How do we really “succeed” when memorizing Scripture? Listen in on this excellent interview with Dakota Lynch, the General Director of Scripture Memory Fellowship, a nonprofit that aims to help people know, live and love the Word of God.
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Resources Mentioned During the Interview
Scripture Memory Fellowship is a non-profit that offers a number of great resources for those of us who are memorizing more of the Bible.
The following are the resources mentioned throughout the interview with Dakota Lynch:
- Scripture Memory Fellowship Website
- VerseLocker App
- Classics | 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know
- Swordgrip (memorize one verse from every book of the Bible)
Interview Transcript | Dakota Lynch
Josh: Well, I’m here with Dakota Lynch, director of the Scripture Memory Fellowship. Dakota, thank you so much
for joining. I appreciate it.
Dakota: It’s my pleasure, Josh. Thanks so much for having me. I look forward to our visit today.
Josh: Absolutely, I was looking on the website. I saw that you were actually, you and your wife both work at Scripture Memory Fellowship. Is that correct?
Dakota: That’s true, and in fact, we were coworkers before we were married.She was on staff here a little bit before I was, and that’s how we met.
Josh: Oh, okay. I did not know that. So when it comes to scripture memory, especially since you guys are both working at a scripture memory organization ministry, do you guys find yourself competing at home in any way? Is there one that memorizes faster than the other one?
Dakota: We don’t really compete officially and yet it happens somewhat spontaneously where we might be memorizing the same passage of scripture together. Like right now we’re both making our way through 1 Peter. And if I hear her recite and she makes it a few verses further down the road than I’ve memorized, that kinda prompts me to renew my efforts and hopefully leapfrog her a little bit. So there’s, yeah, definitely a spirit of friendly competition.
Josh: Yeah, I mean, as long as it works to just further you guys each other and make each other better, it’s not a bad thing, right?
Dakota: Absolutely, one of the great things about memorizing as a couple is it really strengthens your marriage, because you’re able to share this common interest of hiding God’s word in your heart. And it’s also much harder to fall off track along the way, because you know that your spouse is going to hold you accountable in a God honoring way and say, hey, when’s the last time you’ve memorized a verse? And so by God’s grace that’s really helped us stay on track over the long haul.
Josh: Yeah. Absolutely, okay. So you’re in the middle of 1 Peter right now. Do you both use similar techniques, similar methods or how do you go about memorizing and reviewing the stuff that you’ve memorized?
Dakota: Yeah, so my primary means of memorization is an app called VerseLocker. In fact, it’s the app that scripture memory fellowship offers. And it’s a pretty cool app. You can just add any verse that you might wanna memorize. It’s going to quiz you on those verses. But one feature I love is that it lets me schedule my verses for review, because let’s say you’re working on chapter two. It’s easy sometimes to kind of forget that chapter one is still there and you’ve gotta keep going over it. And so I can schedule those verses for review, which means I’m never forgetting to go back and polish those versus from a few weeks ago. So that’s my personal approach. I tend to use technology a lot in my memorization.
My wife does a little bit, but she really is more of a paper and ink kind of person. In fact, she’ll take her Bible, scan the pages so that she has a carbon copy of what her Bible looks like. And she’ll take that with her out in public. And if she’s sitting around waiting in line or something, she’ll pull that out and work on her versus that way.
Josh: Yeah, I’ve heard that, I’ve seen that technique used a couple times, and I think there’s a couple of things at play there that I really like. First of all, you’re actually taking the location of the verse on your Bible and that kind of works as a peg for your memory to remember, oh, this verse us on this side of the page and it feels this long and it does a great job. And it also, instead of carrying around your whole Bible, you’re just carrying around that page. And I’m sure she really enjoys doing that.
Dakota: Yeah. And it’s a conversation starter. In fact, we were at a ball game not long ago and she pulled out 1 Peter and someone behind her said, “Hey, are you memorizing scripture?” And she was able to share with then about how she does this, why she does this. She was able to introduce them to the ministry of SMF. And so, yeah, and yet when I just memorize my verses on my phone, people are accustomed to seeing people stare at their phones. They don’t necessarily know that this is God’s word that I’m looking at. So I think there’s an advantage to that paper and ink approach.
Josh: That’s a great point. You just mentioned SMF, which I believe is Scripture Memory Fellowship. Can you explain for a moment just what is the mission statement for Scripture Memory Fellowship? How long have you guys been in existence and what do you do in terms of providing resources?
Dakota: Great question. So our ministry was founded in 1944. And really our ministry is just to help people know,
live and love God’s word. We believe memorizing scripture is one of the most profitable ways for a Christian to spend their time. And yet we also know it’s a hard journey sometimes. And so we want to help people by providing practical resources. We offer scripture memory courses. So if you wanna memorize verses on salvation, we’ll help you do that. If you wanna memorize a verse from every book in the Bible, we’ll do that with a program called SwordGrip.
We actually just launched a memory course called The Classics. It’s the top 100 verses that every Christian needs to know by heart. And so, yeah, in a nutshell, our ministry just exists to come alongside people and help them succeed in this discipline of hiding God’s word in their heart by providing, not only courses that they can memorize, but also tools like VerseLocker that help make this a reality.
Josh: Yeah, and if you were to go on the website, and for those of you who are watching or listening right now, it’s ScriptureMemory.com, you’ll see that within the resources, there are resources for all different age groups. You guys have stuff for kids, you guys have stuff for adults. And for those that are watching right now, Dakota, I’d like for you to maybe talk a little bit about maybe the different approach. Do you feel like there should be, or is there a different approach for a kid that is memorizing versus someone who’s a teenager versus somebody who is an adult or even if they’re 50, 60 years old? ‘Cause I hear a lot of people say, ah, I’m just, I’m too old to memorize or my memory is just not very good. How do you think those different approaches play into the age groups?
Dakota: I love to think about the passage of scripture in Hebrews that says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. And I think when it comes to memorizing scripture, there has to be something at stake. There has to be a joy that is set before us that’s driving us forward. And that’s a different thing for a child compared to an adult. The fact is most children at the age of five, six, seven years old have amazing memories. I mean, when you think about it, they go from knowing zero language to being fluent in their native language in just a couple of years, right? And so that just speaks to how capable they are of memorizing, but they don’t really have the motivation internally to memorize scripture. And so for a parent, it’s really important that you usually provide some kind of external motivation to that child and say, okay, memorizing scripture is important, but we’re going to tell you that if you memorize these 10 verses this week, we’re gonna have a family game night or in our ministry, we actually have a scripture memory camp every year. And we have a set of verses that all of the memorizers are supposed to learn that year. And if they do, they get a free week of camp. And so for a kid, you’ve gotta be creative and come up with something. You could almost think of it as sanctified bribery, right?
Put something in front of them and say, hey, this will be yours if you make scripture memory a priority this week or this month. Now for adults, it’s a little bit different because they don’t have the same amazing ability to memorize. It takes more effort. And yet they are usually able to see clearly that this is something that has intrinsic value. God’s word is worth memorizing. And so in that case, I think we just have to keep reminding ourselves, this is worth it. This deserves to be a priority. But you can mix these two worlds a little bit. About a couple of years ago, my wife and I needed some fresh motivation to memorize, so we came up with this little system where for each verse we memorized, we would earn a certain number of points and then we could cash points in for a date night and we would go out to eat. And it was just a way of kind of giving us that same external motivation during those dry seasons.
Josh: Yeah, I think that’s a great idea in terms of just providing that motivation. Even for my son, I was listening yesterday, my wife had some music going on. It was one of those, she plays sometimes songs that have the verses. They’re just singing the verses in a very melodic way. I mean, it’s a regular song. It’s just using words from scripture. And I looked over and I saw both of my boys. One of ’em’s four years old and one of ’em’s nine, just like, they were playing, they weren’t concentrating. And they were just singing it under their breath as they were going along. And it was really cool to see that and go, you know what? They’re catching it a little by little, even if I’m not necessarily providing that motivation sometimes. But I do like that idea of saying, okay, what can I do, my son is very easily motivated if I can find that right thing. Whether it’s extra time playing a video game or, (chuckles) or going outside and riding a bike with me or something like that. I mean, there’s a lot of ways that I can motivate him. .
Dakota: Yeah, and kids are also very receptive to scripture songs like you just mentioned or with SMF, we also have some coloring books. And on each page there’s a verse and then a picture that kind of illustrates that verse. And so as they spend 20 minutes coloring in that page, they’re immersing themselves in the verse and what it looks like in daily life, right? Or we also have a bunch of scripture songs that are verbatim scripture. And I just think the more we can engage their senses, help them see the verse, help them feel a verse by maybe associating hand motions with each one. Scripture memory does not have to be boring. In fact, I think if we approach this intentionally and creatively, scripture memory can become one of the most exciting parts of their day as children.
Josh: Absolutely. Let’s shift gears here for a second. ‘Cause I know that most of the people watching this right now are probably adults in their, anything, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, something like that. I listened to an interview that you did, Dakota, a couple of weeks ago that I thought was really good. And one of the things you talked about, the interviewer asked you about obstacles, common obstacles. And obviously, you probably hear the same things I do. I just don’t have a good memory. I’m too old or something like that. But one of the things you brought up, I want you to talk about a little bit more, is this idea of a lack of urgency. What did you mean by that when you were talking about that lack of urgency that we as individuals, and even maybe even as collective groups and churches have?
Dakota: Yeah, so I think in so many cases we understand, especially as Christians, that God’s word is important. And when someone says that memorizing scripture is a good idea, we generally agree. And so the problem is usually not that we doubt that this is actually worthwhile. It’s that we think that the consequences for neglecting scripture memory are probably not that severe or in other words, the world is not going to come crashing down if we don’t know these verses by heart. And one example I love to use is this friend of mine named Jimmy who’s an avid runner. And he loves to run like eight miles a day. And when I meet him and spend time with him, he loves to tell me about his running and how good it makes him feel. But honestly, I’ve never followed suit by running eight miles a day like Jimmy. And it’s not because I doubt that he’s telling me the truth. I understand that this is a good thing. I understand that it has certain health benefits that he’s enjoying. But I don’t know that it’s so critical that I must do it. I feel like it’s optional. And honestly, I think that’s what happens for a lot of us when it comes to scripture memory. We understand that it’s beneficial, but we don’t have the sense of urgency. But one verse that I think really just demolishes that argument would be in Psalm 119. And in verse 92, it says, “Unless your law had been my delights I would then have perished in my affliction. And really that’s my story. When I started memorizing scripture, I was going through a very dark season of life. And it’s really what helped me through that in a way that nothing else could. And yet when you really examine that verse, the Psalmist wasn’t saying, well, God’s word was kind of important here. But he said, I would’ve perished. Without God’s word, game over. I didn’t make it through because of anything else, but only because of God’s word. And so I think the first thing that we really have to do to succeed at memorizing scripture is not only acknowledge that it’s important, but understand just how critical this is. And in Psalm 1, you’ve got the tree planted by rivers of water that brings forth fruit in season and his leaf doesn’t wither and whatever he does, he prospers. And that’s the existence we want as believers. We want to have that thriving relationship with God. And yet the only way that happens is to back up and look at verse two from Psalm 1 which says, “His delight is in the law of the Lord. And in his law, he meditates day and night.”
Josh: I love that. Yeah. My story is very similar to yours. I can’t even remember, Dakota if I’ve told you this in our off-air conversations or anything. But I found myself in a situation at one point where I was being falsely accused of something in another country and faced the prospect of jail time, like year or two years of jail time. And I sat there in the cell for the first day and realized if I don’t have my Bible with me, and if I don’t have my device that I use to always look things up, I was in a situation that I was not ready for. I could come up with maybe 20 verses. And it’s like you said, it’s that urgency of, oftentimes we don’t sense that urgency until it’s maybe too late. And not saying that we’re all gonna find ourselves in that situation. But when you’re gonna, let’s say you’re gonna invest in Amazon. Amazon 20 years ago was a whole lot better to invest in than Amazon right now. Like investing now in and finding that urgency to get into those blue chip stocks now, because time is what’s really going to give you that edge because you can, even if you memorize only one verse a week, over the course of years, that adds up to a lot.
Dakota: Absolutely, and I know that for so many people, and we hear this a lot. Scripture memorization has an appeal, because we don’t know what’s the future going to look like. Maybe we’ll be imprisoned for our faith. And obviously you were facing the prospect of something similar and the thought of knowing God’s word when we don’t have any other form of access to it, has this appeal like, oh, yeah, that might happen. And yet I think in our human nature, we struggle to spend hours today on something that may come in handy 10 years from now. It’s the idea of delayed gratification.And yet I think the way to look at it is that God’s word is so much more than a spare tire. Memorizing scripture is so much more than a spare tire that may or may not come in handy if we ever end up in jail, or if God’s word is ever pulled from the shelves. It’s not only the spare tire, but it’s the steering wheel that we need today. And you think about the temptations that we encounter, the things that we see, the decisions that we make in life. We need God’s word at the ready in every one of those moments. It’s the sword of the spirit that we’ve gotta have when we’re doing battle on a daily basis. And so if a person said, as they respond to this episode, yeah, I think I would memorize scripture, because maybe someday I won’t have it, they will find opportunities in 15 minutes to put God’s word into practice as a result of the verses they’ve memorized. So it has long-term value, but also short-term value.
Josh: Yeah, that’s a great point. And I like that analogy of having that, it’s not just the spare tire, it’s actually the tires you are running on. And the steering wheel that you’re using. Like it can be applicable, and it will be applicable in your current daily life, but it does still take that discipline of doing it every morning or day or evening, or even just weekly spending that time. So if you were to meet somebody who was perhaps getting discouraged or even just on the very beginning of their journey, what, and you can, you’re welcome to share more resources from SMF or even just your own experiences. What would you say from your experience has been helpful as you’ve kinda pushed through some of those early stages or some of those obstacles that you’ve faced?
Dakota: I would share two pieces of advice. And one is, if you’re in the midst of a big memory project, like memorizing 1 Peter, or I recently finished memorizing one of our SwordGrip program booklets, which takes you through the whole Bible, and you’re memorizing verses from each book. Sometimes you start those initiatives with all kinds of motivation and you’re like, yes, I just can’t wait to learn more about 1 Peter. And then over time for whatever reason, your zeal for 1 Peter starts to wane a little bit. And you’re not enjoying it as much as maybe you were, and that’s not a great thing, but it can be a reality, I think sometimes. And so memorizing from 1 Peter on end can become a little bit tiresome. And I would just say if that’s happening, keep moving forward on 1 Peter, but also maybe just pull in some verses from another passage of scripture, like memorize a song that really is one that you just love, right? Maybe it’s your favorite Psalm or memorize from somewhere else just to pull in some variety and add add some enjoyment back into the process. The other thing that has been so crucial for me is accountability. And that’s a word that we know in the Christian realm, right? We talk about accountability a lot, and yet we don’t like it. (chuckles) We understand that we’re supposed to have it, but it’s the part where sometimes I just tune out when people start talking about accountability. And in fact, for a long time, I heard people say that you needed accountability when it comes to memorizing scripture. But I never implemented that because I felt like I was a pretty self-motivated person, but I’m not. And I realized that when I actually did get some accountability. Someone actually called me and he says, “Hey, Dakota, I need some accountability in my memorizing, so could we start having a weekly conversation?” And he said he would just recite his verses to me. Well, when you work at Scripture Memory Fellowship, what are you gonna say when someone asks that, right? And so I said, “Sure, that would be great.” And then also when he recited his verses to me, I got in the habit of sharing some new verses with him. And this is what happened. My scripture memory reached a new level of consistency. Before that, the chart was something like this. It was a lot of ups and downs, peaks and valleys. And to some degree that’s still true, but the valleys don’t go as deep anymore. I’m always memorizing something, because I know that if I have my weekly recitation with a friend and I haven’t memorized any verses, he’s going to hold my feet to the fire because, hey, aren’t you the one who works at Scripture Memory Fellowship? You’re supposed to be a memorizing verses, right? So that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of feeling discouraged in the midst of your memory work. But it does prevent that discouragement from taking root for too long, because what I’ve found to be true is that when you keep memorizing, God’s word, as it says in scripture, will be the joy and rejoicing of your heart. And it’s impossible to keep memorizing scripture and not start enjoying it again, (laughs) after a period of time. That discouragement can be short-lived if we just persevere. And I think accountability is a key part of that happening.
Josh: Yeah, I agree. And one of the things I was just thinking about, Dakota, is I think there’s a value in speaking it out loud beyond just, obviously utilizing another way of memorizing scripture. I was actually with my dad today and I was reciting the Book of Galatians and going through that. And the process of saying it out loud, obviously it kind of, it reengages different parts of your brain, I think, when you’re actually speaking it. But I think when one of the other things that I really like is it gets me used to the idea of saying that verse out loud. Like one of the things that I love is when you hear somebody at the pulpit and they just start speaking it, right? And it just becomes a flow. It’s part of what they’re saying. And I’ve even heard it in select, I mean, very few times, but in, just when I’m talking with somebody and they’re like, that’s just like what, and then they’ll go and spout a part of scripture that applies to what we’re saying. And it’s just, if all I’m doing is just reciting it in my brain over and over, it would be much harder for me to just translate that automatically out into my, verbally saying that in everyday conversations. Whereas if I’m used to saying that out loud, I can imagine there would be a lot of value in just getting used to doing that and maybe making it easier to do it when the time comes.
Dakota: Absolutely, and I think too, we need to remember as scripture memorizers that we’re doing this for a specific reason. We’re not just memorizing scripture because we want to say at the end, hey, I learned 1 Peter, look at this. But we’re doing it because A, we wanna be that tree planted by rivers of water. We want it to enrich our own walk with God. But also we wanna be able to share this with other people. And how do we do that? Verbally. Romans 10: 17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” In fact, in Ephesians 6, when it talks about the sword of the spirit, that word for sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, it’s not talking about the written word, logos, but it’s talking about the spoken word of God. And so you’re right. I think it’s so important that we verbalize scripture, not only because it helps us with the process of memorizing it, but because verbalizing God’s word is one of the reasons we’re memorizing in the first place so that we can share it with people who need to hear it.
Josh: Well said. I think you said it 10 times better than I did. So I appreciate you kinda clarifying my point there. So thank you, Dakota. Well, as we’re kinda closing up our time here, I wanna give you an opportunity to share a little bit more about the resources. You were mentioning this new 100, I think, the 100 versus, the common versus or whatever. What are some ways that people can really engage with Scripture Memory Fellowship if that’s something that they want a more guidance or help or encouragement to do?
Dakota: So the main thing that I would encourage everyone to do is check out our website at ScriptureMemory.com. And when you visit our website, you’ll be able to just dig in and take a look at some of the Scripture Memory courses that might be right for you. And the one that I really am eager to have everyone look at would be that program we’ve already talked about The Classics, 100 verses everyone should know. So ScriptureMemory.com/Classics is the best way to just jump right into that. This is a booklet that has all 100 verses. It breaks that down into 20 weekly lessons. So you know every week which verses you’re supposed to memorize. It also has study questions that help you just dig into what these verses mean. How should they apply to my life? And every week you’ll also see a scripture memory tip that gives you some practical advice on how to memorize these verses. So the booklet is one piece, but it also comes with these verse cards that you can carry around in your pocket. And on the back of the card, it has the first letter of each word, which is a pretty helpful memory technique that I’m sure a lot of our listeners are familiar with. So check out the classics. And then also if you’re a smartphone user, VerseLocker is the free app I mentioned earlier. You can use that to memorize any verse of the Bible. So whatever you’re currently memorizing, you can plug it into VerseLocker. It’ll help you memorize that. And you can also download sets of verses that our ministry offers for free as well. And so the best way to get that is to just search for VerseLocker- that’s one word, in your app store, or go to VerseLocker.app. And again, that’s a free download and I think that’ll be helpful for anyone who is ready to get started memorizing or someone who may already be memorizing something specific.
Josh: That’s great. Yeah. We will have both ScriptureMemory.com and The Classics as well as a link to that app in the description of this video if you wanna go ahead and go down there and click that. Dakota, thank you so much for your time. And I wish you, I pray that the Lord continues to bless what you guys are doing there, the camp that you guys are about to do, and just your continued memorization of scripture.
Dakota: Thanks so much, Josh. This has been such a joy and I appreciate you and all you’re doing for the kingdom. So God bless.
Josh: God bless.