Remembering Bible Verses, Names or Anything Else

I had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Tim Brown of Western Seminary (Holland, MI), last week. He, like Dale Bruner for those who know him, recites long passages of scripture for the majority of his messages. I’ve seen him do the Sermon on the Mount and other long sections. I won’t tell you how many, but he has many complete books of the Bible memorized, not just the short ones.

I’ve heard him several times, but I finally decided to ask him, “How do you do it?” He said he just gets lucky and remembers it after reading it once. Just kidding, he actually said there are five ancient practices that have been used for thousands of years for oral tradition. I believe he is writing a book or a chapter of a book on this. I’ll let you know when it comes out.

  1. Say it aloud. Go somewhere where you can say it. You probably need to be alone so you don’t freak people out.
  2. Repetition. I knew this was coming, yes the hard work of going over it over and over.
  3. Mnemonic Devices. Since I was an engineer I thought he was going talk about pumps and device controls with differential equations. This is what he actually said.-Write out the verse on paper over and over.
    -Make acronyms. For example if you wanted to remember “love, joy, peace, patience…” in the fruit of the Spirit, this would be L.J.P.P
    -Draw little pictures. He said like hieroglyphics. So for the fruit of the Spirit you could draw a heart (love), a happy face (joy), a peace symbol (peace) and so on. In the deciding what to draw you actually are creating mental memory points that will help you. Another example is the classic One-Verse Evangelism from Navigators

One Verse

4. Take breaks. Work on it for 20 minutes, then take a 10 minutes break, then work on it again. Taking a break helps clear the mind and actually helps you remember it better than if you worked on it 50 minutes straight. So 20 + 10 + 20 > 50 if you like math talk.
5. Hand motions. Anyone who has done the Walk Through the Bible seminar knows the power of hand motions. This can really help with the subtle words in a verse. For example if it said, “then Jesus went down from Jerusalem”. You could use your hand to motion going down from a high hill into a lower area. This kinesthetic movement will help memory.

There were some other words of advice and I have a bunch of stuff on names from my leader training stuff, but I think this is enough for right now.

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