I have already posted about how to invite someone to read the bible with you as well as what to do at your first meeting. In this post, I want to describe the COMA method for one-to-one bible reading. Whereas asking questions like “What struck you about the text?” or “What questions does this scripture raise?” or “What is this passage asking you to do?” may help you and your reading partner have fruitful discussion around the bible, the COMA method more focuses on really grasping the overall meaning of the section you read. COMA stands for context, observation, meaning, and application. Here are the steps:
- Take turns reading the text
- Context: determine the genre, historical setting, and what happened just before
- Observation: look for repeating key words or ideas; determine the structure of the section based on major points/sub-sections; determine the flow of thought (especially in epistles)
- Meaning: summarize the point of the passage in one short phrase; consider how this text relates to others in the same book; think about how this text supports or challenges your overall doctrine
- Application: find any commands and determine if you should obey them; ask how these verses are challenging you to think differently; consider any life changes you should make
- Pray: thank God for his scriptures; ask him to bless you as you search them out; pray that he will help you live them out, authentically*
This method works particularly well if both people agree to prepare ahead of time. If you decide to do that, you may want to agree on how much preparation time you will each do: e.g. 30 minutes, an hour, etc. If the person you are reading with is not disciplined enough to prepare ahead of time, you should not either. Otherwise, you will revert to the teacher-student relationship rather than co-explorers discovering the glorious truths of scripture together.
Adapted from David Helm, One to One Bible Reading (Kingsford, Australia: Matthias Media, 2011), pp. 47-48.