Listen as the president of Training Leaders International, Duane Tweeten, shares his passion for Scripture memorization. In this interview, he offers guidance not only on Bible memory but also how he uses what he memorizes in day-to-day life to positively impact others!
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Memorizing the Bible isn’t designed to be a selfish endeavor.
Duane Tweeten reminds us how powerful it is to encourage people to use the Word of Scripture on our daily lives. He also share some tips and benefits of memorizing the Bible and how he trains leaders around the world as part of Training Leaders International.
Resources Mentioned in the Interview
Learn more about Duane Tweeten and his organization below:
- TrainingLeadersInternational : The official website of Training Leaders International, an organization that trains pastors and leaders around the world.
- TLI Facebook Page: The official Facebook page of Training Leaders International seeks to meet the growing need for theological training around the world.
- TLI on YouTube: The official YouTube Channel of Training Leaders International.
Interview Transcript: Duane Tweeten
Duane Tweeten : That’s such an understated piece. Of why we do this is because it is modeling uh that love for the scripture to others, and that’s contagious. Um there’s something about hearing somebody who’s excited about God’s Word and actually can quote the word. That, then, is a challenge. It just invites people to join you in that.
Josh: At the time of this conversation, Dwayne tweeting was the executive vice president of training leaders international, but he has since been named president of that organization and they’re just doing some really cool things all around the world that he’ll explain
Duane Tweeten: Boy, that’s a great question. Let me see if I can do it all. The first thing I really memorized in terms of a larger section of scripture was the sermon on the Mount Matthew five to seven, and after that probably I went to Ephesians, Philippians, first Timothy, first Peter, and now I’m working through book five of the Psalms, which is Psalm One oh seven, through someone fifty and Lord Willing, I’ll finish that this year, along with some other assorted psalms as well. Uh, that I’ve done in the past as well
Josh: Yes, and I’m sure just random passages here there as well. Very much to all that. Yes, yeah, well, can you share with us? I got a little limpse of it before we started here, but share with everybody what really got you into doing extended scripture memory.
Duane Tweeten: So the first glimpse I had of scripture memory came in Sunday school as a child and and there was just random verses and it was when I was late elementary, early middle school. I had a prayer partner, an older godly man in the church who, when he asked how could we pray for each other, one of the things that we were supposed to share was our favorite scripture. And he said his favorite scripture were the beatitudes in Matthew Chapter Five, and he asked me, have you ever memorized that?
Well one I had never thought of memorizing the be attitudes. Honestly, as a child I don’t think I knew what the beatitudes were. And then we had these. I saw it was twelve verses long and I thought I’m not sure I can do that and he just challenged us to think about memorizing the beatitudes together and that began a journey for me, at least thinking about the pictures. Then in college I had a resident assistant my freshman year who knew my love for sports and he just said if you knew the scriptures as well as you knew the sports page, because I could quote statistics. He said if you knew the scriptures that well, God could use you, and so that began a real hunger for me to know the scripture more, to use that scripture.
And then, as a young pastor, I got into settings, in pastoral visits, in the counseling settings, before cell phone days, I didn’t have a Bible APP to go to and I had settings where I wanted to bring the scripture to bear in people’s lives. And so I knew I needed to memorize scripture. And so that set me to memorize things like some twenty three Romans, chapter eight or other larger sections, and that began to increase a love for me, in me for the Scriptures and I love to see God’s word work in the lives of people. And so then that when I started, for example, the book of Ephesians and just a glorious uh weight of what is the Church and who is the church and it it began to change how I thought, how I lived, and so I wanted to let that happen, uh, and so I just continued that journey for many years.
Josh: Yeah, absolutely, I uh. You know, I had a recent I guess there was an interaction with, with a gentleman who was requesting prayer and I don’t know, I mean I’m not in pastoral ministry directly or anything. So I’m sure you have a lot more experience in this, but one of the things that really uh it. It changed me a little bit. Was this idea that a lot of times in those situations, at least in the past, I’ve been extremely hesitant. I don’t even know what to say. Is like what, like, what what do I do? I pray healing for him. Do I pray? Like where? Where do I go with this?
And for the first time, you know, and this after, you know, now a couple of years of really doing intentional scripture memory, the ability to go you know what, Lord, actually, instead of telling me what words I should say, it’s like what part of what I’ve memorized would be edifying to him right now, and then just kind of reciting that over him, praying psalm forty six over him, praying psalm even thirteen over him, you know, and and doing that and and I don’t know about for him, he never, you know, said anything, but for me it was it just was a huge impact and I’m sure you’ve seen story or just experienced that a lot in your pastoral ministry. Right.
Duane Tweeten: Yeah, just one experience when it comes to mind. I had a couple in the church. She was dying of cancer, was nearing the end, and I had gone over to visit them and they talked to me how they were reading. They had highlighted passage of passages of scripture that just reminded them of Heaven and the hope of Heaven. And I’ve been memorizing psalm seventy three, which then has at the end whom have I in heaven but you, and Earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever, and I could pull that out in that context. I just freshly been memorizing that and just the timing of the Lord to bring that together was an encouragement to them but also to me to see how it was encouraging to them and it was not a text that they had thought of or seen, and so just to highlight that in their Bible then to add that into their reading each day.
Josh: Yeah. Well, Dwayne, I want to dive into a little more on the, you know, pastoral training side of stuff that you do. But before we do that, can I ask from a practical perspective, what is the way that you approach scripture memory? Are you just a wrote Guide do you have other ways of memorizing and how do you review? I just can you give us kind of a snapshot of what You do?
Duane Tweeten: I am an old school, low tech Bible Memorization Guy. I am a rope memory, repetition, repetition, repetition guy. So I still use three by five cards. I have little folders filled with them, and so what I do is I really I review everything I’ve memorized from the very beginning, which now would be well over twenty five years ago. I review at least monthly, and so, for example, all those books that I mentioned, I’m going through them at least once a month, usually a chapter of those a day. In addition, anything I’ve memorized more recently, like in the last two or three years, I’m trying to catch every uh ten days or every three days. So I have a whole routine just in my mind. It’s part of my pattern. Every day it’s repetition and everything that’s new within a year I’m doing every day just because I know I want it cemented as much as possible. So I’m an old school guy, but it’s been really useful for me and it makes me meditate on scripture every day and I love that. Beyond my reading through the Bible. It gets me meditating and thinking through scripture every day.
Josh: I mean in order to go through all of that. How much time does that take you every day do that? You know everything in them?
Duane Tweeten: I would say I spend thirty to forty five minutes a day. Okay, yeah, and part of that is yeah, yeah, I I live about an hour from Tlis office in in downtown Minneapolis, so I have a healthy commute and so because of that I can do that while I’m driving, which makes a big difference.
Josh: I also wanted, I was curious for the three by five cards. Do you have the entire word, like the all the Um, every single word for every verse written out? Is it first letters or how exactly do you do that for yourself?
Duane Tweeten: So it is. I’ve printed them off and so it’s the complete text with verse numbers, because I try to try to remember verse numbers as well, just so that when somebody asked me where is that, I can give them the reference. Uh. I’m not always perfect in some of those, but I’ve been a little better doing that in recent years. So yes, I just print off the whole uh, the whole scripture on a card and put it in my little binder. And I have it with me when I’m maybe commuting, but I’m doing those verses that are repetition rather than learning new verses during those times. During those times, I learned those when I’m not driving.
Josh: Yeah, no, I would hope so, for sure. Um, yeah, well, I mean I think it would probably be an encouragement for people to hear the fact that, Um, I mean you’ve been doing this for it sounds like twenty plus years and you’re continually reviewing some of these. So you know, you still don’t feel like, Oh, I can just I’m done. I can I will remember this forever, like it’s still a continual review process for you.
Duane Tweeten: Well, I would say there’s some things that definitely will be there forever. I can tell some verses just come to mind very quickly, but other scriptures that I find if I’m not reviewing them, I’m not thinking of them. In fact, I need to go back and work on, for example, first Timothy to sharpen it up. That may be what I do next year. I may take a break from the psalms and go back to first timothy to to get it more more clear, more precise, so that I have it. I’ve been reviewing it, but I don’t think I did as much review right after I memorize first timothy as I have with some of the other books, so it’s not as fresh.
Josh: Yeah, yeah, I understand that. Um. All right. Well, let’s transition a little bit over to training leaders International. Would you mind given just a quick introduction to the organization, your role in it and then what you guys do?
Duane Tweeten: Great. So T L I exists really to strengthen local churches by training up leaders. UH, a lot of churches in the world have no pastors who have or church leaders who have been trained how to preach and teach God’s word faithfully, and so we want to come alongside the Global Church and Equip and train and mentor pastors to serve the church. And that’s obviously because of the growth of Christianity around the world, but we’ve also seen a lot of a lot of false teaching enter the church and we want to come alongside and encourage and support and equip pastors to be faithful as they handle the scriptures. And so Paul said to Timothy, you know what you’ve been entrusted with. Pass on the faithful men it will be able to entrust that word to others as well, and that’s what we want to do. And so we’re training pastors and how to preach the word, how to rightly interpret and preach that word. But we’re also uh involved in seminaries that are more giving a broader base of pastoral ministry. And so we do all of that and are glad to help local churches and equipping their pastors. And so I have a role in the overall organization as well as getting to teach and train around the world at times as well, which is my joy.
Josh: What’s been your favorite place to visit to teach?
Duane Tweeten: You know, I cannot even pick one because so many places I love to be. Now, last year I did spend with my family during covid three months in Brazil and uh and so because they were able to come with me and experience most of my trips are just short term trips, so I go alone, but for them to come with me and experience what was going on, that was a great joy.
Josh : Yeah, have you ever been out to Thailand before?
Duane Tweeten: I have not. We’ve we’ve had some til I connected people in Thailand, but in fact we have one global partner that’s in there now.
Josh: That’s awesome. Yeah, I mean, it seems like I’ve met a number of different ministries that are here. They’re doing it sounds like very, very similar work, because it’s a it’s a very good kind of central place from which you can get Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, you know, me, and Mar people and and train them to then go back to their their home countries. So what I love from your original story was just this idea that what got you started was an intour really kind of encouraging you to dive in. And then now here you are, however, many decades later, and you’re you’re kind of doing the same thing. I’m assuming more beyond just, you know, scripture memory, but I did want to kind of ask and talk about, you know, like how do you think we as believers, we who do have a passion for memorizing scripture, should approach encouraging others to? I mean, because it’s not like I want to be able to go and say, you know, hey, if you’re not doing this, you’re not a good Christian, like it’s it. We don’t want to be judging people, but but how can you be that mentor how can you, as you’re training these leaders, uh, train them in good biblical theology, but also, I’m assuming you know, encourage them to memorize the Bible.
Duane Tweeten: Yeah, and I think there’s a number of ways to do that. One, clearly is is simply to model it, uh, to model its benefit in your own life, in your own spiritual life, as well as then when you’re passing it on, so that they can see that what the work that you’ve done in memorizing scriptures bearing fruit in your life and in others. I think that’s such an understated piece of why we do this is because it is modeling, uh, that love for the scripture to others, and that’s contagious. Um. There’s something about hearing somebody who’s excited about God’s Word and actually can quote the word. That, then is a challenge. It just invites people to join you in that. I think a second thing is one just to do what my mentor, Ly Lewis, did with me, which is to ask, would you consider with me memorizing this section of scripture? So inviting others with a specific target, with a specific purpose, let’s memorize, for example, a psalm together, or let’s memorize Ephesians two together or something. I think those kinds of things were would be fruitful, because then that’s pulling them into something you’re doing… …together, and again they’re going to see that benefit.
A third piece I think I would say is that there if you can help people see how you’re making scriptural connections because you’ve memorized scripture, uh, they will begin to see why it’s important for them to think about as they see you say. Okay, for example, UM, a couple of years ago I memorized the psalms of as set and I began to see uh, these psalms that talk about the Jewish people coming into the temple, going up to Jerusalem, ascending uh to the throne to give their sacrifices to God, and as they went to the temple they’re singing these songs. Well, I began to see this theme of creation emerged several times. Uh. They, the PSALMISTS, would tie in who made heaven and earth. The one who they’re going to worship is the one who made heaven and earth. I’d never noticed that just reading the Bible, but memorizing it, I began to see those connections and think about what’s the connection between the creation and UH, they’re going to the temple to worship the living, true God who made them. And so if you share that, people will get excited because they want those same connections in their own lives.
Josh: Yeah, I, no, I love that. I like that idea of modeling, especially, as I think about it, for my kids, you know, and making sure that I’m modeling. But modeling is only if it seems to be at least kind of just part of the battle. Because, you know, like you’re saying, if if I don’t maybe even challenge my boys to say, okay, let’s let’s memorize this song together, uh, they may be impressed with me, they may, you know, be you know, proud and say, Hey, my dad memorizes, but I want them to take and bring that on as well, and so I like the idea of, you know, challenging them. Um. So, yeah, like, other than, you know, making those scriptural connections, which actually I find to be huge. That that is it like for me. Being able to cross reference even just the the small number of passages that I’ve been able to memorize has been amazing for me. Have you noticed any other benefits that have been just kind of something you maybe weren’t expecting or something that has just really benefited you or your ministry.
Duane Tweeten: Well, I would say one thing is, especially when I’m teaching overseas, it happens in preaching context as well. How often, as I’m preaching or speaking, I think of a verse that comes to mind and it pops right into my head and it’s there and I can share that and people say, boy, how did you think of that? Well, actually, you know, it’s it’s already in my mind and by God’s spirity brings it to mind at the right time and I can and I can share that and I think that’s one piece that’s been very encouraging. I think one of the things I’ve learned in memorizing now working on book five of the Psalms, is a reflection on hard passages, things… …that I wouldn’t normally necessarily pick to choose to memorize. So, for example, UM, some one thirty nine I did last year and I’d actually memorized it years before, or at least parts of it. But one of the interesting things like in some one thirty nine, we love the song. Uh, you’ve searched me and know me. You know when I sit down, when I rise up.
You discerned my thoughts more far and and it’s a beautiful text reflecting on God’s knowledge. But in that song, when you get to verse nineteen, there’s a section of imprecatory praying, oh, that you’d slay the wicked. Oh God, Oh men of blood, depart from me. And as I’m memorizing that, I’m thinking, how does this fit together? How does this connect? WHY WOULD I? Why does God’s word include both this encouragement to us but also these hard words? And how do I reflect on that as a believer in Christ? Uh and so I’ve actually really benefited from some of the those kinds of hard passages. Even just earlier this year I memorize someone Oh nine, which is uh the scripture of the New Testament uses about Judas, and that whole song, almost that entire song, is imprecatory. It’s slate that same kind of imagery, that that he would be put to death and his children would be fatherless and his wife a widow. And Uh and and as I memorize it, I’m I’m pondering, okay, Lord, what are you teaching me through your word? And and if I wouldn’t have taken the time to memorize it, I would never have weighed as much uh as time. I would not have given as much time to that as I did because of memorizing Psalm one, oh nine.
Josh: Yeah, that’s a great point. I think that when you do go through scripture memory, and an extent like extended scripture memory, so memorizing chapters or entire books, Um, you end up memorizing verse is that nobody would naturally pull out and memorize on their own right.
Duane Tweeten: It’s the same reason why we why we teach pastors to Preach Exposition Lee through books, because it just forces you to go into passages that aren’t just the same theme, the same idea, and makes you wrestle with hard things. And I think God’s Word is for that. It’s for our good and for our growth, for our training and righteousness, and the more we can reflect on, meditate on ponder those things, the more it will lead us into the image and likeness of Christ.
Josh: Now, well, as we close up here, do you have any encouragement or something that you could share with somebody who’s listening or watching right now? That Um is, you know, getting into scripture memory. They want to do it, maybe they’re stuck or maybe they’re just getting started, something that you could share that that has really helped you along the way.
Duane Tweeten: Yeah, I think what I would just encourage is don’t give up. It does take time,.. …uh, I think. I think the Lord has been very gracious to me and given me a gift to be able to remember, uh, to ponder, to think, but it is a learned skill as well, and so just like exercise or just like weight training, it takes time to build those muscles. Uh. If it starts slow, that’s okay. Just keep repeating so it becomes part of your your practice, and then I’m a big person in habits. I think habits just build over time and they will enable you to, uh, to do things that today you think you can’t, but over time, if you keep at it, uh, the Lord will use that effort for your good and for the good of others and for his glory
Josh: I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Dwayne tweeting. If you want to visit their website, go to training leaders International Dot Org. They’ve got all sorts of information about what they do and ways that you can give and you know my personal connection. I did not know this when we were recording this conversation. I promised, but I found out later. Remember when he was talking about the partners that he has in Thailand, which is where me and my family live. Well, I was talking to some friends at our house church, which is only about five families large, it’s not huge, and I found out that they were the people that are partnered with training leaders International. So he knows Dwayne and I had no idea that that connection even existed. It’s really funny how God works like that.
Other Bible Memory Interviews
If you want to listen to other Bible Memory interviews, check these out next:
- Interview with Aaron House, the Executive Director of Piercing Word Ministries.
- How Does “Bible Memory Man” Memorize Scripture? (explaining his 3-part Method) by Prof. Tom Meyer