Take a moment and imagine this with me:
Community group is in an hour, and it is your turn to lead the discussion. You have no idea what to discuss, so you open your Bible to the Gospel of Mark. You slowly read the first chapter. When you finish, you lean back and realize you have no idea how to lead a discussion on what you just read. If you’re honest, you have no idea what you read and what it even means. With that, you contemplate texting everyone that you’re sick.
Have you felt that way before? If so, you’re not alone!
Now that scenario might be a bit exaggerated, but it is probably not too far from the truth. Many of us can recall moments in which we read a portion of the Bible and felt utterly lost. I have heard people exclaim after reading a text, “What does that mean? I have no idea!”
In his book, One to One Bible Reading, David Helm introduces a plan for reading the Bible that follows the acrostic: COMA. Don’t laugh, it’s true. Over the years I have found this method of Bible reading to be extremely helpful. So are you ready? Let’s get started!
In this step, you must imagine yourself as an investigative journalist and seek to find out everything you can about the setting of your passage. Some possible questions you could ask are: What type of literature is this? What has happened before and after the passage? What specific people and places are mentioned? What is the situation that necessitated this writing? What clues do we find that reveal the author?
Don’t do this alone. Read the passage and ask your group these questions too. You’ll be amazed at what you missed.
A Bible teacher I read would tell his students to read Acts 1:8 and make 20 observations. The next day he would tell them to read Acts 1:8 again and make 20 new observations. The next day, you guessed it! What do we look for in this step? Look for main points, conflict, statements in dialogue, repeated words, descriptions of characters, tone of the writing, the author’s comments, and more. Spend some time here, and be amazed at what you can find.
In this step you want to focus on what the text meant to the original audience. Look for commands and consequences. What did they learn about God, or what does this passage reveal about Jesus? Does a character learn something, or what does the author say that should motivate his audience?
Think about how the passage challenges your view of God and leads you to trust more in Him. Is there a behavior or attitude you need to change? Perhaps there is a sin you need to turn from to trust more in Jesus. What is it?
Open back up to Mark chapter 1, ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight, and use this method as you read. Try this with others and have fun!