Far and away, it is a post I wrote in December 2013 entitled A Unique Way to Memorize Scripture. Needless to say, it is quite encouraging to see the level of continuing interest in Bible memorization despite the overall decline in biblical literacy in the Western Church.
A little over two years ago, I was convicted when I saw the example of the North Korean underground church. Most Christians in North Korea have almost no access to the Scriptures, but when they do receive a verse or two they immediately commit it to memory. Since that point my family has tried to memorize a different Scripture passage every week, often reviewing the passages on a yearly basis to ensure that we’ve really memorized them for the long-term.
That being said, I certainly haven’t learned any method that makes the practice effortless! That’s why I’m always on the lookout for helpful hints and encouragement from others.
Matthew Johnson from Seedbed.com recently wrote a blog post on why he started memorizing scripture. In it he referenced the Topical Memory System (TMS) as a great place to start. TMS was started by the Navigators as an easy-to-use system to help believers memorize Scripture verses. It divides the Bible into key topics and gives a list of Scripture verses for each topic. For example, under the topic of “Proclaiming Christ” is listed Romans 3:23, Isaiah 53:6 and Romans 6:23, among many others. If you buy the official TMS it comes with perforated cards to help your memorization.
There are some similarities between the TMS method and the way my family has memorized Scripture the past 2 years. We’ve studied a different topic area each month (we organize Scriptures by Work of Mercy) and memorized Scripture passages related to those topics.
But one of the dangers I see with the Topical Memory System is memorizing Scripture verses out of context or with no context at all. My friend from Bible College, Michael Surran said,
Many Christians treat the Bible as a buffet. They go straight to the “promise” verses, you know, the “ask and you shall receive” verses. Like a buffet, they’ll take two or three helpings from the promise “table”, but you won’t see them anywhere near the “we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God” table. It’s human nature – many of us find the dessert bar much more attractive than the salad bar. But it is also very dangerous.
My own remedy for this problem is memorizing whole passages of Scripture rather than just individual Scripture verses. For example, instead of memorizing Isaiah 53:6, we memorize all 12 verses of Isaiah 53. It sure seems like a lot, but I bet you’ll be surprised that memorizing a passage of Scripture does not take much more time than memorizing a single verse.
This past month my family was studying discipleship. We memorized three passages related to making disciples (2 Kings 2:1-15, Matthew 28:16-20, Luke 9:57-62). Along with memorizing passages, we’ll also often read the chapters before and after to understand what is truly happening.
Matthew Johnson said these words about Scripture memorization, but they might as well have been my own.
I began following Christ when I was 15 so it took me nearly twenty years before I got into this discipline, but it has been one of the most rewarding practices I have ever experienced and I would love for you to join me in hiding God’s word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).