your chance, to put forth the effort and time to get to know Him. The character of God and the history of the world and God’s creation all lies within the true story of the Bible. I guarantee you that you will not find every answer in the Bible. Just as you get to know a new person in your life, it could take a lifetime to know them 100%. Allow yourself time and energy and consistency when learning about God and His Word. Learning about who He is and what He has done does not come easily or overnight.
WHERE DO I READ AND WHEN?
Allow your reading times to be in a place and at a time that is comfortable, accessible, private and away from distraction. Create a reading plan. For example: commit to reading a chapter a day of a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). Or plan on reading one Psalm and one Proverb chapter a day. Time: You will have to pick a time of the day that best suits you. You know your schedule best: pick a time that will be the same time everyday.
WHAT DO I READ?
For beginners, I always recommend choosing a Gospel. John is my favorite because it was written by the most passionate of disciples… John! He was the youngest most tender-hearted disciples of Jesus who wrote his Gospel as a memoir of his best friend. Jesus is beautifully portrayed and His works are displayed throughout the entire book. Why start with a Gospel? God reveals His character through His Son, Jesus. In order to know God, we must learn about what He is like. His character: His heart, His Word, His actions, His promises, His care, His rebuke, His tenderness, His emotional behavior, His authority, His passion, everything is proven true through the actions and true story of the life of Jesus. Prophecy (holy men from the Old Testament given authority by God to share His Word) talks about God sending His Son to earth. Jesus was expected to arrive for thousands of years. In the Jewish faith tradition, they were waiting for a Messiah. A Messiah was the “sign” the ONE whom God created to be present with us; to live among us and teach us the ways of God in order that we may live holy and worshipful lives that glorify God.
Check out the beginning! I also would like to recommend reading Genesis and Exodus (the first two books of the Bible). This is the beginning of our family history! Where we came from and how this world became the place that it is today. In order to understand our redeeming God in the form of Jesus, we must learn why we need redeeming in the first place. Reading these first two books of the Pentateuch allows us to look into the early years of our faith.
LOTS OF JARGIN
Be prepared! I have already thrown out some jargin at you. You will see it again as you read scripture! Do not be afraid of the jargin… just know that we all have more to learn and NO ONE KNOWS IT ALL! The good news is this: share what you are learning with a friend. Share the stuff you are struggling with and questioning in the text. God is big enough and can handle your hard questions. We will always be learners! Do not be worried or freaked out if scripture is overwhelming or hard to understand. DO NOT GIVE UP. Instead, talk about it and ask questions.
HELPFUL TIPS FOR READING THE BIBLE
1.) Bible. For students, I generally recommend the NIV (New International Version) of the Bible. It’s easy reading text and Zondervan makes a fantastic study Bible. Study Bible offer additional notes that focus of the context of the scripture (the who, what, when, where, why). I love using study Bibles because they help me read the “jargin” and also understand what the writer of the text is saying.
2.) Be aware that the Bible was written THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO. The Bible was not written in our modern day context meaning… Be patient with the writer. Understand that they are coming from a different time and place. Try to place yourself there.
3.) Try to always pray before and after you read. Praying is a dying practice! Allow yourself a few minutes to clear your mind, focus your heart, and talk to God. Ask Him to prepare your heart to learn more about Him. When you’re finished reading, thank Him for the time you spent together and ask for His help to apply the Word to your life. This absolutely makes a difference.
4.) Try to be flexible and consistent. Recognize that you will not learn everything overnight. Allow yourself time and dedicate yourself to reading and meeting your goal.
OIA INDUCTIVE METHOD
As you know, the heading of this prompt is called the “OIA Inductive Method.” OIA stands for Observation, Interpretation and Application. I learned this in college with Intervarsity Ministries and it totally changed the way I read and respond to scripture. This reading method helps you to learn and meditate on the text that you are reading. It is helpful for new and experienced believers. Each step must be completed in order for the method to work well.
O - OBSERVATION
Observing the text is the first step. When you read a passage of scripture (either a chapter or a certain section), try to observe what is going on. If you were to sit inside of a Starbucks, you could easily observe the people that come in, the conversations that go on, the drinks that are announced, the reading of names on the individual coffee orders, you notice the weather outside. Just by sitting and looking around, you learn a lot about people and what’s going on at the Starbucks. The same is true when reading the text. Read and place yourself in the scene of the text. What do you see? What message do you hear? Who is talking? Who is that person talking to (the audience)? Where are they? This is where your study Bible may come in handy. It offers additional information to help you understand the scene well.
I - INTERPRETATION
Interpretation of the scripture comes after observing the text. Interpreting allows us to ask and answer more questions: Why is the writer talking about this particular situation? What was the response of the audience at the time when hearing this message? What is truly being said here? What is the main message?
Interpreting the text allows you to be in the scene of the situation the text is talking about and allows you to understand what is going on. If you were watching a play at a local school, a play you have never seen, after observing the characters, hearing the dialog, and observing the scene the characters are placed in, you being to interpret the context and the plot of the story. You being to learn about what is happening and sometimes, you can imagine what will happen next. It’s fun when plays have a lot of twists and turns within the story that are unexpected! Not only does it create a dramatic effect, but it also allows the viewer to take a step back and re-observe and re-interpret. With this being said, sometimes, it is helpful to re-read the scripture passage. Re-reading the passage gives you time to rewind the scenario even when the test has taken an unexpected turn. The Bible is always full of twists and turns that DO make sense in due time… be patient with the text and take your time reading and interpreting.
A - APPLICATION
Application is the next step after observation and interpretation. This can either be the easiest or the most difficult part for all of us. After reading and interpreting the text, give yourself time to reflect on the text. Ask yourself these questions: What has taken place here in this passage? What does it mean to me? Are my views and opinions challenged? Do I believe the text? Do I see people acting upon these major ideas in my life? How do I want to respond to this passage?
In our small group time, we talk a lot about application, believe it or not. We discuss ways that the text implicates the way we think. Cool word: Implicate. It’s a word that is best described like this… How does something influence you? Impact your life? Change your heart? How does the Bible text implicate your life and challenge you to live differently?
This will be maybe the most challenging of all three steps in the OIA method. Why? Because we might notice that the Word will convict our hearts of something we are not ready for. There is a possibility that you will learn something in the Word that you have heard your parents say and promote the opposite. You might learn something about God that you least expected. You might learn something about yourself that you were not prepared for. God’s Word was created for just this purpose.
In fact, Paul, beloved apostle of Jesus and writer of a majority of letters written in the New Testament after Christ’s death wrote to us in 2 Timothy 3:2-4 and 3:14-17
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power…
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
As the passage says above, God’s Word was given to us to help us learn more about Him, ourselves, and the world around us. We see a lot of crap day-in and day-out and sometimes it is easy to say, “That’s just the way it is.” The Bible will challenge our thinking, our behavior, and our worldview and God will change our hearts for the good.
Commit yourself to learning (if you are ready). We will always be learners and now is always a great time to start. Commit yourself to sharing with others. We learn so much about God through each other and the way we choose to exemplify His Son, Jesus. With love, care, kindness, and patience we can support each other as a small group if and when we dedicate ourselves to reading about the greatest story, our family history, the Bible.
Blessings to you as you embark on this new adventure!