I will insert here a more extensive explanation of our Pathways Bible Training program, written by our team leader, Al Lewis. If you have question, please email me and I will try to clarify!
The Pathways Bible Training program is designed to help pastors gain practical skill in studying the Bible so that they can receive God’s message from it for themselves and for their congregations. In order to learn how to study the Bible well certain skills are needed and a disciplined process of study needs to be learned. Some training efforts make the mistake of assuming that because the skills are fairly simple that learning how to study the Bible should be a fairly straightforward process. Often one-week courses are designed to teach the basic skills and it is assumed the students will start to study the Bible well. Unfortunately, this often proves to be wrong. Although most pastors have the intellectual abilities to learn the skills and tools of study, most lack the educational background to apply them well. Many lack cultural experience with a disciplined process of study. Most have been educated in a rote memory system of education that does not prepare them well to analyze a passage of scripture. The basic habits of writing down ideas, of weekly study and preparation for messages, and meditating on scripture are all new to many pastors. These and other problems make learning to study in a one-week course almost impossible.
The Pathways method uses instruction, practice, discussion and presentations to teach students how to use the tools and skills or Bible study and to begin to develop the habits that are necessary to study well. We start with basic skills, which we then build upon in later workshops, gradually helping the students learn and implement the skills in their own study and teaching. Practice, repetition and reinforcement of concepts in successive workshops lead the students to make long-term progress. The requirement that we have for our students to pass on the training to others after each workshop forces them to learn the skills and steps of study better so that they can teach others. The training is actually reinforced in their own lives as they train others. After working with hundreds of pastors in many different regions around the world we are seeing significant changes in the way pastors actually study and teach the Word of God to their people.
The Pathways method has 9 workshops, which are presented over the course of 3 years, or one workshop approximately every 4 months. The workshops are designed to progressively teach and reinforce the process necessary for successful study of the Bible. The first 6 workshops use Demonstration sermons to illustrate how to preach expository messages, teaching sessions with practice of skills to help students practically learn new skills, and sessions that allow the students to make short presentations with discussion to practice using the skills they have learned. The final three workshops have mostly sermon presentations with discussion. Below are descriptions of each of the workshops, including the skills taught in each one.
Workshop 1: We start with a study of the book of Jonah because it is a story, which is easier for many of our students to grasp because they come from oral cultures. We introduce the Bible Pathway, the idea that we need to consider what the author intended to say to the original readers before we ask what God intends for us to learn. We also present the concept of Careful Bible Study, meaning that we must observe before we try to understand and we must understand before we try to apply. We spend a good deal of time learning how to observe scripture. We also introduce the concept of context, or surroundings as we often describe it.
Workshop 2: We study the book of II Timothy because it is about pastoral ministry and most of our students are pastors. In this workshop we teach our students the skill of asking good questions as we observe the text, which helps bridge between observation and understanding. We introduce the idea of a Message Statement, a one-sentence restatement of the main ideas of the passage. In later workshops we help them learn to write better and better message statements. We also teach them the check point of Staying on the Line. This means that we check ourselves to make sure we are not saying more than the passage says, or less, but only what the passage actually says.
Workshop 3: In this workshop we study the first chapters of Genesis and begin to teach our students how to use the organization of a passage, looking at Sections and Flow to help us understand the message of the passage. Another check point is introduced which we call Pre-understanding, which helps the students be aware of the understanding that they bring to the study of a passage so that they can avoid reading ideas into the passage or misunderstanding the passage because of what they have understood or believed in the past. We introduce the concept of the Bible’s Salvation Story in this workshop. This begins to help the students understand how any passage of scripture that they study fits in with the rest of the Bible story and how it relates to the Gospel.
Workshop 4: We focus on the Salvation Story in this workshop discussing the progress of the story through the various sections of scripture. After discussing each section students preach sermons from that section. This helps them gain skills in preaching the entire Bible from the perspective of the New Covenant and the gospel.
Workshop 5: This workshop studies the Gospel of Mark, giving us experience with another type of literature in the Bible. Through this study we help the students learn that there are many different types of literature in the Bible and that we need to use different skills an approaches for each type. We learn about parables in this study and how structure helps us understand the gospels. We also begin to talk about how to take what we are learning in our Bible study and applying it to our teaching and preaching so that our people learn as well.
Workshop 6: We focus on the book of Psalms for this workshop. The students learn about Hebrew poetry and how structure can help us understand the meaning of the Psalms. We also talk about how to appropriately preach Christ from the Psalms, and the rest of scripture as well.
Workshop 7: We study the first 6 chapters of Romans in this workshop. We learn about Linking Words and how they help us understand the structure in the Epistles and how this can help us understand the Flow of the Message of the letter. In this workshop we begin to see the students use all of the skills we teach.
Workshop 8: In this workshop, students present sermons they have prepared from the book of Habakkuk followed by discussion. This helps them learn how to preach through books of the Old Testament.
Workshop 9: In this workshop the students preach from the book of Colossians. This helps them learn how to preach through a New Testament book.
We have found that having a workshop every 4 months helps the students make the maximum progress. If they are given more frequently, the students struggle to learn, practice and train others in that short of time frame. If we wait much longer than 4 months they begin to forget some of what they have learned and lose momentum toward the goal of learning to study well. Most of the time the workshops are presented over the course of 4 to 5 days, less if translation is not necessary. But the schedule can be adjusted according to the particular needs of the students as they pass the training on to others, sometimes being conducted over several weekends.