For Baptists and other evangelicals, a key spiritual practice has always been Scripture memorization. We picked this practice up from our Puritan and Pietist forebears. Both of those movements argued that Christian spirituality should always be closely tied to knowing and applying the Scriptures. I would argue the healthiest forms of contemporary evangelical spiritual theology are those that make Scripture memorization, meditation, and prayer its foundational personal spiritual disciplines.
In the past few days, I have read two blog posts and an article that address the importance of Scripture memorization. Each of them discusses Andy Davis, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Durham and an adjunct professor of historical theology at Southeastern Seminary. Andy has developed a strategy for extended Scripture memorization that many have found to be helpful. For years, FBC Durham has privately printed Andy’s booklet on the topic. In recent weeks, however, Ambassador International has published an electronic version of An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture.
Many regular readers of Between the Times may know that I am a member of FBC Durham, where I serve on the elder team alongside Andy. I first became acquainted with Andy’s approach to Scripture memorization around 2005 or 2006. Prior to that time, like many believers, my memorization practices tended to be key verses on certain topics. In fact, the only time I had previously memorized a block of Scripture longer than three or four verses was for a class assignment in a Formation for Christian Ministry course during my M.Div. days at Southern Seminary. While I still believe there is great spiritual value in memorizing what John Piper calls “fighter verses” on key topics, in recent years I’ve become a convert to the value of extended Scripture memorization (though I often fail to cultivate the discipline as much as I should). Right now, for example, I am memorizing the Sermon on the Mount as part of daily quiet time. I would commend the practice to you as a helpful means in cultivating spiritual maturity.
If you want to learn more about Andy’s views on Scripture memorization, check out Joe Carter’s helpful interview with Andy for The Gospel Coalition. One highlight: “Scripture memorization is a rich form of meditation that feeds the soul throughout the day with God’s nourishing Word. Memorization also deeply enriches our prayer lives by giving us biblical patterns of speech and promises and commands that we can hold back up to God in prayer.”
If you want to hear more about Andy’s personal story and how his practices have helped shape the spiritual culture at FBC Durham, read this helpful article in the Biblical Recorder. One highlight: “There are always ‘dead spots’ in your day where you don’t have to do any verbal work,” Davis said. “In those ‘dead spots,’ I suggest memorizing a few verses a day for 15 minutes a day.”
If you want to consider ten reasons why it is a valuable spiritual practice to memorize larger chunks of Scripture, check out Jon Bloom’s recent blog post for Desiring God. One highlight: “It’s strange how having an abundance of something can result in our neglecting it. If the Bible’s always there on our tables, tablets, phones, computers, and on the web we can dip in, read sections, search for key words when needed, but feel no urgency to really internalize it. Memorizing is one way to fight that delusion.”
Most of all, if you want to cultivate the practice of extended Scripture memorization, check out Andy’s e-Booklet An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture. It is available for the Amazon Kindle for $0.99. You can read the booklet in half an hour and then get started memorizing lengthier portions of God’s Word.