Long before writing more than 100 Bible studies or co-founding Precept Ministries, Kay Arthur stood in the living room of her rented condo and shook her fist at God.

Arthur had married young and had two children. But her husband’s unrecognized and therefore untreated bipolar condition led to their divorce. The end of her marriage dissolved what little familiarity she had with God. “My ideal was shattered. I stood in the living room, shook my fist in the face of God, and said, ‘To hell with you, God. I’m going to find someone to love me.’ I went to look for love—and I discovered that sin will cost you more than you ever expected to pay.” 

After a two-year affair with a married man, Arthur began to realize how low she had sunk. “By the time I realized he was married, I was in love with him and didn’t care—even though his wife was pregnant with her sixth child. Eventually I became convicted that someday I would stand before God and He would say, ‘Depart from me.’  I kept on searching until the day I fell on my knees beside the bed and told God, ‘You can do anything you want with me if you will just give me peace.’ And there on my knees, He gave me the Prince of peace, the Lord Jesus Christ. I didn’t know what ‘being saved’ meant; I just knew I belonged to God, and He set me free from my slavery to sin. I rose from my knees with the power to say, ‘No.’ It was the power of His indwelling Spirit.”

Arthur faced a trial in the early days of her faith after feeling prodded to get in touch with her ex-husband. “I told God I would go back and marry my husband again, because I knew He didn’t like divorce. I had no desire to marry Tom, but I thought that if God could change me, He could change Tom. Soon after, the phone rang and it was my father-in-law telling me Tom had committed suicide. I fell on my knees and there God brought to mind Scriptures that brought healing.” 

From the moment of her conversion, Arthur immersed herself in the Bible, even propping it up on her steering wheel to read at traffic lights. “You shouldn’t do that now,” she chuckles. “Remember, this was the ‘60s.” A friend had given her a J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English. She recalls reading in Romans 9:26, “and I will call her beloved, who was not beloved” and thinking, “Lord, that’s me!”

[ Beginning Ministry and Inductive Study ]

Arthur’s desire to study the Bible prompted her to move from Baltimore, Maryland, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, so she could attend Tennessee Temple University. While attending classes, raising her two boys, and working as a registered nurse, she met and married missionary Jack Arthur. A few months later, the Arthur family headed to Mexico to be trained as missionaries.  

While in Mexico for language school, their group of trainees was asked to minister to a group of missionaries’ teenage children. “No one volunteered. I was embarrassed for us because we were all there being trained as missionaries, so I volunteered. Little did I realize God was about to show me one of my spiritual gifts. We opened our home to teens, they got saved, but no one volunteered to teach them. So I said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how, but show me.’ I put up a blackboard in my living room and started teaching.”   

“I wrote to a friend in the U.S., who advised me to get into one book of the Bible and study it. She sent me a copy of Irving Jensen’s Independent Bible Study. We also had a set of big reel-to-reel tapes with lectures about verb tenses, mood, and voice. I took notes and then started digging into Romans.”

[ Starting Precept Ministries ] 

Arthur believed she and her family would spend the rest of their lives on the mission field. Once she’d gotten the taste for teaching and a few resources for studying, there was no looking back. But after three and a half years, she was diagnosed with pericarditis, and her family was sent back to the U.S. “I was devastated because I wanted to be a missionary so much. All I wanted to do was teach people the Word of God because I knew they needed it.”

On their doctor’s advice, Jack and Kay returned to Tennessee, and Kay began teaching a teen Bible study in her home. “David’s high chair was my podium. I first taught four women gathered around a kitchen table in a friend’s house. In 1970 we purchased a 32-acre farm with two barns, and I held studies there. The outreach continued—first teens, then women, then college students, then children, and then the men wanted to come.”

It wasn’t long before a friend in Atlanta asked her to teach a women’s Bible study in her home, so Arthur began regularly making the two-hour drive down to Atlanta. That was just the beginning. “Eventually, I started thinking what would happen with these women when it was time for me to move on. I needed to teach them how to study the Bible for themselves. That’s how Precept Inductive Bible Studies came into being. The adults would learn how to discover truth for themselves precept upon precept, the children line upon line”

“Every week I’d write a lesson, we’d mimeograph it, collate it as we walked around the ping pong and pool tables in the barn, put them in the trunk of the car, and drive to Atlanta. I would teach, talk with the people, and then meet with the discussion leaders. We’d reason through the next week’s text in Romans, and I’d send them home with the lesson they were to lead. Romans was 32 weeks long, and each lesson required five hours of homework. It was a different day. No one complained, and the class continued to grow to eventually more than 1,500 regular attendees. They were hungry to discover truth for themselves and willing to invest their time.”

[ Writing Bible Studies ]

Although Arthur has written inductive studies on most of the books of the Bible, she‘s not planning to stop. “I take time to pray about what is next, and then I dig in. I always do my own inductive study in preparing to write a course.”

She then consults outside resources.  “My desk would sag from the weight of concordances and a wide assortment of varied word study tools. Now for the most part they lodge on the bookshelves behind my desk, gathering dust.  I use Logos Bible Software to give me the word study tools and the wisdom of many scholars at my fingertips—literally! However, I don’t touch commentaries until I’ve gleaned all I can on my own. The commentary is basically my check to see if I have missed anything and to learn what I can from the scholarly labors of others. There is so much I want to know about His Word.  It is our life, the very bread by which we live. And because it comes from the mouth of God, I want it firsthand from Him so that I know that this is what my God has said. He’s given us 66 books and I want to know all 66!”

While she puts a great deal of effort into the studies produced by Precept Ministries, Arthur emphasizes that she is not a one-woman show. “Once I’ve written a lesson, I take the draft to my team—Pete De Lacy, Tommye Hammel, Jodi Essex, and our son David, who is now the CEO of Precept Ministries. We are all seasoned in the Word of God. So we get together, take it apart, and discuss what would make it better. They tell me what to drop, what to add, where to clarify. We edit it on a big screen in one of Precept’s classrooms, then we pilot it. We teach it here on campus. Every one of those people, except me, is leading a Precept group. The students give their feedback. After another round of edits, we do a summer study program for people visiting from around the country.”

While she’s working to complete Precept studies on the few books of the Bible she hasn’t written on yet, Arthur is also heading up a team dedicated to making wider-reaching resources available. “We’re coming out with our In and Out Courses to match every Precept course we publish. ‘In and Out’ is shorthand for ‘taking it in and living it out.’ They’re designed for people who’ve said they need a program with a smaller time commitment. They only take about two hours a week. We also have inductive studies for children—Discover 4 Yourself—from beginning readers to age 12. It’s amazing what children know of the Word of God and how they’re able to handle what’s thrown their way. Over time, God has led me to write a variety of inductive studies so Precept Ministries International can meet people where they are and take them into a more intimate knowledge of God and His word. We even have the 40 Minute Studies—there’s no homework as the small group does the
study together.”

Precept Ministries International teaches young and old in 180 countries and 70 languages. “We want people to study the Bible for the purpose of transformed lives. These studies are carefully translated and taught all around the world. We could tell so many stories of transformed lives—the freedom that comes with truth. Our 40 Minute Study “Free From the Bondage of Fear” has empowered many believers in Muslim countries. They are sharing it with everyone they can.”

Arthur pays particular attention to the direction in which she feels God leading her next. As she wrote her recent study on the book of Acts, she cross-referenced Paul’s letter to the Galatians. “The book of Acts is so timely for today’s world. As I was writing, I kept asking myself, ‘Why haven’t I done this sooner?’ But it was God’s timing for that book. Acts led me to Galatians, so that will be our next study and we will only have three New Testament books left.”

[ Personal Bible Study ] 

Arthur’s passion for Scripture has grown only more intense over her years of ministry. “The psalmist says, ‘How sweet are your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way’ (Psa 119:103–104 NASB). When you love Scripture, God’s Word becomes sweeter than any other book.”

Arthur gets her coffee and begins her day in the Word. “I have a little sitting area in my bedroom that is my place with God. I sit down, look out the window and just thank Him for this time to listen to His Word. And it’s then you realize nothing else matters—He is our sovereign Lord and we are His bondservants!  My quiet time is always in the Word of God, book by book. I have an inductive study Bible, which has large spacing and margins for notes, and instructions for studying each book. I have a pen, pencil, and colored marking pens.”

“There was a time in the Christian world where it was considered unspiritual to spend your quiet time studying Scripture, as if that were less spiritual than prayer. When tempted by the devil, Jesus said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matt 4:4 ESV). Quiet time is remembering that He is God. I’m going to listen to him, talk to him, commit my way unto him, and remember that He is God. I want to start my day with him on my mind and on my heart. Although I begin with time in His Word, there are times when I read other books the Spirit of God leads me to. One of my treasures is On This Day by Robert J. Morgan—it’s 365 days of Christian history with stories about saints, martyrs, and heroes. I love the old biographies and learn so very much from them that inspires me to press on.”

Most recently, Arthur has focused her reading on the letter to the Galatians as she prepares to write a new study on the book. “Galatians has put me on my face before God. During a special period of seeking the Lord in prayer—because that was the weakest thing in my devotional time—I spent a lot of time meditating on Galatians 2:20 and praying it back to the Lord: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself
up for me’ ” (NASB).

Arthur doesn’t feel the need to separate her devotional time from message preparation. “I pray as I go through the Scriptures. I just talk to God about what I’m doing. As thoughts come to me, I jot them down. Or I’ll talk to God about the message He wants me to deliver to this particular group of people. It’s all integrated. If I’m just reading but not studying, is that sacred? If I’m using what I’ve read or using what I’m preparing, is that profane? To me, all of life is His and should be led by His Spirit.”

The years she spent immersing herself in Scripture have continued to enrich her devotional life. “I’ll be reading one passage, and the Holy Spirit will bring another verse to mind, putting two pieces of Scripture together in my heart. God’s Word is him talking to us. Prayer without the Word is a one-sided conversation. I pray my studies will help other Christians develop a similar devotion and passion to know and live by every word that has come from the mouth of God.” 

“I believe we’re in a generation of biblical illiteracy. I believe it’s our greatest sin and our greatest weakness. If I’m not in the Word, then I am running on my own steam, thoughts, and impressions. Some Christians are bypassing what is essential for life as God means it to be lived.  …  They don’t realize that if they don’t know His Word, they don’t know God. They’re building their house on sand instead of on the rock, because the rock is God; the rock is Jesus; the rock is the Spirit; the rock is truth. It’s so sad, because in our busyness we’re excusing ourselves from studying His Word, which is the very truth that sets us apart, keeps us from the evil one, and propels us into the world to proclaim truth with confidence no matter the cost, as we see in John 17: 14–18.” 

Jessi Strong is senior writer for Bible Study Magazine. She blogs at JessiStrong.com.

Jessi Strong is senior writer for Bible Study Magazine. She blogs at JessiStrong.com.

Now in her 80s, Arthur seems to have unflagging energy for teaching and ministry, and she’s brimming with gratefulness as she hears of people all over the world whose relationship with God has been deepened through studying His Word this way. “Psalm 119:102 says this: ‘I have not turned aside from your ordinances; for You Yourself have taught me’ (NASB). That’s what studying inductively is all about. It’s God himself instructing us, God himself teaching us: ‘These are my ways. Walk in them.’ ”   

 


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