How to Study the Bible – The SOAP Method

A Rough First Outing

I wish I could say that I instantly fell in love with reading the Bible. I actually found much frustration while digging into Scripture the first time. 

I was a thirteen-year-old boy heading off to my first winter camp, with a youth group I had just begun attending. I anxiously asked my parents to buy me a Bible, but not just any Bible, a “black leather Bible with the letters ‘NIV’ on the side”. Now, I wish I could say that I described it with the same passion as Ralphie, from A Christmas Story, requesting “a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle”. But I didn’t. My request was fueled in part by a curiosity about Christianity but mainly out of fear of being the only kid at Bible camp without a Bible. I knew nothing of the contents inside the book. I just knew what it was supposed to look like on the outside.  

I remember feeling the same about my first personal quiet time with God. The camp leaders taught us that “personal quiet time” is a term used to describe the time you sit down with the Bible and study it. There was a brief teaching on how to do one, but it might as well have been in a foreign language, because I left more confused than before. That wasn’t going to deter me from doing my first quiet time! However, my enthusiasm quickly changed to frustration and my curiosity was overshadowed by a sense of feeling overwhelmed and in over my head. I was frustrated as I discovered the Bible was not just one book but actually a collection of sixty-six books, numbering over a thousand pages. Questions began rolling around in my head: 

Where was I to begin?

Do Christians really read the whole Bible?

How do all these books fit together?

And, why are all these names so hard to pronounce? 

Disappointed, I looked around for clues of what to look like on the outside, but I had no idea what was supposed to be going on internally. Unfortunately, this was my approach to reading the Bible all throughout middle school.

Be Refreshed, Be Dangerous

I believe it’s easy to get lost in the noise of what studying the Bible is “supposed to” look like. Scrolling through my social media feeds, I often see a picturesque scene of my friend’s personal quiet setting: complete with coffee mug, Bible, journal (opened to a non-vulnerable page of course) in a naturally lit room on some sort of wood-grained or neat surface. Meanwhile, my reality finds me sitting in an office (under fluorescent lights) scribbling in a journal on my messy desk. It’s good because it works for me in the same way different settings work for others.  

This is my encouragement to you today. Be fueled by the internal transformation that personal time with God through Scripture promises to bring (Isaiah 55:11, in fact just read all of 55, it’s a good one!) and less about what it’s supposed to look like externally. There are many ways to do a quiet time, including the one you will find below, but the trick is and, the heart behind Arise, is that you would find one that works for you. One that leaves you refreshed from time with our Heavenly Father. One that is as dangerous to the enemy as Ralphie wielding his Red Ryder BB gun. 

Soap Like Never Before

Most mornings my routine involves toothpaste, Mango Strawberry Spark, and soap. I was introduced to soap in my twenties, and I have loved how easy it is to use. I use soap at my office to help focus my day, but you could really use it anywhere: the coffee shop, the park, or while your kids are getting a haircut.

I should clarify, I’m not talking about the cleansing agent but the way of approaching Scripture. Soap stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. I joked earlier, but it really is an easy way to approach reading the Bible. As a middle school pastor, it’s hard to get out of the “studying to teach” aspect of reading Scripture, even in my personal devotion time.  Soap helps me see the section of Scripture, within its context, and apply it to my life personally.

How to use SOAP

Scripture – 

Spend time in prayer before you begin. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your time. Ask God to illuminate the words for today. Write down the passage(s) that stood out to you today. Be specific. Don’t write down too much. There is something about writing out Scripture that seems more engaging. It’s a discipline that requires commitment, not beautiful penmanship.  

Observation – 

Write out repeating words, look up words you don’t know, describe events happening in and around the text, 

What is God showing you from this passage?  

  • Is He communicating something about Himself?
  • Does this passage speak to your identity in Christ?
  • Are there any foundational truths?

Finish this section with a quick summary of the one thing God is speaking to you through this Scripture. Make sure to keep this thought consistent with the rest of Scripture.

Application – (1 Peter 1:7; James 1:12)

Get personal. Remember, this is your time with God. If you can’t be real with Him, you’re not being real with yourself. How does your observation impact your life? Does God have instruction for you today?

Prayer – 

Prayer is a two-way conversation with God. As you pray leave time for God to place things on your heart. When you do this, you leave room for God to validate the things He spoke to you during Scripture. Pray a specific prayer about the thing that has been revealed to you today. Lastly, write out your prayer.

Here’s the key to using SOAP: Commit to it for thirty days. By doing this you will see themes from your own life and things that you key in on that might give you insight into the beautiful person God has created.

And remember SOAP because BODY WASH is too long to recall.

(Download the SOAP Study Method Resource here)

(Download the SOAP Study Method Worksheet here)

Another Tool to Try

One last resource that I want to pass along. It’s called the Dwell App and it has become a staple in my routine. Dwell is strictly a Bible listening app on iPhone that will be coming to Android devices in the Spring of 2019. From their website: “Dwell offers the most beautiful listening experience for the most important and cherished book in our world’s history: the Bible.”

The team at Dwell desires to take the 21st Century Christian back to the time when the letters found in the Bible were read aloud to a listening audience. 

As a middle school pastor, it’s hard for me to personally detach from reading for the purpose of teaching. Dwell has taken me back to allowing Scripture to be read for the purposes of listening to it. For me personally, Scripture has come alive again in a beautiful way.

Dwell URL: https://dwellapp.io

 

 

About the author, Rob Williams: Son of God. Husband to my wife, Sara, an amazing lady (Seriously, I married up). Father to two wonderful children, Bailey and Boden. And a middle school pastor at Summit View Church in Vancouver, WA. 

I enjoy being active and outside. If it involves a ball, chances are I’ve played it. I love the Pacific Northwest and the abundance of hiking trails within an hour’s drive. My drive is to equip and empower middle school students through the Holy Spirit to be a “this generation” and to dispel the myth that they are the next generation. 

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Comments

  1. Hi Rob,
    I enjoyed your take on Soap…I’m presently using it as I lead a small discipleship group here in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. I had to leave a comment though, because I see you are the MS pastor at SV Church in Vancouver, WA.
    Summit View was my home church for 13 years, from 2003 to July of 2016, when we moved to Okahoma. I have 2 daughters and they are 10 yrs apart. My oldest, now 25, was 10 in 2003 and grew up in the MS and HS youth groups, when Jon Seibert was a newbie. 🙂 And my my younger had just finished 7th grade in Steven’s last year before he transitioned to HS ministry.
    I pray by the grace of God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, covered in the blood of Jesus, that the ‘now’ generation within your sphere of influence and beyond, will be forever His by salvation through repentence.
    Grace and peace to you and your precious family and the SV family too, in Christ Jesus, and for his glory, Julia Tym

    • Thank you for this, Julia! It’s Lisa DaSilva here (I remember you and your sweet family well from your time at Summit View and in the MOMS ministry). Our comments aren’t public, yet, but I’ll be sure to pass this message along to Rob for you.

      Thank you for reading our website, commenting, and using the resources! Please share the website, our instagram account, and FB page with everyone you know in Oklahoma! We’re blessed to have you as part of the collective!

      Blessings to you and your family!

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