My major in undergraduate school was “Youth Ministry”. Many of the books that I was assigned to read for class made me feel more like a junior high school student than a student in college. Maybe it was the fact that a majority of these textbooks were published in the late ‘90s, when clip art was mistakenly understood as both a cool and an essential visual aid? Sadly, I walked away from many of those books disappointed. Sure, there were certainly elements that could be positively received and applied. However, a majority of the content I was exposed to left me wanting more…and certain that “more” could be had. This desire for greater substance and clarity not only occurred in the books that served as my classroom texts, but also of the books that were written specifically for students as well.
In the years since my undergraduate days, I have still been hard-pressed to find a book, targeted at students, that was not primarily filled with “fluff” and a disproportionate amount of personal illustration (not to mention, clip art). That is, until now…
Bible Study: A Student’s Guide (P&R, 2013), by Jon Nielson, is a seriously practical book about Bible study for students who are serious about their faith. On a side, Jon presently serves as the college pastor at College Church, in Wheaton, Illinois. Before he became a pastor to college students, Jon served in both youth and sports ministry. Jon’s experience with students, along with his gift as both writer and teacher, and a sincere love for the Scriptures are unmistakable in this book.
As noted by the publisher, Bible Study: A Student’s Guide, “confirms that real, meaningful Bible study in not only possible for students, but important.” Students can read, study, interpret, and apply the Bible responsibly. And, I believe, when a student begins to do this regularly, their energy for personal study will be exponentially increased. So, how does Bible Study get a student moving in that direction? In order to set the student in motion, Neilson begins by addressing and explaining several core convictions about the Scriptures:
- The Bible Is God Speaking
- The Bible Is Powerful
- The Bible Is Understandable
- The Bible Is a Literary Work
From there, Nielson moves on to some key hermeneutical issues, including genre, the unity of the Bible’s story line, technique and approach, and he addresses several possible pitfalls along the way.
I can say, by far, that Bible Study: A Student’s Guide is the single best book (for students) that I have ever encountered, in terms of learning how to effectively study God’s Word. It communicates a high view of Scripture by clearly articulating, in terms a student can digest, the authority, inerrancy, and perspicuity of God’s Word. It takes an unashamed Christ-centered approach to all of Scripture. It handles the necessary discussion of biblical genre very well. Nielson, as well, provides a wonderful balance between a grammatical-historical and redemptive-historical hermeneutical approach. Even as one with a couple degrees in theology, I was energized as I read it because it was taking elements of Bible study that I hold dear and consider essential, and in turn instructing me on how I may articulate these things in terms that students can understand. Really, the remarkable thing about this book is that it would be an excellent primer for anyone, student-thru-adult, on responsible and intelligent Bible study. Perhaps that’s why D.A. Carson noted, “If you are a high schooler, read this book carefully and thoughtfully, and then loan it to your parents.”
In sum, I have no question that, in terms of student ministry, this will be my “go-to” book to use, recommend, and give away on the topic of Bible study. It will be my starting point for training and setting a foundation for thoughtful and substantive Bible study in student ministry small groups. And, it will be a resource I consult often as a guide to explaining, in profoundly clear terms, the theological and methodological necessities of Christ-exalting Bible study.
Coming away from this text, students (and, perhaps, parents!) will no longer be stuck in the ambiguous world of “What does this passage mean to me…?”, and will now be energized by the ability to approach God’s Word asking and answering the more important question, “What does this passage mean?” From there, the heart-transforming truth of the Scriptures may be effectively applied.
I enthusiastically recommend this book!
*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.
Publisher: P and R Publishing Company
Publication Date: April 2013
ISBN 10: 1596386371
ISBN 13: 9781596386372
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