How can a pastor encourage the whole church to memorize Scripture?

While in Grand Cayman last spring, I learned an exciting way to help a church memorize scripture and to do so together.  It was through the faithful example of my dear friend, Thabiti Anyabwile.  While eating dinner at his house, he shared with me that he was preaching through 1 Timothy on Sunday morning and had challenged the entire congregation of First Baptist Church Grand Cayman to memorize the whole book of 1 Timothy while he preached through it.  As he was nearing the end of the book, he told me stories of regular church members who could recite almost the whole book of 1 Timothy for him as a result.  Then during the morning service at the moment in the sermon where Thabiti would read his text he was preaching, he recited it for the church “without looking” and asked his church to follow along to “keep him honest.”  I thought this was a brilliant way to cultivate scripture memorization as a church body as well as a very effective way to engage the people with the text being preached.

Well, I was sold.  This past summer, I told our church that I would be preaching through the book of Titus this fall and to let them know that we would be trying to memorize it together as I preached through Titus.  I am 3 weeks in and the Lord has been doing some amazing things through it. 

Pick one of the shorter New Testament books, preach through it, and encourage your folks to try to memorize the book…with you.  If you choose to engage your church in this task, keep these things in mind:

Weekly remind them of this task.  Send emails and announce it on Wednesdays and Sundays to keep them going, as this cannot be accomplished without daily efforts.

Make sure you memorize it with them and demonstrate your efforts by reciting it when you would normally read the text to show your church you are not asking them to do something you are not willing to do.  Trust me…that is good accountability.  If you mess up in front of them, do not fear.  That may encourage them more than you think.

Hand out a half sheet on Sunday morning of the text you will preach next week.  Then, encourage them to put that half sheet in a visible place in their home as a reminder to work on it.

Encourage them to press on, even if they fall behind.  Counsel them to stay up with that week’s text as this will keep them engaged with what will be preached on Sunday. Then, they can go back and catch up what they did not get before.  It is easy to get behind and give up.  Tell them to keep going.  80% of Titus memorized is more than they probably knew by memory before and is worth the effort. 

I was so blessed to see a pastor so faithfully lead his people in this way.  Since you were not there with me in Grand Cayman (my wife was grateful), I still wanted you to benefit from this example with hopes you will cultivate some version of it and challenge you people to treasure God’s Word on their hearts (Ps. 119:11).

The best resource I know exists on memorizing books of the Bible is written by my friend, Andy Davis, pastor of First Baptist Durham, NC.  John Piper and others have strongly recommend it and you can contact the church if you would like to buy copies of this booklet for your church, or download it for free.

Posted in Discipleship, Preaching
3 comments on “How can a pastor encourage the whole church to memorize Scripture?
  1. Thanks Brian. On a smaller Scripture memory scale, our church has written and produced original Scripture Songs to aid our kids (and the whole congregation!) to memorize Scripture. It has been an incredible tool for us. This year’s set of verses has a theme: The Attributes of God. We add a new song almost weekly. Not to be self-promoting, but in case anyone else would like to use them (they’re free to listen or download), the site is http://freegracemusic.com. We’d love for others to benefit from this project like we have.

    Great post, keep it up!

  2. I strongly recommend passing out small verse cards (made out of heavy card stock) so that they can eventually become a set that can be rubber-banded and carried throughout the day. Our church is presently doing this with Colossians.

    • scribe says:

      you can also punch holes in the corners of the cards, and use binder rings to keep them together, instead of rubber bands. You can buy (50) 2″ inch binder rings on amazon for $12.00.

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