By Lisa Rieck

A Book That's Better Than Your iPhone


You might be missing out. No, we're not talking about the iPhone 5. It's something that will serve you much longer and enrich your life in much more powerful ways (yes, that really is possible). If your Bible study is less than life-giving, we invite you to experience manuscript study, an inductive way of approaching Scripture that helps you pay attention to what’s actually in the text, raise and answer questions from the passage, and make connections to your own life. What’s so great about it?

  • It keeps the text front and center.
  • It puts you in an active rather than passive posture toward the Scripture.
  • It engages all learning styles (audio, visual, and kenetic).
  • It trains people in how to interpret Scripture for themselves.
  • It creates a level playing field for studiers (everyone can participate regardless of background).
  • It is a fun exercise in discovering biblical truth with others. (Bonus: you get to use colored pencils.)

Admittedly, a few of those apply to the iPhone 5 too, but can your iPhone (any version) help you make sense of the rules and regulations of Leviticus in a way that has transformative implications?

The good news is, you don’t have to miss out any longer. Together, IVCF manuscript study guru Lindsay Olesberg and InterVarsity Press have found a way to bottle the nitty-gritty how-tos of manuscript Bible study in one comprehensive resource: the newly released Bible Study Handbook.

In the midst of Lindsay’s final Urbana preparations (she’s the Scripture Manager for the conference), she graciously agreed to feed our enthusiasm with a bit more about her book and her own faith journey.

What prompted you to write The Bible Study Handbook?

The Bible is crucial to Christian maturity, but many Christians don’t know how to study the Bible for themselves and so abdicate understanding to experts. InterVarsity has a rich heritage of manuscript Bible study that is greatly appreciated by its alumni and the churches to which it has been introduced. Yet, there is no comprehensive and accessible material to share this treasure.

The Bible Study Handbook was written to provide both motivation and skills for people to uncover the riches of the Scripture using the manuscript method. Many InterVarsity student leaders have received a little training in inductive Bible study and are looking for a good reference to extend their learning.

The book can be read cover to cover, but a reader could just as easily skip around reading sections they find most interesting. The structure of the book makes it a reference tool that can be used again and again.

How and when did your love for Scripture develop?

I grew up in a secular home and so had no exposure to the Bible as a child. As a young Christian teenager, I read the Bible primarily to “catch up” with others in my youth group.

It wasn’t until I came to college and was introduced to manuscript study at Fall Conference my freshman year that I become intrigued by the Bible. Being given a method to engage the Bible was a huge gift. Later that year, I went to a “dig-in” [a ten- to fifteen-hour intensive study of a single book of the Bible] in James. For the first time I discovered the joy of community around the Word.

From then on, I went to every manuscript study I could, including weeklong studies of Mark at Campus by the Sea. Our fellowship at the Claremont Colleges was going through a revival. Studying the Scripture in community and applying it together was at the center of that revival.

In addition, my campus staff and mentor, Lisa Adamovich Engdahl, was deeply passionate about the Word. She trained me to teach and build community around the Word. By the time I graduated from college, I was thoroughly hooked on the Bible and on using manuscript study to look at the Word.

What are the top truths you want readers to take away from your book?

  • The Word is powerful and must be kept front and center.
  • Curiosity and attentiveness are key to accessing the Bible.
  • Faithful interpretation of the Bible requires us to honor the intentions of the biblical authors and approach the Bible inductively (i.e., facts before theories).
  • Understanding requires application. There is no dichotomy between rigorous study and prayerful listening to the Holy Spirit. When integrated, maturity and transformation are fostered.

Are there one or two experiences you’ve had of leading a manuscript study that stand out to you as particularly powerful?

I have many fond memories of studies I have been a part of and have led. I love the moments when the lightbulb goes on.

For example, one year at Orientation for New Staff I was leading the group in John 4:4-30 (Jesus with the woman at the well). Someone had observed that the water jar she left when she went to testify to her village was the seventh water jar in John’s Gospel (the first six were filled with wine in Cana). Someone else noted that the woman had been with six men (five husbands and the current man). I asked why John would include these details. Someone stood up and said, “Jesus is offering to be her seventh husband metaphorically. He is the source of living water and she no longer needs to try to fill herself through broken relationships.”

The 100-plus people in the group gasped collectively. Together we had discovered something so beautiful about Jesus that we were stunned and amazed. Studying a familiar passage inductively and in community made that possible.

What can people expect at Urbana 12 as far as Scripture study goes?

At Urbana 12, we will pay close attention to Jesus and his mission by studying passages from Luke. Our time in the Word will involve both manuscript Bible study and a Bible exposition talk daily. The Urbana team has been soaking in Luke for almost two years. The themes of Luke will show up in everything: worship, drama, dance, video, seminars, signs, atmosphere, etc.


The Bible Study Handbook will be showing up at Urbana as well, and Lindsay herself will be signing copies in the Urbana Bookstore. But you don’t have to wait till Urbana to learn more manuscript study skills; you can invite friends to join you (your iPhone is, admittedly, more helpful than Lindsay's book for this) and try manuscript study this very week over the Thanksgiving break.

As you dive into Scripture—now, during Urbana, after Urbana, during your spring or summer break—leave us a comment letting us know what “so beautiful” truth from Scripture made you gasp.

Lisa Rieck is a writer and copyeditor on InterVarsity’s communications team. She worked at InterVarsity Press for over nine years as a proofreader and Bible study editor (and, as it were, resident limerick-writer). She is continually inspired by the beauty of the sky and loves good conversation with family and friends over steaming-hot beverages.

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