Overview of SBS
Our goal is to thoroughly immerse the student in the Word of God for nine months. This is done through a systematic study of each of the sixty-six books of the Bible. The end product is a Christian with a fairly in depth overview of the whole Bible. This would be a valuable course for any ministry that seeks to fulfill the Great Commission of discipling the nations.
How we go about reaching our Goal
Most Christians desire to study the Bible but they don’t have a clue as to how to go about the task. The School of Biblical Studies teaches the Inductive Approach to Bible study, which gives the student the tools to continue a lifetime of Bible study.
We study all sixty-six books of the Bible during the nine-month school. This gives the student a panoramic view of the entire Bible in context. This helps to give the student a balanced view of the Scriptures as a whole and it exposes the student to the entire richness of the Word: its various authors, continuity, its various styles of literature, its historical background and time periods, and the relationship between the two testaments.
Our emphasis is on the English text (or the text in the native tongue of the nation where the school is held). The student is required to read the text and not books about the Bible. We want the student to know the text. Our textbook is the Bible.
The Inductive Approach
The student lays aside any preconceived ideas and lets the scripture speak for itself. The students’ conclusions evolve out of what they have observed, interpreted and applied.
Steps of the Inductive approach:
• Read the entire book through, aloud in one sitting (first reading).
• Read the entire book through asking specific questions (second reading).
• Read through the entire book giving a paragraph title for each paragraph (third reading).
• Using the paragraph titles, draw up a rough Horizontal Chart of the book. A Horizontal Chart is an overview of the entire book (this may require another reading).
• Make Vertical Charts for each small segment in the Horizontal Chart. This is the where the student looks in detail at the passages (this is either the fourth or fifth reading).
• Polishing of the rough Horizontal Chart (the student may do the fifth reading here).
(In this process the student completes at least five readings of the book.)
The three basic steps of Bible Study are stressed.
They are done in the following order:
1. Observation: What does the text say? Observation is stressed in the first two readings of the book, in doing paragraph titles and in the Horizontal and Vertical Charts.
2. Interpretation: (Exegesis) – What does the text mean? What did it mean to the original hearers/readers? This requires a study of historical background.
3. Application: (Hermeneutics) – How does the truth of this passage or book apply to my life in the 21st Century? A written application is required for each book.
(A three-page handout is given with a list of questions to ask of the text in doing these three steps of Bible study.)
Ten Methods of Bible Study are taught in the School of Biblical Studies.
Nine of the methods or combinations of these methods are employed in the study of each book.
• Survey Method
• Analytical Method
• Synthetic Method
• Critical Method
• Historical Method
• Comparative Method
• Topical Method
• Rhetorical Method (not required but usually used)
• Devotional Method
Levels of structure are taught and applied in doing the charts.
Ruskin’s Laws of Composition are taught and used in the study of each book.
In the School of Biblical Studies the student is taught:
• Basic Hermeneutical principles
• How to do a word study
• The types of literature used in the Bible
• The chronology of events in the Old and New Testaments
• Significant historical background
• How to use maps, the concordance, Bible Dictionary, interlinear, etc.
• How to think Epistemologically
• How to find answers for themselves.
• They force the students to be systematic in their study.
• They teach the students to observe first, then interpret and then move into application.
• They teach the students to organize their research.
• They provide a suitable method for the storage of information, which can be used for reference, review, teaching and further study.
• Charts are more visual and thus easier to remember.
• Charts require the students to see an overview of the book as well as a detailed look at passages.
• Charts give the students the satisfaction of doing their own work. They leave with concrete evidence of their labor.
Independent Study with Staff Supervision:
The main emphasis is on the students’ independent study of the Scriptures. This means six to eight hours of study each working day. This system of study enables each student to progress and develop at whatever academic level they desire. The students are free to explore different views, however, the staff guide them so that they are within the range of historic Orthodox belief.
The staff give oversight of the students’ progress in each book. Each book is graded and there are several tests each quarter with an oral test on the whole New Testament and a comprehensive test at the end of the year.
There are nine hours of class time each week. This class time can take the form of lectures, workshops, or discussions. The staff or guest speaker prepares the class time. Outlines or handouts are often given as a supplement to the classroom presentation. Aside from the classroom situation the staff are always available for assistance in answering questions or giving whatever assistance is needed.
Other benefits of the School of Biblical Studies:
• The school teaches students time management and personal discipline. Each book has a due date but it is up to the students to manage their time and plot out their schedule.
• The school teaches endurance. It requires nine months to finish the course.
• A constant diet of the Word renews the mind and major changes occur in the students’ lives as they increase in their understanding of God.
• The school develops reading and communication skills.
• The school teaches the students to evaluate their lives, their preaching and their teaching by asking, “Is this Biblical?”
1. SBS values people.
2. SBS values a Bible foundation for life and ministry.
3. SBS values the Inductive Bible Study method.
4. SBS values personal discipline.
5. SBS values learning in all disciplines.
6. SBS values independent thinking.
7. SBS values broad reading habits.
“What I learned during SBS is priceless. Although I know one could never know the depths of God, a big door has been opened up for me on the road to knowing God through studying His Word. I have benefited from SBS in my personal life, and in ministry.” – Julie from Washington
SBS is Unique
Studying the Bible in it’s entirety makes this course unique and is one reason why people come to the school. You will find many places that study portions of the Bible but SBS takes a student through the whole text of the Bible using the Inductive approach.
“Nine months of reading and studying the entire Bible brought into focus for me that the Bible is one complete book – not 66 small ones; each book weaving together the story of God and his love for his creation.” – Sherri from Montana.
SBS is not
• A school to teach people how to preach.
• A school to teach people how to teach (though there may be a few assignments that give the student an opportunity to teach)
• An outreach (though there may be some opportunities for sort outreaches during the school or after the school
• A theology course (though theology is learned in searching the scriptures).
SBS is concerned with the student grasping the content of the scriptures. We are a content course. The content is covered in the student’s independent study and in class lectures.
If we get away from the above then we are not an SBS. If we start eliminating books and the student’s independent study of the whole Bible then it is not an SBS. If we neglect content and the Inductive Method of Bible study then we are not staying true to what makes SBS unique.
“During my SBS the Bible came alive. I used to see the Bible as a string of verses but now I realize that each book was written for a purpose with an audience in mind dealing with specific situations. Everything now has more meaning.” – Ron from Montana
By Ron Smith
In 1977, hearing Dr. Earl Morey teach the book of Revelation at a charismatic conference in Pittsburgh, Loren Cunningham asked him to begin the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in Youth with A Mission (YWAM). Earl received his Ph.D from Princeton University and pastored a Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia. However, Earl told Loren that he did not feel he was to leave his church in Richmond.
I had met Earl while at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts in the early part of 1975 and Judy was a family friend. In the fall of 1980, Judy and I attended a Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM in Kona, Hawaii. During this time, Earl called Loren and mentioned that he thought Ron Smith should launch the School of Biblical Studies for YWAM. In February 1981, Loren called me during my DTS outreach, and invited me to start the SBS in Kona that September.
On the day Loren called, I just happened to be fasting and seeking the Lord for one week and it was from that call, that the School of Biblical Studies was birthed. September 1981 we began the SBS in Kona, Hawaii with eight students meeting in a small house up the hill from McDonald’s.
From that beginning, SBS worldwide has now conducted about 500 schools in the last twenty-five years and have trained somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 students.
Through the years, Earl has continued his relationship with YWAM SBS, lecturing in various schools and leading one school in Washington D.C. during the late 1980’s.
To give you more of an understanding of our history, let me begin by outlining the history of Inductive Bible Study in the body of Christ.
History of the Inductive Method
Yale Professor, Dr. William Rainey Harper surveyed 1,000 pastors in the late 1800’s. These ministers stated that their greatest weakness in seminary training was studying the English Bible. Harper’s chief assistant, Dr. Wilbert White developed the method known as the “Method of the Biblical Seminary” in New York. From the Biblical Seminary came the current sweep of Inductive Bible Study throughout the world. Seven basic streams flowed from this start.
The streams from Wilbert White’s method include:
1. Irving Jensen, Kay Arthur [Precept Ministries]
2. Howard Hendricks [Dallas Seminary], Multnomah, Bruce Wilkinson etc.
3. Howard Kuist [Princeton], Fuller Seminary, Earl Morey SBS
4. Robert Traina [Asbury], Ron Smith [Th.D. thesis on Traina’s work]
5. William Carey University, Barbara Boyd IVF
6. Stanley Shenk [Goshen College]
7. Biola, Talbot, Campus Crusade
[Quoted in Jim Nizza’s M.A. thesis from Mary Graham, Inductive Bible Study Newsletter, 1996]
Based on the various streams flowing from Wilbert White, the SBS flowed originally through Howard Kuist [stream 3] and Earl Morey as Kuist’s student at Princeton; plus Robert Traina [stream 4] who was also a student of Kuist with Ron Smith writing his Th.D. thesis on Traina’s work. [The Basics of Bible Study handout is a boiled down espresso outline of Ron’s thesis].
So, what we are doing in the SBS is not original but right in the middle of a large movement started at the end of the 19th century. The original thing we have done in the SBS is to study the whole Bible, every book, using the Inductive Method.
Early in that first year we began to use the RSV translation. We were going to use the NASV but found the sentence structure and the flimsiness of the actual construction of the Bibles a problem considering the amount of usage they received in the school.
Multiplication of the School of Biblical Studies
Several different nations were represented among those first eight students in September 1981. Seven students finished out the first year and the location of the school moved from Kona, north to Makapala. The second year, we had nine students, the third year we had thirteen. All during this time we had no other schools outside of YWAM, Hawaii.
By 1984, we had a large class of twenty-five students including regional, national and international leaders in YWAM. Shortly after that time the school began to multiply. The first three schools were South Africa, Korea and England, in that order. At the end of 1987, we had several schools with locations on virtually all the continents.
During this early growth we received encouragement from Loren Cunningham to increase and multiply growth in every direction; to set our sights on a thousand locations.
For a period of about 2 years, I took this on as the vision for SBS. In late 1989, I sent Loren a fax concerning two items.
We would be notifying all base leaders that the SBS on their base is primarily accountable to their base leadership, reasoning that this would maintain a sense of simplicity and unity in those locations. This has proved to be a wise move. We said to Loren that we were going to be external encouragers to the local school leaders.
The second thing I felt was that a good goal for us would be 65 schools and I still feel this is a good number [we have about 40 schools at this writing].
Through the years, people have asked me from time to time the following question: “What is the vision of the SBS?” I respond consistently that we have two major goals that we have not swayed from:
I want people to know the content of the Bible in their native language.
From this, provide them with a Bible foundation for their lives and for their ministries.
We are truly grateful to God for what he has done so far in the SBS. It is wonderful to know that God’s word is accessible to everyone. As well, the fellowship we have enjoyed among the staff and leadership through the years has been fulfilling. Pastors, teachers and all kinds of saints in various walks and calls in life have come through the ministry.
We feel that God wants to continue SBS’ influence. We have desired to keep the course simple. It is not our goal to impress people with our scholarship. Our desire has always been to feed sheep.