What is Chuck's method of Bible study?

Chuck uses a simple method of Bible study that he learned years ago from Dr. Howard Hendricks, Chuck’s beloved professor and mentor at Dallas Theological Seminary. It’s based on three concepts: observation, interpretation, and application. Dr. Hendricks and his son William Hendricks have compiled their ideas for Bible study in an excellent and easy-to-read resource, Living by the Book (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1993), which we highly recommend.

What Bible study tools does Chuck recommend?

The more serious you become about personal Bible study, the more you will be aware of the importance of owning some good study tools. Numerous books are available today, some of which are listed below. You should form the habit of purchasing at least one study aid per month for your own library.

1. Bibles

It is best if you have a study Bible that has paragraph notations as well as footnotes that help you understand the difficult sections of Scripture. Thankfully, there are several excellent versions and paraphrases of the Bible available today, which will enlighten your understanding of the meaning of the biblical text.

Chuck recommends The Swindoll Study Bible which is based on the readable and reliable New Living Translation. This study Bible includes Chuck’s warm and personal style, insightful notes, unique background articles, biographical presentations, easy-to-understand timelines, and practical applications to make the Bible come alive.

In his own study, Chuck also uses the New American Standard Bible for its nearly word-for-word translation from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts into English. Other translations offer a looser, more contemporary rendering, which can be helpful to clarify meaning. Both styles are helpful as you seek a fuller, more complete grasp of the Holy Scriptures in your Bible study.

2. Concordances

A concordance is a must. It is an alphabetical listing of all the words in the Bible and of all the verses in which they appear.

  • Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible or Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible are my preferences.
  • Acquire an exhaustive concordance of the translation you use for study.
  • Most good computer programs for Bible study (see No. 7) allow for multiple-word searches, including lexical searches in the original languages.

3. Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

  • English—Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary or The Random House Dictionary of the English Language
  • Bible—The New Unger's Bible Dictionary is the best.
  • Theological—Baker's Dictionary of Practical Theology is a good tool.
  • Greek and Hebrew—Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
  • Encyclopedia—The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (5 volumes) and International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (4 volumes) are excellent.

4. Geographical and Cultural Helps

  • A good atlas is indispensable for understanding context. The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands is highly recommended. (Also, if you have not yet been to Israel, you should go!)
  • Bible backgrounds—The New Unger's Bible Handbook, Halley's Bible Handbook, Merrill Tenney's New Testament Times: Understanding the World of the First Century, or Alfred Edersheim's Bible History: Old Testament

5. Bible Doctrine Books

  • Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge, or Systematic Theology by Augustus H. Strong
  • Biblical Theology of the New Testament by Charles C. Ryrie
  • Major Bible Themes by Lewis Sperry Chafer—a good, concise book

6. Commentaries

  • Surveys of the entire Bible—The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty (in two volumes, Old and New Testaments) is outstanding. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary is my preferred one-volume commentary.
  • Expositional (verse by verse)—some of the best are by Donald G. Barnhouse, Kenneth S. Wuest, William R. Newell, R. C. H. Lenski, H. C. Leupold, William Barclay, John F. Walvoord, Arthur W. Pink, and Tyndale House
  • Devotional—books by G. Campbell Morgan, F. B. Meyer, Alan Redpath, H. A. Ironside, and Charles R. Swindoll
  • Analytical—books by W. Graham Scroggie and Merrill Tenney as well as the I. C. C. (International Critical Commentary) series (critical and tends toward the liberal side)
Concerning Commentaries:
  • Best to purchase one of the entire Bible first
  • Best to use different types in your study
  • Best to consult them after your own personal study
  • Best to read with discernment; don't be afraid to challenge or disagree
  • An excellent volume by John Glynn, Commentary & Reference Survey, lists and explains the most popular and recommended commentaries (from various perspectives — evangelical, liberal, etc.) on every book of the Bible. It is helpful when you're looking for which commentary to buy . . . and which one not to buy.

7. Bible Study Computer Programs

  • Logos Bible Software (for Mac and PC, Android, iOS)—see www.logos.com
    An astounding assortment of commentaries, books, dictionaries, and tools allows for quick research on any passage or topic. Many of the recommended resources in this article are in the Logos library.
  • Accordance (for Mac and PC, Android, iOS)—see www.accordancebible.com
    From basic Bible study helps to advanced research tools, Accordance is the best program for the Mac environment. Accordance offers Bibles, commentaries, lexicons, and a comprehensive library of materials and tools that can grow with your needs.

8. Web Sites

  • www.bible.org—"In the last decade bible.org has grown to serve millions of people and ministries around the world through providing thousands of trustworthy resources for Bible study — including an exciting new translation of the Bible (the NET Bible)"—from their Web site.
  • www.bibleplaces.com—"BiblePlaces.com features photographs and descriptions of sites in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Greece with an emphasis on biblical archaeology, geography and history"—from their Web site.

9. Bible Study Methods

How does Chuck prepare his sermons?

The key ingredients to Chuck’s sermons are his well-crafted principles and applications that he bases on the biblical text. These are the pillars upon which the message is built, and he spends the bulk of his study time in the quarry, chiseling out and polishing these statements. As you listen to his sermons, you may want to pick out the “principle and application” statements and note how he uses them in the sermon.

Does Chuck read a manuscript of his sermons?

Chuck types all his sermon notes on about five or six half-sheets of paper and attaches his illustrations to the back. He almost always preaches from an expanded outline and rarely reads a manuscript from the pulpit. The outline stimulates his thoughts and keeps him on track. Sometimes he will read key sentences and quotes from his notes, but mostly he lets his thoughts flow from his heart naturally in order to preserve a conversational, down-to-earth tone.

What is Chuck's filing system?

Chuck’s administrative assistant places his sermon notes (including illustrations) in packets and files them by series in alphabetical order. At Insight for Living Ministries, we transcribe all of his sermons and store them in a computer database so we can easily search for key words or phrases. Interestingly, Chuck doesn’t use his own database to find illustrations or sermon material; he remembers them. Sometimes we have to ask him for the source of a certain illustration, and usually he can recall the book and author, even though it’s been ten or fifteen years since he used the illustration. Quite a memory!

How does Chuck keep track of the great illustrations that he uses?

Chuck has a small, dark-brown cardboard box that he calls his “goody box,” and whenever he reads something he likes (he is an avid reader), he copies the page and tosses it in the box. That’s it! When he reads, he underlines sections that stand out to him and makes notes in the margins of his books. He puts the best stuff in his goody box, and he shelves the rest in his library.

How does Chuck organize his library?

Chuck essentially has two libraries. He keeps his working books—commentaries, character studies, word study books, and so forth—in his office, where he organizes them by topic. He organizes the rest of his books alphabetically by author. Chuck loves old, beautifully bound books. One of his favorite pastimes is to collect early editions of books by classic Christian authors and pastors. He also has a large number of biographies of influential leaders, such as Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill.

What books would Chuck consider his favorites?

When we asked Chuck who his favorite writers are and what books have made an impact on his life, he said that the Bible, of course, and the following list has had significant meaning to him:

  1. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
  2. Winston Churchill, various writings
  3. Everett Harrison and Charles Pfeiffer, Wycliffe Bible Commentary
  4. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (and other works)
  5. J. I. Packer, Knowing God
  6. Eugene H. Peterson, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work
  7. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (6 volumes)
  8. Charles Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine
  9. J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership
  10. Francis A. Schaeffer, True Spirituality
  11. C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (and other works)
  12. A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (and other works)
  13. Alexander Whyte, Bible Characters from the Old and New Testament (2 volumes)
  14. Warren H. Wiersbe, Listening to the Giants: A Guide to Good Reading and Great Preaching
  15. Philip Yancey and Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

How can I book Chuck Swindoll to speak at our church, conference, or event?

Because Chuck is already committed to Insight for Living Ministries, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Stonebriar Community Church, he has made it a firm policy to decline all speaking invitations not directly related to those three ministries.

Will Chuck endorse or help publish my book, song, or poetry?

Although we wish we could assist you with publishing or evaluating your writing, we cannot. Insight for Living Ministries is not a publisher in the commercial sense of the term. The only materials we publish are those written by Chuck or other Insight for Living Ministries staff members for the purpose of supporting the broadcasts. Chuck has been asked by the Insight for Living Ministries board of directors not to endorse other authors or ministries, and he declines virtually all requests for endorsement.

Can Chuck mentor me in person, on the phone, or via e-mail?

Due to his 100 percent commitment to Insight for Living Ministries, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Stonebriar Community Church, as well as his book-writing schedule and time with family, it is impossible for him to add one more thing to his already overflowing plate. However, Insight for Living Ministries has a Biblical Counseling department dedicated to counseling our listeners. You can contact these biblical counselors by mail or by phone.

How can I meet Chuck in person?

For information on Insight for Living Ministries trips and future events, click Events on the Ministry tab on our Web site. He would also love to meet you at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. Please come by after one of the morning services and introduce yourself to him. He usually stays up at the front every Sunday, which gives folks a chance to speak with him and shake hands. You may want to call the church first at (469) 252-5200 to find out whether or not he will be in town preaching on the week you plan to visit.

What version of the Bible does Chuck use?

For many years of his ministry, especially since 1971 in Fullerton, California, Chuck exclusively used the New American Standard Version Ryrie Study Bible in his preaching. However, beginning in early 2013, after careful investigation, personal research, and discussions with those involved in the publishing of The New Living Translation, he has switched to that version of the Bible in his public ministry. Approximately 90 biblical scholars went to the original texts during the foundational work of their translation to guarantee the accuracy of their efforts.

These devoted individuals then pursued the best and most helpful ways to express the meaning of the biblical text in our English language, which resulted in a much more readable translation. Because Chuck’s threefold commitment remains the same (accuracy, clarity, and practicality), he desired to use a version of the Bible that did not require a seminary-trained scholar to understand it, and yet he wanted to make certain the version he used remained faithful and true to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. Chuck has come to realize that The New Living Translation best serves his purpose in helping others realize how reliable, relevant, timeless and true God’s Word remains to this day.