Discovering the Scriptures: Asking Questions, Probing Deeper, Always Amazed

An interview with Kerygma author Boyd Lien, pastor, educator and artist.

Kerygma Author Rev Boyd E Lien

As a child Rev. Lien remembers hearing the Bible read in worship, and understood the Bible “to be the most important source of our understanding about God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Of course, it took a while to know what each of those names meant and how they went together. Since the Bible was the basis of the sermon I also came to see that the Bible gave directions on how we are to live our lives.”

He received his first Bible at age 11 in his home church in Minneapolis, and remembers the first passage he read to be the story of the exodus, which to an 11-year-old was a great action-adventure story! He recalls being part of a Bible study in high school, which met in the kitchen because of limited classroom space in his small church, “I fondly remember our teacher, Mrs. Tupper, and her weekly gifts of donuts, Tang, and Bible study. In a profound way, through her caring, her guidance through the Scriptures, and the friendship within the group, I learned that Jesus loves me. I learned that I was a valued part of a family of faith and part of a much bigger story.” 

As a University of Minnesota undergraduate, Rev. Lien recalls, “The pastor of my home church would frequently gather a bunch of us together on Friday nights for Bible Study. Can you imagine—Friday nights? We were there because Jerry was deeply committed to sharing the good news of Christ and was also an excellent teacher. At such a formative time in my life, the sharing within that community was a key part of my faith development. In fact, I can still remember the theme and scripture text from our first session!”  

Decades later another group, a Tuesday night Bible study at Reid Memorial Presbyterian where he served as Pastor, would help shape the revision of the study that he wrote for Kerygma: “During those seven years, a faithful group of learners gathered at the church almost every Tuesday night and studied the Bible—a setting for learning as well as a safe place for un-learning. Through our study, our prayers, our laughter, and our tears the Spirit formed us into a closely-knit community. The experience of teaching this group, test-driving contemporary learning activities, and adding a slide presentation to enhance the sessions, resulted in creating "Discovering the Bible—A New Generation" for the Kerygma Program.

In writing this study, I expanded on the format of asking questions of the text and making discoveries—the “?” and “!” approach. It is impossible for me to read scripture without asking questions to probe deeper as well as anticipating being surprised by something I had not seen before. It is amazing how even the most familiar passage will take on a fresh meaning—but our lives are changing we are also being changed. Thanks be to God!”

Reflecting on leading Bibles studies as pastor, he wrote, "I realize that, in many ways, I teach the way I was taught.”

His list of good facilitation practices includes:

  • listening carefully
  • asking good questions
  • affirming each person’s contribution
  • preparing sessions that encourage discovery
  • designing activities for the different ways people learn
  • paying attention to building community within the group 

For clergy who lead Bible studies, he observed, “Being a pastor, a role that may be perceived as ‘the expert,’ has intensified the need to guide participants in discovering the Bible and leaving room for the Holy Spirit to enlighten and transform.”  Rev. Lien noted important lessons that he has learned from good leaders of Bible studies:

  • First, pay attention to those times when it is helpful to provide answers and those times when it is beneficial to lead the group in discovering the answers.
  • Second, through experience I have learned the critical importance of maintaining a non-anxious presence when difficult topics are addressed, conflicting points of view are expressed, and emotions are intensified.
  • Third, it is always appropriate to say, “I don’t know.”

When asked what was the greatest benefit to you as a Christian from studying the Bible with others, Rev Lien replies:

“My problem, as J. B. Philips suggests in his book, has never been that God is ‘too small.’ It is that God can never be too large. That is an understanding that has come through Bible study and hearing the faith stories and insights of others. In my experiences of studying and teaching the Bible, and most recently being immersed in the breathtaking visions of the prophet Isaiah, I am aware that God just keeps getting ‘more’—more creative, more magnificent, more forgiving, more gracious, more expansive, more loving, more holy, more surprising, more wondrous. Always more.” 


About the author:

Boyd Lien, an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), serves as pastor of Bath Presbyterian Church in Blythe, Georgia. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minn., just down the street from Lake Wobegon. After studying graphic art and art history at the University of Minnesota, he said "yes!" to God's call to ministry and entered McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, which included a life-changing year of study at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. During forty-eight years of ministry, Boyd has served as pastor and educator with churches in Verona, New Jersey; New Castle, Pennsylvania; Eugene, Oregon; Houston, Texas; Richmond, Virginia; and Augusta, Georgia.

As a church educator, he has created and published a variety of educational resources for all ages. Some resources have been published independently; others have been published by Abingdon Press, The Logos Program, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and The Kerygma Program. In collaborating on the creation of Discovering the Bible, Boyd served as co-author and editor of that first edition of the Resource Book and the Leader’s Guide and is now the author of the Resource Book, author of the Leader's Guide and designer of Graphics for the new edition, Discovering the Bible: A New Generation. He has authored the Leader's Guide, designed the cover, and created the slide presentation for Second Corinthians: Living Letters in Christ.

Boyd spent the past several years writing a three-part study on Isaiah including Resource Books and Leader's Guides, and also creating the Slide Presentations. He also designed the graphics for the covers.  Isaiah: Holy, Holy, Holy was released in the fall of 2017, and Isaiah parts two and three are due out Late fall 2018.

Boyd and his wife Pam have two grown children. Sarah Finnerty, her husband Craig, and son Alex (the Great!) live in Raleigh, NC. Justin Lien lives in Augusta. Cats Boo, Oliver, and Natalie complete the family.


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