Interview: Pastor Promotes Outlining Every Book of the Bible to Combat Biblical Illiteracy

A picture of a Bible study group
A picture of a Bible study group (photo:
By Steve Sun March 18th, 2024

In the early years of preaching at the altar, it was enough for Pastor Shen from East China to recite 15 different themes of sermons. However, as time passed, he realized that he didn’t understand the Bible or grasp its essence. Afterward, he spent ten years helping believers clarify the overall framework of each book of the Bible. Not only did he move from the periphery of the Bible to its core, but believers also grew in biblical literacy.

Recently, he, who has been working in the church for over 40 years, accepted an interview with a Chinese online Christian newspaper, Christian Times. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in Sichuan, Pastor Shen went to serve in a struggling church in Southwest City, D. When he began to deepen pastoral care, he found that the 15 sermons were not enough. He shared, "When I realized I was not rich in God's words, I began to open the Bible to read. But I found that I couldn't understand it, and I couldn't be absorbed in it."

Pastor Shen said he could not apply God's word to pastoral ministry, so believers couldn’t be satisfied with his sermons. He cited an example: "When unable to be absorbed in the Bible, believers become self-centered and begin to pray for blessings with utilitarianism. It's more about personal benefits than sincerely committing to Jesus or changing and following the truth."

"When the pastor doesn't understand the Bible, he tends to interpret the scriptures out of context. This will cause problems in the pastor's prayer, visitation, pastoral care, and the congregation's understanding of the Bible." He decided to find a way to help believers grasp God’s words and overcome biblical illiteracy. 

Although he only had a junior high school education, his sincere heart touched God. God led him to initiate activities such as reading the Bible and taking exams, allowing him to grow with the believers. In the first stage, believers were motivated to read the Bible and take exams, some receiving rewards. Pastor Shen selected three questions from a chapter of the Bible and sent them to believers. One hundred questions were issued every month, and after two months, he selected one hundred questions from the two hundred as exam questions. Exams were held every two months, and the top five received the reward of a subsidized trip. Later, to motivate more people to read the Bible, Shen expanded the number of winners to fifteen. The middle five were rewarded with a seventy-yuan hardcover Bible, and the bottom five were rewarded with souvenirs.

He recalled, "They would ask each other if they couldn't find the answers. When no one could solve them, they would come to me. Eventually, in the church, whenever believers had free time, they would study the Bible." In the first stage, Pastor Shen sticked to this approach for two years.

Two years later, he found that when the Bible was laid out in front of him, he still didn't know what the book was about or understand how the events in the Bible were handled. In the second stage, he began to guide the congregants to read through the Bible book by book, but he felt that the interpretive materials used were too cumbersome and that they should spend several months completing the study of the Bible.

Later, in the third stage, he began to think that it would be better if he could summarize the core teachings of the Bible. So he began to outline the framework of each book, focusing on what each chapter of a book was talking about and what problems it solved. Pastor Shen said, "For example, I raised nine questions from the first letter to the Corinthians. As long as believers understand these nine questions, they can understand the text of the book."

Pastor Shen used his Bible study method in seven churches, guiding them through the events and analyzing the framework and context of each book. He spent three years studying all sixty-six books of the Bible. Then he organized the main points of each book into an outline and shared them with more pastors and staff workers.

Pastor Shen testified, "When you know the overall framework of each book, you will find that it is interconnected, and then the whole Bible will make sense."

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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