This book was highly recommended by the renowned teacher Howard G. Hendricks. I thought about stopping there, but of course I won’t. Originally published in 1988, a second edition of Wilhoit and Ryken’s Effective Bible Teaching makes minor changes with regard to content, focusing more on the current context of Bible study. The authors desire to strengthen the church’s teaching ministry, which they believe is insufficiently developed (13). Divided into three parts, the book addresses what constitutes effective teaching, methods of effective teaching, and the nature of the Bible. The hope is that people in the church will become educated (and thus empowered) to study the Bible themselves instead of merely relying on commentaries and experts. In short, every Christian needs to learn Bible study skills, and it is certainly not the case that only those with advanced degrees in biblical and/or theological degrees should be teaching.
Wilhoit and Ryken bring their experience as educators, and their expertise in Christian formation and ministry and literature respectively, to bear in this classic. Ryken’s literary bent serves as a rebuke to those who would insist on flattening out the diversity of the Bible, or who think reading ‘literally’ means reading all genres for propositional content. Respecting the Bible as a piece of literature is vital for understanding it well, and in the two decades since this book was first published, the reminder is just as vital.
The authors focus on the motivation and execution of the inductive Bible study approach, detailing both the influence of genre and structural unity, as well as thematic unity, found in the Bible, while also addressing the importance of handling the diverse genres appropriately. With regards to the biblical genres, the majority of their focus centers on narrative and poetic genres, while other genres receive only cursory coverage. In that sense, this book would be helpful as a precursor to Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Wilhoit and Ryken describe effective Bible teaching and explain the inductive method of study, while Fee and Stuart offer many tools for properly understanding and reading the genres found in the Bible. This book would be valuable for church leaders and pastors, as well as those in the church interested in teaching. It could also be used by churches as a training resource for church members who are interested in teaching or already teach Sunday school, small groups, and the like. A minor caveat: Wilhoit and Ryken are firm advocates of more literal, word-for-word translations such as the KJV, ESV, and NASB; more than once they remark on the weaknesses of dynamic equivalent translations like the NIV. For some churches, the NIV and other dynamic equivalent versions are the preferred version, and thus Wilhoit and Ryken’s comments might be frustrating. However, this is a minor point overall. The skills and methods they advocate, and their discussion on how to assess if teaching is effective, are worthwhile reading for both new and veteran teachers in the church and academy.
I am grateful to Baker Academic for a review copy of the book.