‘Off the top of your head:’ Memorizing Scripture
Recently I was asked to speak to people on worship through using Scripture. When I talk about my worship leading, I am quick to say. “If there is anything good about my worship leading, it comes from spending time in God’s Word.” I do believe that it’s true.
I took a six-month fast one time, in that the only words (except for saying a song title, of course) that I said from the platform would be from Scripture. At first, it was awkward – but I sure grew from it.
I think that there is no more powerful tool for the worship life of the Christian than Scripture memorization. This may be a scary concept if you haven’t really worked at it. Yet, if we look at Jesus and how He dealt with temptation (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1-13), we see that His rememberance of Scripture (“It is written … ) was crucial in warding off Satan. This demonstrates the biblical way of dealing with temptation. “I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psa. 119:11).
There are several methods, two of which I will elaborate – doctrinal and chapter memorization:
One of the masters of this is Jack Van Impe – his concept was to take a subject and then, with a topical Bible (Nave’s) or concordance (Strong’s, Young’s), find all the verses he could and memorize them. Here is the method he used:
1) Pick topic or doctrine; find all related verses. If there are over 20-25, narrow the subject field.
2) Use 3×5 index cards and on the back write, “SUBJECT: XXXXXX;” then next line write the reference, “Isaiah XX:XX.”
3) On the front write the verse out in full.
That’s the easy part: Van Impe suggests quoting each verse from the packet seven times daily the first week, two times daily the second week, then once daily the third. In the fourth week, review the packet, and then once weekly for three months. In the meantime, start another packet of cards while you are on your second week with the original. When a packet of cards has been mastered, review once every three months. Wow!
What subjects? That is the great part. It depends on your needs, and sins for you to deal with. As you start this adventure, I have a couple of pet subjects: 1) salvation through Christ (in other words, learn how to effectively to share the Gospel with Scripture); 2) validity of Scripture; 3) self-disicpline; 4) fruits of the Spirit; then go from there.
Save the cards in a box for refresher. At the height of his memorization, Van Impe refreshed himself on the entire New Testament in four months.
There is a real thrill to memorizing full chapters of Scripture. One time in a worship service, I had the thrill of seeing a memorized recitation of the entire book of Philippians from evangelist Jim McNiel. Nothing more than a simple altar call was given and 10-15 people were saved at a powerful reading of God‘s Word. “My word will never return void.”
The best way is to find a chapter that is very intriguing to you. My first was the third chapter of Colossians which deals with the attributes of a holy life. Using cards, or the same Bible every time, start with reciting a few verses and go from there. Try to visualize the words. Use acronyms to remember word patterns, i.e. ARMS = “anger, rage, malice, and slander” (Colossians 3). Then branch out and memorize surrounding chapters until an entire book is memorized.
An alternative way is to visualize a movie in your head of what is happening to the chapter. Visual memory is nearly perfect.
And remember the key is refreshing your memorization from time to time. (John Francis is the worship specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention and produces MoWorship, a monthly worship podcast available at www.mobaptist.org/worship.)