The Story of True^North
In the winter of 2015, my wife Angie and I were on a cruise through the Caribbean. We kept busy exploring each port-of-the-day, discovering the uniqueness and culture of each city. While touring Cozumel, Angie requested that we visit a specialty jewelry shop just outside the city center. I pulled out the map I’d grabbed from the ship and glanced at it quickly before we embarked. As we approached our destination, I confidently told her we had arrived. We turned the corner, and my heart sank. We were right where we were supposed to be, but the shop was not there. Upon further (and less-rushed) inspection of the map, I realized my mistake: the map I’d grabbed was for San Juan, tomorrow’s port. I was setting our plans according to the wrong map.
Many of us unknowingly calibrate our internal life compasses according to the wrong mapping coordi- nates. We are constantly “discipled” by the news feeds of culture and social media that subtly take root in our hearts and minds. This world's values have slowly but surely taken over from God's wisdom and His Kingdom principles. We must recalibrate according to the True^North of the Word of God. In Luke 10, a teacher of the law comes to Jesus and asks Him, “What must I do to in- herit eternal life?” Jesus responds: “What is written in the Law, and how do you read it?” (Luke 10:26). Listen to his emphases: First, what to read, and second, how to read it. For Jesus, reading without interpretation is a dangerous game. Disciples must learn to read, understand, and apply the Word to genuinely live-in accordance with Christ.
True^North Bible study is an adventure in Kingdom cartography; map-making for your disciple-making in the Word. Part I will help shape your perspective for “Why” this practice is so critical. Part II will show you “How” this disciple-making happens. I invite you to participate in this process as a disciple-in-the-making and to ask someone in your community to join you.
First, we must identify the problem. I do not believe it is merely faulty-reading skills. It’s that someone somewhere handed you a Bible and flippantly said, “Simply read this, and the Holy Spirit will tell you what it says.” This is true, but only in part. To be genuinely discipled, we must learn to interpret Scripture; or understand the meaning of the original authors’ thoughts as they intended. Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 13:19: “When anyone hears the message about the Kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” When the Word is sown by Jesus but is not understood or fully grasped by the reader, the devil can gain a foothold. Jesus Himself invites us to read and interpret it as a fundamental act of defiance against the enemy of our soul.
We must also recognize that this is a community effort. In Acts 8, Philip encounters the Ethiopian Eunuch reading the book of Isaiah. Philip asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The Eunuch responds: “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:31). He needed help. Interpretation is not just the work of “professionals.” The local church should be THE place of deep disciple-making through the reading and interpreting of the Word. Every person must be discipled and disciple others - all within the context of a loving community.
You might wonder where your pastors and spiritual leaders fit in this equation. Is discipleship not their “job”? Yes and no. It is undoubtedly your pastor’s desire that you “go into the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:20), but it is not solely his or her responsibility to get you there. According to Paul, your pastor is “to prepare God’s people for the work of service so that the Body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). Unity and maturity manifest within a culture of discipleship. The goal is not to get lost people into the church but to get church people out into their communities to represent Christ. True^North Bible study helps move this goal from dream to reality.
This culture of discipleship begins long before someone opens the Word. It is first defined when someone is welcomed “in” to a church. What are the parameters for this “in-ness”? Too often, the evangelical church has separated initial salvation from what it means to live “in Christ” - to consistently move into Christian maturity. When we offer the former without any requirement for the latter, we present Jesus as mere “fire insurance." The Wesleyan way of disciple-making does not separate the two. The question is not “Am I in or am I out?” but rather, “Am I on a path that takes me closer and closer to Christ each day?” We cannot earn salvation through effort, but our effort aids in our discipleship as we seek God through searching the Scriptures and doing so in a Christian community.
Now that you understand the critical “Why,” it’s time to move on to the “How.” The “How” is True^North Bible study at its core. Remember, this is a brief overview. This ultra-condensed, 30,000-foot view allows you to explore the fantastic possibility of recalibrating your internal compass. Still, it is not an adequate substitute for the complete instruction and discipleship process through observation, interpretation, and application.
HOW TO PRACTICE TRUE^NORTH BIBLE STUDY?
We learn the “practice of disciple-making” by actually practicing disciple-making ourselves. On this page, you will not be reading about the disciple-making process and viewing it in a second-hand kind of way. Instead, you will become personally engaged in the process. In the complete True^North workbook, I will be your “Paul” and you become my “Timothy” (or my Pricilla). If you will become a disciple-maker yourself, should you not first be discipled using the process you will be utilizing? If you agree to this, just say YES. Let’s move forward.
The True^North Bible study exists in four major compass points that create a holistic Bible study approach. It is critical to realize how each part operates differently to understand its place in the process.
About the Creator of True^North
My name is David Smith. My wife calls me David, everyone else calls me “Dave.” I’m professor of Bible at Indiana Wesleyan University. For the last 36 years, I have been married to the most wonderful woman I know, Angie. She is a home-maker and a discipler of young women here on the Indiana Wesleyan University campus. We have two children, Joshua (married to Laura) and Hannah (married to Brian). I am passionate about the Gospels and Paul’s letters…but also have done extensive study and teaching in the Hebrew Bible. My wife and I have traveled around the world teaching and doing leadership development. Most passionately, we have been working in local Church-based Community Development in Malawi, Africa.
2003 – Ph.D., (New Testament Interpretation), Durham University, Durham, England
1996 – M. Div., Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY
1989 – M.A., Biblical Literature, (Old Testament), Asbury Theological Seminary
1987 – B.A., Bible, Asbury College, Wilmore, KY
1985 – Bible & Theology Classes, Ohio Christian University, Circleville, OH (1985)
1977 – Associates Degree; Business Data Processing, Columbus State Community College, Columbus, Ohio