Adopt A Bible Study Plan Now!

Title: Adopt A Bible Study Plan Now!
Category: Bible Study
Subject: Study the Bible, How To


 Johnny L. Sanders, D. Min.

In reference to the numerous volumes of verse-by-verse commentary I have posted on the SermonCity.Com website, a fellow preacher asked me to consider writing an article in which I would share with young pastors information about my Bible study plan--why I adopted my particular Bible study program, how I arrived at the format, and how it evolved over the years. He suggested that I send the article to college and seminary presidents who might then share the information with students, and that I also send a copy to Dr. Mike Minnix, Creator and Editor of www.sermonCityCom web site. I decided to write the article, with the prayerful hope that God might use my experience to encourage others. 

It all started while I was in seminary, listening to lectures, doing research, and writing research papers. At some point, it occurred to me that I was too dumb to remember all I was reading: but I was smart enough to know it! It was during my second year at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary that I realized that I needed to adopt a plan that would allow me to make notes on my Bible study and save the research for future use.

Between my second and third years in seminary, I served as Minister to Youth at First Baptist Church, Rayville. LA. I told the pastor, Dr. H. R. Herrington, about my plan for on-going Bible study following seminary. I would study the Bible, book by book, prepare an outline of various books, making notes and filing my notes in folders. A few days later, Dr. Herrington came into my office with a box of file folders. He simply said, “Start now.” He continued to encourage me when I worked with him after graduation.

During my last two years in seminary I began to study with a greater purpose. The closer I got to the end of my seminary experience the more I knew I needed to adopt a Bible study plan for my ministry. After I graduation, I began outlining the Book of Romans, adding notes as I continued to study the book. As a pastor, I continued to outline various books of the Bible, add notes, and then run them off on a mimeograph machine and share them with church members and friends.

I was still a very young man when Dr. James Horton of the First Baptist Church, Monroe, LA, asked me to teach the Book of James, the subject for the January Bible Study that year. I spent a lot of time preparing for that study, which was scheduled for two hours each night, Sunday through Friday. Mid-way through the study a small group of businessmen came to the front and one man, Bob Sale, who seemed to speak for the group, said, “We have been discussing this study, and we are trying to decide what makes this study better than any we have had before.” My ego soared for a few seconds, before a sudden reality attack brought me back down to earth. The Lord would not permit me to take the statement too seriously. I said, “Have you looked at the material? The James takes us where the rubber hits the road. This book is very practical and it challenges us all.”

Following the last session on Friday evening, the Minister of Music, Walt Manghum, made a point of speaking with me about the study. He said, “I want you to know that you are the best prepared teacher we have ever had to come here.” Once again, my ego revved up for another flight, but before it got off the ground, I recalled what Walt had said. He did not say I was the best teacher, the most articulate speaker, or the most brilliant student of the Word. What he said was that I was the best prepared. I thought about what Walt said many times over the next few years. I knew I would never be the most brilliant teacher, or the most articulate speaker, but there was one thing I could do: under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, I could be prepared. The next year I preached four revivals and taught four Bible studies. Before long, I was teaching four to six Bible studies each years, and I continued to do that for the next 25 years, and teaching seminary extension classes.

For fifteen years, I was pastor of a church that was filled with school teachers and retired teachers, who loved expository sermons and Bible studies. They loved to be challenged, so I knew I had to be prepared in order to feed the sheep. There were some brilliant members in that church, as well as some really gifted teachers, who taught in the public school next door.

There were many times when I took off time to visit with my family in the evening, and then after they were all in bed I would do the research and then prepare study guides for our people. Sometimes I would work from 10:00 P.M. until 2:00 A.M. for a few weeks, and then take a break for a period of time. I could function on four hours of sleep a night. I do not recommend this for every pastor, but I was determined to be available to church members during the day. I could study at night when they were asleep.

In addition to preparing sermons each week, I continued outlining various books of the Bible, but now I was adding more background material, notes, and informal commentary. My sister began typing my studies for me, and again I expanded the studies.

It was during this time that a friend showed up at my house and announced that he and his mother were going to give me his computer! He was upgrading. I tried to show my appreciation, but I was not especially excited! I didn’t want to learn to use a computer, but after I became familiar with it, I began to expand those studies even more. The first study to be expanded was a commentary on Philippians, which was published under the title, UNDEFEATED: Finding Peace in a World Full of Trouble. In the Foreword to that commentary, I wrote:

 “A few months after my graduation from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary it dawned on me that I could no longer look to Mississippi College or to the seminary for my discipline in the study of God’s Word. For years I had either followed the curriculum or taken elective classes, but now I had to assume responsibility for what I would read, what I really studied, how I would study, and when I would study. Before long, a method of study began to develop around three commitments. (1) There was the commitment to study Scripture, (2) an awareness of the importance of preserving what I had gleaned from my study, and (3) the desire to share what I had gleaned with others. I began by choosing a book of the Bible and preparing a detailed outline with notes. Later, I began to expand some of these studies, and when I got my first computer and Bible software, I expanded them further and refined my format...

 “Through prayer and study, I became convinced that there is a need for something, both for the lay-person and the busy pastor, which might help fill the gap between the critical commentary and the devotional commentary - something which would provide some critical commentary and some illustrations and practical applications. I decided to call it The Bible Notebook.”


There was no doubt that God wanted me to continue to study, make notes, and then prepare verse-by-verse studies on various books of the Bible. Various people urged me to try to have them published, but I discovered that single volume commentaries do not sell (they are not profitable), unless they are written by a Charles Stanley or a John MacArthur. So, what do you do with all those Bible studies, other than sharing them with personal friends?

The Lord took care of that! I was serving on the board of trustees for LifeWay Christian Resources, assigned to the Broadman and Holman Committee, and as a member of the Nominating Committee, I nominated Dr. Wayne Hamrick to serve as Chairman of the Board. Wayne asked me to serve as Chairman of he Nominating Committee the next year, and then I was elected Chairman of the Broadman and Holman Committee, so we served on the Executive Committee together. One day, I sent a sermon manuscript to a friend, and for some reason, copied it to Wayne Hamrick. A few days later, I received a message for Dr. Mike Minnix, creator and editor of www.sermoncity.Com for the Georgia Baptist Convention, asking me to “Send everything you have” so that he could uploaded it to SermonCity.

I sent over 150 sermons (from The Sermon Notebook), and it dawned on me that Dr. Minnix might be interested in The Bible Notebook. I asked him and he asked me to send a sample. The next day I had a request: “Send me all you have.” He explained why he had asked for a sample: “I see a lot of fluff out there.” Dr. Minnix is also the creator and Editor of the www.sermonCity.Com web site and this one will have many more my sermons and more volumes of commentary. I am indebted to Dr. Minnix for getting the material out there for others to use.


I now have, or will have over 150 sermons and 40 - 45 volumes of verse by verse Commentaries on the SermonCity.Com web site. The point I would make, however, has nothing to do with the number of volumes I have written, and I am certainly not trying to impress anyone with the depth of these studies, or the brilliance of the writer. All the volumes in The Bible Notebook were written with the bi-vocational pastor, or seminary extension student in mind. I would encourage other pastors to read those studies with that in mind. Read the material, improve on it, and make it yours. Better yet, prayerfully adopt your own study plan and stay with it. As on has suggested, “Just get with it!”

One thing I would like to impress upon other pastors, especially young pastors, is that if I can do this kind of work, you can do it. In fact, you should do a better job than I. Years ago, a brilliant seminary president, Dr. H. Leo Eddleman, sat with the academic dean, discussing associate professors who were eligible for promotion. When they came to one name, the dean said, “To recommend (that man) for a promotion would be an endorsement of mediocrity.” When that president told me about this several years later, I didn’t say anything, but I knew I had been guilty of the sin of mediocrity while I was in seminary. I made a commitment to try to make up for it.

The Bible Notebook is a testimony to the fact that even a pastor who has been guilty of the sin of mediocrity at some point in his life can still get serious about Bible study. Paul challenged Timothy,“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15, KJV).


I would like to challenge college and seminary students who have responded to the call to preach the glorious Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ: you are not smart enough to remember everything you read, but you are smart enough to know it! Ask the Lord to help you adopt an ongoing Bible study program that will honor Him. Even if you are a more mature pastor it is not too late for you to adopt a study plan through which you increase your knowledge of God’s Word. You may be led to prepare your own Bible Notebook or Sermon Notebook. If I could do it, you can do it. Don’t wait, do it now!

A number of years ago, I sat amazed as I listened to a gifted soloist, Helen Johnson. After the service, she and her husband Ron visited with my family in our home. At one point, Helen said, “You don’t know how good it is to talk with a pastor who will talk with you about the Bible.” I didn’t know what to say! Could she be right? I still don’t know, but I do know she was sincere

The more you study the Word of God the more you look forward to preaching it, teaching it, and discussing it. I once talked with the late Dr. Leo Eddleman about the call to the ministry. He said, “If a man cannot bend himself to serious Bible study, it is possible that the Lord is not calling him to preach.” To turn that around, if the Lord has called you, He expects you to study His Word. He will guide your studies; He will bless you, and He will bless those to whom preach or teach His Holy Word. As my friend said, “Let’s GET WITH IT!”

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