This method of Bible study was handed down to me in 2008 at The University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries (UTC-BCM).
At the time Robbie Gallaty was leading Brainerd Baptist and had an intense focus on discipleship and relationship in the church family.
His dedication to discipleship led to a resurgence of strong Godly men and families leading small groups in the community. Gus Hernandez was a mentee of Gallaty and passed the model down to the college group of which many BCM members were joint attendees of Brainerd.
This model has been modified slightly by the 7 Questions model introduced to me by Jonathan Dixon, a mentor in both faith and career during my time at BlueCross BlueShield of TN.
The HEAR model is a technique used to rapidly assess the content, intent, and application of textual works. While it is useful for any context, this will specifically deal with interpreting Biblical Scripture.
Those looking to follow this model should adopt a writing journal or digital note taking method that provides a distraction free environment. They would benefit from beginning their session with prayer, asking God to provide conviction and wisdom as the scriptures are read.
This is the simplest of the steps. Write/type into your journal/note taking software. (Don’t copy paste!) There is sufficient evidence that the mental process of translating language from a digital or paper format to a hand written document increases recall.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. - Psalm 119:11
This is the most extensive part of the model, and can appear the most intimidating. Don’t be afraid! Anything you don’t know can be looked up! Have a few Bible Commentaries or Study Bible’s with sufficient notes on hand to help answer the questions. The goal isn’t to be a Biblical Historian but to provide a historical context to the scripture you’re reviewing.
Why is scriptural context so important?
If we take scripture out of context, we can get some pretty weird ideas about what God’s directing us to do. Take Leviticus 15 for example. Based on an out of context reading, it says if you accidentally have a period or other natural bodily function, and it contacts your clothes or furniture then its considered unclean and requires the sacrifice of doves to be restored.
Does God really expect you to sacrifice doves every month?
Of course not, a quick look at the Levitical Laws in context show that the laws were for the Israelites after their wondering in the desert for 40 years.
Does that mean the verses aren’t useful to us?
Of course not! A quick look at the Levitical Laws also shows that God is gravely concerned with sin and expects His people to understand and treat sin the same way.
To help us Explain, we can ask ourselves 7 Questions. I’ll describe each one below. If any don’t quite make sense, remember we can always look these up or ask someone we trust!
- What’s the context of this passage?
- What’s the “Big Story”
- Is this Before or After the “Fall of Man” (Genesis 2/3)
- Is this Before or After the Exile of Israel?
- Is this Before or After Christ Birth?
- The Resurrection?
- After Saul’s conversion (Paul)?
- The Age of Churches
- The Apocalypse
- What’s the “Little Story”
- Who wrote it? (Paul? Peter?)
- Who did they write to?
- Israelites in Captivity?
- The Church at Corinth?
- The Jews [or modern day Pharisees]?
- Gentile converts [or modern day unchurched recent converts]?
- Am I part of the audience? (E.g.; the Church after Christ’s resurrection.)
- What’s the “Big Story”
- What does this passage tell us about who God is?
- God is good, gracious, great, glorious?
- What does this passage tell us about what God does?
- God saves, heals, helps, protects, convicts, promises?
- What does this passage tell us about who God says we are?
- Loved? Broken? Unrepentant? Made new?
- What does this passage tell us we should do?
- Repent? Pray? Forgive? Care for the needy?
Application is the most important part of any text. While the original HEAR model doesn’t utilize 7 Questions, I find that the last 2 most naturally fall here and are beneficial when I review any piece of scripture.
- If I believed this passage, what must change in my life today?
- Ask God to convict you, to help you take the scripture and apply it to your life. What actions in Question 5 are you doing? Or not doing?
- Why did the Holy Spirit want me to read this passage, hear this lesson/sermon?
- If you know what you’re obligated to do, and you know what must change in your life, then why do you think the Holy Spirit brought you to hear or read this word today?
- Take a moment to think long and hard about the scripture you’ve read. Has God been trying to get your attention? Have you been fighting for weeks? Months? Years?
This is the best part of the HEAR model, and the one that should be the least formal, but I often find the most daunting.
This is an opportunity to write/type a prayer to God. It doesn’t have to be long and flowy and elegant. It’s just an opportunity to take what you’ve learned from the passage, thank God for His direction, and ask God for help and ability to overcome and conquer sin.
Remember, God doesn’t speak KJV1638 English! No Wherefore Art Thou Romeos are necessary! Take a moment, stop and pray.
Then, take the opportunity as you grow to stop and take a look at the responses you’ve recorded. Are you making progress? Did God keep his promises?
Remember, you can always share your HEAR journals with a bible study partner. The HEAR model works just as well for small group discussion as it does for individual Bible study.
Remember to mark passages that are exceedingly difficult and ask for help! The Bible isn’t a difficult book to understand, but having 2000 years between its last entry and today’s culture can lead to some confusion. Remember, context is key!
Remember, if the HEAR model is helpful to you, to share it with friends! It’s been a constant tool in Bible study tool chest and it’s helped a number of people grow in their faith and knowledge of the Bible.