I think that of all the types of studies you can do about the Bible or in the Bible a topical study is probably my favorite. I don’t really know why unless it is the fact that having a specific topic to research and study on gives me a sense of focus and purpose.
I can be involved in a guided study, and the author of the study can bring up an interesting point on a topic that will stick with me and then I will spend days researching Bible verses and books, articles, etc on that same topic. (I know, but I love research and planning. My favorite grad school class was on methods of research. J)
I really enjoy the challenge of a topical study because unlike reading and studying through a book you are really cross-referencing and searching deep.
Here are the steps that I follow when I start a topical Bible study:
1) Select the topic
Usually the topic selection is the easiest part of doing a study. Pray about the topic. Ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to focus on. Read the Bible. Is there something specific that is standing out to you in reading? Is there an area of life where you are struggling such as stewardship or loving one another?
2) Define the topic
Once you have chosen your topic. You then have to define that topic. What is your definition of the word or topic? What is the dictionary’s definition?
3) Brainstorm words related to the topic
Brainstorming words that are related to the topic is going to help greatly with the rest of your research into this topic. It gives you a basis for searching. You can search for the main word in your topic, but searching for words related to your topic gives you a broader search base. For example, if you topic is stewardship, you might look for words relating to stewardship such as money, time, giving, hoarding, responsibility, etc.
4) Search for Bible Verses on the topic
There are many tools today that can aid in searching for Bible verses on your topic. There are concordances which will allow you to look for the specific words in verses. Bible Gateway is a great source on the Internet for looking up verses. You can do a keyword search, but they also have a topical index. If you have a smartphone, there are many apps that can be used to search the Bible for keywords or topics.
5) SOAP the verses
Select the verses that you want to study in greater detail and then follow the steps in my post on how to SOAP Scripture.
6) Search for resources from respected church leaders
This step is optional. I find that it sometimes helps my understanding and comprehension if I read what others have to say to on a topic. Their perspectives can aid when I am confused or struggling with grasping a topic, but their opinions and commentaries should never replace or contradict the Bible on the subject.
7) Record observations and considerations
After you have completed your research and reading, write down a summary of what you have read and meditated on. What points stood out to you? Did you see any patterns or examples of this?
How can you now apply what you have learned to your life? Is there anything specific that you need to be doing or watching for? What should this look like in your life? Where do you want to start? What are some goals you can set for yourself in this area? Go back through the verses that you soaped. What examples do you see of this in your life?
Topical studies might seem daunting, but the process is really simple and the time it takes depends totally on you. Step 6 is totally optional, and the steps 7 & 8 are really summarizations of what you observed and applied in step 5.
Click here for free printable for topical studies.