Samples from Seminary – The Power of Repetition

  • “What one week are we studying this summer?” “The Passion Week”
  • “What does the word ‘passion’ refer to?” “Suffering
  • “What then is the Passion Week?” “The week of Jesus Christ’s final suffering and death”
  • “On which day did it begin?” “Sunday”
  • “What was the main event of that day?” “Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey”
  • “What happened Monday morning?” “Jesus cursed a fig tree…”

While teaching Sunday School throughout this summer, I began every class by asking my 6th grade students review questions. In this way we reviewed the major points from all of the previous lessons in only a few minutes. Granted, this took time away from the actual lesson for the week, especially as the summer progressed. However, it was time well spent.

Why? Because of the power of repetition.

It is one thing to learn the events of the Passion Week one-by-one, but it is another to remember them. Repetition aids memory and retention. By reviewing material on a weekly basis, the information becomes more ingrained in our minds. One professor at seminary illustrates this with the gesture of running his finger along the podium: “repeated scratches produce a deep mark” – or something to that effect. Certainly the 6th graders I taught are a testimony to this: with prompting, they can recite the events of the Passion Week.

How does this apply to you, the reader? Just because we have moved beyond adolescence does not mean we are somehow above utilizing such an approach to studying God’s word.

Consider the benefit of repetition for memory, and try implementing something similar in your own Scripture intake.

What might this look like? Normally, I try to avoid specific suggestions, lest I open the door for any legalism. But here, I think it is worth having some concrete examples. Here are four of them:

  1. Memorize Scripture passages and then review them over and over again. Reviewing a passage even once a week over an extended period of time will likely enable you to remember the passage the rest of your life. For more on this, click this link.
  2. Review as you read through a book of the Bible. Each time you begin a new chapter, remind yourself of what took place in each of the previous chapters of the book.
  3. Commit Bible history to memory by means of lists. For example, while reading in Chronicles, recite the names of each of the prior kings of Judah every time you come to a new one. Do the same for the ten plagues, the Judges, and each of Paul’s missionary stops (to name a few more suggestions).
  4. Finally, find renewed appreciation for Heidelberg Catechism preaching. Does the idea of hearing sermons on the same 52 Lord’s Days for the rest of your life sound boring? View the repetition as a means of ingraining the central elements of our faith into your heart and mind.

There are plenty of other ways of applying this principle to the study of God’s Word. However, since I have well exceeded my normal length for a post, I leave it up to you to come up with others and then apply them.

Matt Kortus

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