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Teaching others to memorize scripture

I have been working away at memorizing scripture for several years and have struggled with consistency at a number of points along the way.  Memorizing scripture is not hard.  At first your mind may be 'lazy' do to lack of use, but this disappears soon after you start exercising your memory.   Soon you will learn how to use your time wisely to make the most of it.  No, memorizing a passage of scripture is not hard.  But it is hard to make scripture memorization a life-style. The purpose of this article is provide a framework for teaching this lifestyle. 

Teaching others to memorize scripture does not mean telling them what to do or having any control or authority over them, but rather it is primarily leading by example.   You may instruct  people why they need to memorize scripture and show them how to organize their time and resources, but it is primarily a partnership of learning between two brothers or sisters in Christ. 

I have determined that there are three significant components which must be in place before your plan to commit a portion of the Bible to memory can be successful. These components can be summarized in three words: Motivation, Method and Monitoring.  

 

Motivation

Method

Monitoring

The three pieces of a profitable scripture memory program



How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your Word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:9-11 (NIV)

Motivation

But how shall we define success?

What is the definition of a profitable or successful scripture memory program?  I say plainly that the winner is not necessarily the one who can memorize the most scripture.  Memorizing scripture is a means to an end and is not the end in itself.  For that matter, everything we 'do' within the Church is a means to an end.   The goal is godliness. It is Christ-likeness in my own life.  Success can only be measured in these terms.  Are the things that you do with your hands, your  time and your mind bringing your closer to God? Simply put, the only true measure of spirituality in a person is the extent to which the fruit of the spirit are displayed in his life, and the extent to which his relationship to God has resulted in a change in attitude and behavior.  

There are a few things which we can use to measure success when it comes to memorizing the word of God:
  1. The word of God is only 'living and active' as it says in Hebrews 4:12 in as much as you allow God's Spirit to use it to change your life. God's Word is of little value to you unless you have determined to obey it. The person who has memorized no scripture, yet strives to obey God's word is far closer to Christ than the one who memorizes large quantities of it, but then experiences no life changes.
    Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:21-25)
    This is a good time to say that you do not need to memorize scripture to be a Christian. You need Jesus. You do not need to memorize scripture to be a godly person. So, if you choose not to memorize scripture, this does not make you a better or worse Christian than someone who does. On the other hand, you do need a knowledge of God's word, and because of its power, you owe it to yourself to learn as much of it as you can.

     

  2. The second criteria is to evaluate how well you know the scripture you have learned. Hastily learned verses will quickly vanish and cannot help you in the long run. Review is critical. Quality is more important than quantity.
  3. If you can accomplish the first two tasks, the next one, of course is to memorize as much as possible. Learning whole chapters and even books is of great value.
  4. Also, a successful scripture memory program must be sustainable. Memorizing God's word needs to be part of you daily life, but at a pace which can be maintained permanently.
  5. Finally, it is a good thing if your lifestyle rubs off on those around you.  The more people who take God's word to heart, the more influential the Church will be in your own community and society.

Why do we memorize scripture? Because it feeds us. Our motivation should be born out of a desire to know the living Lord better.   An emotional motivation to memorize scripture may tend to fade, and if your interest is only intellectual, then you may be distracted by other things. But a hunger for God's word which originates in your heart and in your soul will not fade.  The heart and the mind and the emotions do not always work together though.  There will be days and seasons where you do not 'feel' like memorizing scripture.  If you push through these times, the joy of the Lord will always be with you. In due time your flesh can be brought into subjection. 

 

Hunger

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever."  And this is the word that was preached to you.  Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

1Peter 1:23-2:3

Thirst

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Matthew 5:6 

Respect 

I will bow down toward your holy temple
 and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
Psalm 138:2

 

Method

The Method answers the question 'How?'.  How do I integrate the memorization of scripture into my busy life?  What should I memorize? What tools do I need?   How much time should I spend?  The process of learning how to memorize scripture is highly personalized.  Everyone needs to develop their own routines and habits depending on what they want to accomplish.  

Someone who is teaching another to memorize scripture must have well established routines themselves, then they can feel confident to assist others organize their time.  

A detailed article on how to memorize scripture is available on this web site by clicking here

Monitoring

I have recently begun to study the violin. I take a lesson once each two weeks.  My desire is to learn to play well enough so that I can play for pleasure and with my family.  My wife plays the piano and my children are taking piano lessons.  This is something that I want to do and it has value.  But I have noticed a pattern in the times I practice.  I practice more when it is close to the day when I have my lesson.  The day-to-day motivation for practicing is not idealistic.  It is not so that I can learn to play better, or because I think it is fun, but it is because I have a lesson in a couple of days and I am supposed to have learnt a specific piece.  For the few days after my lesson I frequently skip practicing.  My practice time is each night, after everyone has gone to bed, from 9:30 to 10:00.  There is no other practical time to do it, without ignoring my family.  When I am tired it is hard to get down to it, even though I enjoy it when I get started and even though I have a true desire to learn.  I need the point of accountability to get myself in gear.

Similarly, my children take piano lessons and we find that we practice more towards the end of the week than the beginning.  (The lesson is on Saturday).  My wife is perfectly qualified to teach my children how to play, but we know that we are into so many things that it would never actually get done if we did not have the Saturday lesson (and the thought of the $20.00 fee) as a regular point of accountability. Within this structure, we have learned that it is best all round to do a little bit of practice each and every morning and evening.  During the summer, we often stop the piano lessons for six weeks or so in order that we may focus on other things such as soccer.  We intend on keeping up the daily practice, but it is not two surprising that we do not.  

This is human nature. Some people are totally self-motivated and are driven to their goals without any assistance,  but most people are not like that.    In all areas of self development we typically need some sort of structure to operate in if we are to actually stick to it.  We need a regular point of  'friendly' accountability.   

The same is true in the area of Scripture Memorization. Most people cannot be consistent if they are not working with someone.  With time we become more self-motivated, but this takes a long time to achieve.   Those who are just beginning to memorize scripture are more likely to get distracted that are those who have made it a habit for years.

Everyone who memorizes scripture needs an accountability partner.  If the that person has similar goals as yourself, you can be of great support and encouragement to one another. 

Do not take the words monitoring and accountability to mean control and authority.  Rather you and  your partner work together to encourage and support one-another as equals.  One may be more experienced and may know more, but that does not make him better or even an 'authority' on the subject.  You and your partner agree to be accountable to each other to accomplish whatever goals you have set and as a result can together 'monitor' your progress.

When you work with someone to memorize scripture you should agree to meet on a regular schedule (say once a week) to 'check up' on each other and discuss the next week's goals.  You can also use this time to troubleshoot problems with how to actually get the work done.  Spend time sharing and  praying with and for one another for spiritual growth.  After a long season, say a year, you can re-evaluate what you are doing. The purpose of the Scripture Memory Challenge is to continually expand the number of people who are memorizing scripture. As a result, after meeting with someone for a year or so, you should break off with your routine so each of you can start meeting with someone different, preferably someone who is just starting to memorize scripture. In doing so, each of you can use the experience you have gained from your year together to build up others to the point where they can go off and work with others too!

This requires a little planning and determination.  As part of your regular meetings, pray that God would give each of you a new person at the end of the year to carry on the process.  You may not have to look too hard for new people, I think that God will bring them to you.  If you have this in mind at the beginning of you year together, you will be able to plan for it and when the time comes for you to stop meeting together so that you can meet with others, it will not be too sad of an experience.   After you have been meeting and praying and sharing with someone for a year, it may be difficult to purposely stop, even for a good reason.

Do not try to work with too many people, because this will be overwhelming and not as productive.

There as some clear and logical guidelines for deciding who you should spend such time with.  It is firm that you should meet with someone who is the same gender unless it is your mother or sister, etc. As for your spouse or girlfriend,  you should be spending time in the word together anyway, including memorization, on a ongoing basis. Keeping to this rule avoids complications in relationships which can lead to sin.

The person whom you meet with should be someone who is similar to you in some ways and has similar goals. Someone whom you get along with and whom you can trust and enjoy being with.

Conclusion

The important thing in this process is just to get started.  Pray for wisdom from God because he has promised to give it to you. Start memorizing scripture today and start looking around for someone to work with. Keep in mind that the goal is to grow in godliness and obedience to God's word and while this is in progress, to be a positive influence on the lives of others whom you meet. 

 

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Copyright (c) 2000 Stephen Simpson. 
All rights reserved. You may use the material on these pages freely, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION,
Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by
permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers