I once heard the story of a new pastor fresh out of seminary who went to a rural church in Montana. The first Sunday, only one cowboy showed up, so the pastor asked him if he wanted to go ahead and hear the sermon, or just go home, since no one else was there.
The cowboy said, “If I went out to feed the cows and only one cow showed up, I’d feed that cow!”
Emboldened by that, the new pastor went ahead and preached an hour-long sermon. Afterward, he asked the cowboy what he thought.
The cowboy said, “If I went out to feed the cows and only one cow showed up, I wouldn’t dump the whole truckload of feed on one cow!”
We’ve all had the whole truckload dumped on us. We all know how that feels.
That’s why, when trying to learn about the Bible and living the Christian life, it can be such a relief to get just what we need…no more and no less.
A 1982 study at Carnegie Mellon University demonstrated that the brain retains more from a concise summarization of a subject that it does from a full presentation. It’s proof that the brain can get all of a little, but often gets none of a lot.
This supports the value of learning a tight overview of a given subject first. Then, as you learn additional information, you can hang it on the memory pegs created by the tight overview.
Gaining a basic knowledge of the story and teachings of the Bible is one of the most powerful things a Christian can do to lay a foundation for a lifetime of learning.
The reason so many Christians have struggled to gain a mature knowledge of the Bible might not have anything to do with desire or even effort.
Rather, it may be that no one has ever gathered all the essential information into one place, boiled it down to its irreducible minimum, and presented it in a creative and effective way so that they could get it.
Let that soak in. You can’t live what you don’t know or understand, and you cannot know or understand an extremely complex subject unless someone does a superior job of teaching you.
There is no magic wand, and it is not possible to reduce mastering the Bible to the snap of a finger. But it is possible to make it clearer and easier than it often is.
Because of these two facts: (1) foundational information is important and (2) we must have good teachers, the challenge of learning the Bible can be huge.
Often, Bible teachers who understand their subject well, out of wonderful motives, may end up giving us more than we can absorb. We may end up bailing on a resource (book, online resource, Bible study, small group) out of a sense of overwhelm.
But we don’t have to give up. Churches, mentors, and books are available to help you gain a foundational knowledge of Scripture. Once we understand that that is what we need to begin, we can be more successful at finding them.
As you strive to master the Bible so well that the Bible masters you, search for resources (books, online resources, Bible studies, small groups) that will give you the basics that you can build greater knowledge on. As you conform to the way the brain works, you will find yourself getting all of a little rather than none of a lot.
If you’ve ever confused the ark of the covenant with the ark of Noah, or Jericho with Jeroboam, Max Anders’ classic book, 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, is for you. In just fifteen minutes a day, you’ll learn the Bible’s key people, events, and doctrines to get more out of God’s Word.
Dr. Max Anders is the author of over 25 books included 30 Days to Understanding the Bible. He has taught on the college and seminary level and is a veteran pastor. Max was also one of the original team members with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. He provides resources and discipleship strategies at MaxAnders.com to help people grow spiritually.