Have you ever had the experience of observing someone who is a master of a practice that you attempt to perform competently? It is a sheer delight! That was my experience in reading Lindsay Olesberg’s book. I’ve both studied and led studies of the Bible using the methods she outlines in this book as well as sought to train others in what I agree is an essential practice. And the delight came in seeing HOW she does so well the things I attempt to do.
Primary to all of this for Olesberg are foundations: the Word’s centrality, power, and authority; and our soul-thirsty engagement with that Word individually and in community. Her passion for these realities runs throughout the book.
Then Oleberg describes the essential building blocks to good study: honoring the author, respecting the story, attentiveness, curiosity, understanding and response. I love the emphasis on attentiveness, which is fundamental not merely to good study of scripture but in any aspect of life. It is my conviction that training people in scriptural attentiveness can overflow into attentiveness in all of life, particularly as we also seek to be attentive to the ways God is inviting us to respond to scripture.
The third part of the book is what she calls “Tool Box”. Here she looks at questions of selecting the text for study, how to create manuscripts (with criteria for good manuscripts and why these criteria are so important), the role of prayer not only before and after study but while we study, genre, various resource tools other than commentaries, identify the structure of a passage, commentaries (only to be used after study, and carefully then), poetry, and group study. I set apart one chapter, on the use of imagination, because I think one of her distinct contributions to inductive Bible study training are the ways she weaves the use of imagination into various parts of the study process. She believes that induction and imagination are not at odds with each other but are close companions in attending to the text.
The book concludes with appendices on leading small groups, a brief intro to inductive study, ways to pay attention to the text, a list of ‘laws of composition’ and various print and online resources to help with study. Also, each chapter ends with a ‘practicum’ to help us enter into the practice of the ideas she teaches.