A couple of years ago, one of my youth leaders and myself set out to create a Bible study method that would help us to accomplish a two-part goal in our student ministry:
- Teach our students God’s Word accurately and systematically.
- Teach our students how to confidently and competently study the Bible on their own long after they have left the student ministry.
We began to work through some different methods, tweaking and making adjustments as we felt necessary. We did not set out to reinvent any wheels… we just wanted to be faithful to the teachings of the Bible and to equip our students in the best way possible.
We have been writing our own Bible study curriculum for some time now, slowly and intentionally working through the book of James on Sunday mornings. As our students are learning about some of the deep truths in this book, our desire is that they also begin to realize that meaningful Bible study is not reserved only for Bible scholars. It is our conviction that God’s Word was written to all of humanity and is meant to be read and understood. With the guidance of the Spirit of God, you can understand the Bible! You are meant to understand the Bible!
I’ve also found that this particular method is not only good for personal Bible study, but that it can also be a great tool in the home for family Bible study. We have used it at home with our own children and it has been successful. It is really interesting to get into some in-depth study with your children in familiar scriptures, and see some of the things that are really there versus what is commonly taught. We teach our students (and our children) to never take someone else’s word on Scripture, but to search it out for yourself.
The study method is called CSGMA (Content, Summary, God Attributes, Man Attribute, Gospel Application). Creative, I know. We have put it into a Pray, Read, Study format. Again, we did not set out to reinvent the wheel. This is kind of a hodge-podge of some other formats mixed with some experience and tweaks in our own ministry.
So, here we go…
It is so important to approach God’s Word with a prayerful attitude. We all have our own thoughts, ideas, backgrounds, perspectives… so we must come to God’s Word prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit to teach us what is right and true about the Scriptures (John 14:26). James also teaches us to come to the Scriptures humbly and submissively in 1:19, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…”
We should also spend some time thanking God for His Word to us. It is only because of His Word that we can know Him and the finished work of Christ.
Take some time before you begin to study the text to read. Read the text multiple times. Read the text in several different translations. Read the text out loud. Read the passages before and after the text you will be studying. The importance of knowing the proper context when studying Scripture cannot be overstated. Much Scripture has been twisted and perverted because knowledge of the proper context was not established. It is also a good idea to study through one book at a time. This will most definitely help with understanding the proper context.
As you begin with your initial reading of the text, this will be a good time to mark the phrases that you do not understand. Also take this opportunity to begin to define some words you may not know. Resist the temptation to be a lazy reader and read over those words you do not know. Each and every word means something to the text and is there for a reason, so it is imperative that we know what each word means.
It is this portion of the READ, PRAY, STUDY format when we begin to use the CSGMA Bible study method.
The first part of studying the scripture passage is to identify the Content. Content is simply the listing of the facts. Do not add your opinions – but let the Bible say what it says! Be sure to pay close attention in this content section to each word in the text… the, a, an, all, some… etc. These words, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can have a monumental effect on the passage. Also, in listing the content, list the people, the places, the actions verse by verse.
We teach our students to study small, bite-sized chunks. Really, no more than 15 verses at a time. It may take them some time to work through a book of the Bible, but the pay off will be worth it as their understanding of Scripture begins to grow and deepen. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than twenty content statements ( Use this as a good practice – sometimes it’s not realistic). You may also consider listing your content statements as bullet statements.
Again, if you get stuck on a word that you do not understand, look it up! Often we pass by names, places, and things as we read. Often these names, places, and things may have significant impact on intended meaning of the passage.
In this section, you will summarize your content statements into at least two summary statements, but no more than four. It may be helpful to place numbers by the summary statements.
We believe that this process of grouping the content into ideas will aid greatly in the understanding of the scripture. Grouping verses together to form a factual statement can be tricky in some areas of the Bible but can be relatively easy in other places. Don’t get discouraged! Be sure to use your content statements.
The aim of the summary is to challenge the reader to get the main ideas or the main points of the passage. Also, the summary should be factual, based upon the content.
One of our goals is to help our students (and ourselves) learn to consistently and accurately look for God in the Bible. We can see Him in the Scriptures even when there is not a “God is… “ statement in the passage. So we ask questions like, “Where do you see God in the verses?” “How do you see God working?” “Why is God doing this?”
The idea here is to list out as many of the attributes of God that you can see in this particular text. This will, very often, turn into a time of worship as we are intentionally seeking Him in His Word. This is where prayer ahead of time will be beneficial as the Holy Spirit will guide us through the study of the Bible and point us to God. It is good to continue this prayer as you are looking for God in this section.
The Bible will also teach us about us. This is a valuable part of this process. It will help us to see the contrasts between us and God. It will help us to see our need for Him and just how far He has gone to reach us. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will see things like our selfishness, our inability to accomplish those things to which God has called His children, what God can do through someone surrendered to Him and more. This step will also aid in the next part, Gospel Application.
Application (Gospel Application)
After looking at the facts of the passage and listing God’s and Man’s attributes, we need to examine how these verses apply to us. Make the application personal.
Remember, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”
Applications need to be Biblically sound. Your applications should harmonize with the rest of Scripture. God will never ask us to do anything inconsistent with His nature.
Make much about Jesus! How does your personal application relate back to the Gospel? Your application should ALWAYS show complete dependence on the divine power of God and not on yourself (2 Peter 1:3).
Our application should never be a list of to-do’s on our part, but should, in every way drive us to depend on God more and more.
This is certainly not the only Bible Study method available, and to be honest, it is not completely unique to us. If you decide to give this method a try, I pray that you will grow deep in the appreciation of the sufficiency of God and His Scriptures.
Lastly, as believers, we are to diligently search out the Scriptures in order that we may know, love and obey God. My prayer is that you are doing just that. Whether using this Bible Study or some other, root yourself deeply in God’s Word. The journey is like no other because the God of the Bible is like no other!
No one is like you, LORD; You are great, and Your Name is mighty in power.
(My buddy Chad Lawing wrote a lot of the CSGMA outline)
Example CSGMA Format –
Content (simply listing the facts)
Summary (summarize content/facts in 2 or 3 summary statements)
God Attributes (what do these verses teach about God)
Man Attributes (what do these verses teach about man)•