Jeremy Kluth, the founder of Scripture Alive Ministry, shares this Bible memory technique that I honestly have never heard of before called character memorization. Learn about this interestingly new technique and find out whether or not it will work for you.
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This interview is also available in podcast form on the Memorize What Matters podcast! You can find it on the links below or search your favorite podcast player:
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Resources Mentioned in the Interview
Make sure to follow Jeremy Kluth and his Scripture Alive Ministry in these platforms!
- Free Elijah Script: This is a free script about Elijah that you can download.
- Scripture Alive Website: This is the official website of Scripture Alive Ministry where you can learn more about Jeremy and his ministry.
- YouTube: This is the official YouTube channel of Scripture Alive where you can watch some of Jeremy’s live performances.
Interview Transcript: Jeremy Kluth
Josh: This is Jeremy Kluth. He is the founder of Scripture Alive, and he’s joined us to talk about his experience memorizing Scripture, and specifically about a new technique and idea that honestly I’ve never heard of before called character memorization.
This is something I think you’re going to really find valuable and interesting. Most of us, including myself, memorize extended portions of Scripture like chapters or books, or perhaps you do topical, like the Romans road or just a list of different verses.
But Jeremy does character memorization. And this is something that he’s going to discuss a little bit more as we dive into this interview.
Jeremy Kluth: I remember being at Moody, my last semester at Moody Bible Institute and I took a class called Performing Scriptures Dramatic Text. Now the professor, he was the one who first introduced me to the world of Scripture performance or dramatic Scripture presentation or dramatic Scripture recitation, whatever fits your bill, whatever your flavor is.
But he introduced me to that. But specifically what we do is called oral interpretation. There is actually specific techniques to what we do, because I’m playing all the characters, right? I’m doing all the narrative. It’s different than a theater troop doing all these things. There’s certain elements of it, but I don’t have any costumes. Usually, I’m going to have a couple biblical costumes, but generally I have modern clothing, and I’m just speaking the word of God. I’m doing the characters, I’m doing the narration, all those things.
But anyway, as I was going in that class, we did perform Scriptures dramatic text, we did Old Testament, we did New Testament story, and then the last project that we had for the semester was he said, “I want you to think of a 30-minute program of Scripture. It can be on anything you want. It can be on a special topic, it could be a book of the Bible, and then you combine certain things, or it could be a character of the Bible.”
And I was fascinated by the character of Peter. And the reason why is because I connected with him so much. I mean, he is the most human disciple and apostle that we could ever know. I mean, he makes the biggest fumbles, the biggest, you know, foot in the mouth type of mistakes, but he also has those amazing moments of faith, when he can declare, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” When he can call out those things and be that bold leader of the disciples and apostles.
And I just thought about that. I put my foot in my mouth all the time, but I also know that I can be someone that I’m like, I just go forward and I have that faith and that trust that God is going to do something amazing in whatever situation I’m in. And so I remember, I wrote that script two years ago, not knowing what would happen, but I remember last year, I said, “Lord, I’ve had this script for (a long time), and basically what I did was combined the Gospels, Acts, and 1 and 2Peter.
And so really, it’s just kind of giving a biography of this character, and we talked a little bit about the characterization, right? You want to get into the head of the character. And so for me, as an actor, I get thrilled of trying to understand Peter. Why would he have made that mistake, or why would he have said it this way, why would he have done this? And so it’s really my love as an actor to know more about this character. And do that was something that I did. Do you want me to stop, or I don’t know? I saw your hand go up.
Josh: No, no, that’s great, I want to hear a little bit more, like what does it mean, you’re stringing together, is it word-for-word still?
Jeremy Kluth: Yes, yes, it is word-for-word. So, I try to do it chronologically, basically. So, what I did was I have really where we see Peter enter Jesus’s world, or I guess I should say Jesus entering Peter’s world is Luke 5. Luke 5:1-11, when he tells him, “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man. Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But that’s when he calls him and he says, “Do not be afraid, for I will make you fishers of men. You’re no longer going to catch fish, I’m going to teach you to be fishers of men.” And so that’s kind of the entrance into that.
But then I combine it where it’s kind of like two scenes in a movie. You have younger Peter and that’s the stores, that’s the narrative from Luke and the Gospels and Acts. But then you have 1and 2 Peter, an older, a wiser Peter that reflects on the things that have happened to him. And so then I will go to the next part. I’ll transition to be an older Peter, sharing, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” And that’s 1 Peter. And so then I go back to another story. I connect what he’s saying in his 1 and 2 Peter to the stories. Like I connect the part when he says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” I connect that to 1 Peter 5, when he exhorts the elders as a fellow elder, because now he’s the leader of the church. So it’s all Scripture, word for word, but kind of giving you that full biography of who Peter is.
Josh: Yeah, and I really think that’s a fascinating way to look at it, because there is so much of the Scripture that ties together, especially when you’re dealing with characters in the New Testament, but it also happens in the Old Testament as well. Where if you follow that character, Peter being an amazing example, you can see that character mature, right? You can watch that character grow in their own knowledge and love for Christ. And so, I know you do that for Peter, you’ve done a similar one for Elijah, right?
Jeremy Kluth: That’s correct.
Josh: And what other characters have you done where you’ve kind of created this script? And then how long do those scripts go?
Jeremy Kluth: Generally speaking, these scripts go about 40 minutes. And so I kind of do it from the basis of saying, if I were to present this at a church, or if I were to present this at a special event, I want to give a full capture, because there’s so much in the characters’ lives. Now, I have Elijah and Daniel, and I’m currently memorizing Elijah. And I’ll be doing, I think, John or Paul next.
And so, fortunately Daniel’s is more straightforward. I just memorized the first six chapters of Daniel, because that’s the whole narrative of Daniel. The 7-12 is more of the revelation or the future. But I just memorize Daniel 1-6, the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the blazing furnace, and Daniel and the lion’s den. But with Elijah, I did similar, but I had to do some work, because he’s not, he kind of goes in and out. And so he arrives in 1 Kings 17 and then he goes till 1 Kings 19, that’s kind of the main point of Elijah’s life. But then 20, we don’t actually see him. It goes on and it’s a different prophet that speaks to Ahab, the wicked ruler of Israel. And then he comes back in 21, and then he finishes off one and two of 2 Kings, and that’s when he’s taken up. You know, Elisha, his attendant, the one who ministers to him, sees him go up in a chariot into heaven in 2 Kings 2. So I combine that, but it’s still all chronological to give you really his whole life, and it’s about 40 minutes.
Josh: That’s awesome. And you’ve been extremely generous, that whole script that you did do, you’ve made available for anybody that’s watching this right now to download. What translation are you using? I’m curious.
Jeremy Kluth: That’s something I’m still trying to figure out right now. I generally have done the NET. Most people haven’t heard of the NET Bible, it’s the New English Translation. And for me, it has ministry first copyright innovations and so in the sense of that, you’re able to do big books or big portions of Scripture without getting into the copyright issues. And it’s also great for stories. I personally like NET the best for when it comes to stories. It just has a different flair, a different side to it that you wouldn’t get in others, where it doesn’t, I’m trying to think how to explain this.
It doesn’t sacrifice the word for word, a lot of people like the ESV, like the NKJV, it doesn’t sacrifice word for word, but it doesn’t also sacrifice like modern language, like the NIV or the NLT, but it’s not quite, it’s not a paraphrase. So that’s what I do, but I also have gotten into Elijah, you’ll see it’s actually NIV 1984.
I just know that there’s some churches, some ministries that like, “If you’re going to do NIV, then you only want NIV 1984.” So I’m kind of thinking, “Maybe U should do the NIV in 1984, so that way everybody is going to be happy.” I don’t have an issue with the NIV, but I know that’s something that, it’s still modern enough, but it’s also, it’s a solid translation.
Josh: You’re obviously, you’ve been through theater for a while. I know that you did communications at Moody. Moody, is that correct?
Jeremy Kluth: That’s correct.
Josh: Ok. So you have a lot of acting experience, and I know from previous conversations with you, that you have used that acting experience to help you in your Bible memory. I’ve talked to Aaron House about this before, but I kind of want to get your thoughts on this. What are the techniques that an actor uses to memorize their lines that we as just regular people trying to memorize the Bible could actually take and benefit from?
Jeremy Kluth: That’s such a good question too because I had to actually take a deep dive and think what skills do I use as an actor? Because I’ve used it for so long that I think, well everyone does this, right? But certainly there are people that are just thinking, I don’t do that, that’s not what I’ve done before. And so just even looking at some articles and reminding myself of the techniques that I have used.
And so I actually wrote them down, just to make sure I get them, because I think it’s really important. Some of them may seem simple or it may seem common sense, like obviously, but I think it’s those things, those techniques that we use that we employ, are the things that are common sense, but we actually put them into practice.
And a simple one is repetition, repetition, repetition. I remember when I was cast for my first show, it was “Footloose the Musical,” and all I had was 10 lines, that’s it. But I was determined to say, I’m going to memorize to those lines before anyone else. I’m going to make sure that the first day of rehearsal, I have those lines. And so I just remember for two weeks, just every single day, I would repeat, I would repeat, I would repeat, I would repeat.
So it was this competition and this determination to do it for myself, but also do it for the people around me, to be like, yeah, I got all these lines, and I’m ready to go. Or and just simply for the director to be like, “Wow, this guy has the lines ready.” So it was that determination that really helped me.
And another one that I have here is read the whole script first. There’s a thing that we have called the read through. So that’s before any acting, any direction comes on the stage, once the cast has come out, people come and we all sit down on the stage, and we have the scripts in our hands, and we read the whole script through. So every single person says their lines. And this is great, because this is your first time to really explore the characters, explore the plot, explore just the tensions and the transitions and what’s going on. And this is where you get to make note of what is going on with that.
So with your character you’re just noting, like “Oh, that was interesting that that happened.” So it’s just really an opportunity to see all these different things that are going on in the script, which you take it back to Scripture context. We have the context, and you want to know the writer, you want to know the audience, you want to know what’s happening. And so just like letters, we’re encouraged to read the letters, Galatians, Ephesians, because you would read it all at once.
That’s same with Scripture memory, whether it’s six verses, Psalm 23, or whether it’s an entire story, an entire book, or whatnot. So those are two things that i have. I’ll stop there in case you want some more but those are kind of the first two I would say.
Josh: Yeah, one thing I had the read from another actor that kind of echoes a little bit of what you’re talking about is a lot of times I’ve heard of people taking and kind of like what you said about the read through, where it’s getting that broad overview of the story as a whole.
And then you said something that I thought was just great here which is knowing your character, right? And part of what I’ve read before is like sometimes actors won’t just memorize the word, they will think about, “Why would that character use that word? Of all the words they could have chosen, why did they use about that word?” And it’s that process of trying to dive into the mind of the character that helps them remember.
And that’s kind of what I took from a little bit of what you’re saying there which is diving into, not just memorizing the words of Scripture, but trying to understand, why would God use this, or why would the author of this particular book use this word? For me, that’s a somewhat different approach, because in my mind, as I’m doing more visual stuff, I’m trying to create some crazy picture, and yes, that sometimes works. But I like this idea of no, like why use that word?
Jeremy Kluth: There’s certainly a benefit to having that. Yeah, there’s an intuition that’s involved, thinking about their internal, what is going on in their mind. And truly, when you connect with a character, whether it’s something that you would actually do yourself, or you connect with a writer, you’re thinking about it, that thinking is automatically going to make you connect better with the words, which will make you memorize, help you memorize the Scriptures even more effectively, because I think Aaron House says it, you don’t just memorize the words, you memorize the thoughts. And so you want to understand that meaning. So I certainly understand what you mean when it comes to that.
Josh: Absolutely. Well, what else you got? It sounds like you got a couple others, go ahead and share them with us.
Jeremy Kluth: I do, I have a couple more. So I think the biggest thing that I would say I have right here is you want to say it out loud. And i think that something, that being able to say it out loud is going to greatly enhance your ability to memorize the Scriptures. And a key technique, key skill that I did. So I remember I had 10 lines for “Footloose, the Musical,” and then i was in “Romeo and Juliet,” you know, i was Tybalt and I was probably about another maybe 14 lines. And then I did “Tiberius,” not “Tiberius,” “Tiresias,” in “Antigone,” a Greek Tragedy, and that was maybe 20 lines. But then the next year I got my first lead role in a play and it shot up to 200 or 300 lines that I had. And so I remember just thinking, “Wow, this is really a tough thing to do.”
And so what I did is that I actually highlighted, this is a tip in itself, a tip within a tip, is that a classic acting way to do it is once i get your script, you highlight in yellow or whatever color you want, you highlight your lines, just so you know your lines, so that it will be easier to identify them, but also when you have those trouble spots that you can just go back to it. But then what I would do, especially when I’m practicing dialogue between someone else is I would record myself saying the other characters’ lines with a pause in between each section where I have to say a line, and then I would have repeat it.
And so I would be recording for myself, and then when one character says this part, and they get upset at me, and then I have my line, it’s silent for me to be able to respond to it. That was a great way to do it. Now, it’s a little different with Scripture, right? Because you’re memorizing the whole thing, you don’t have that dialogue. But especially with stories, it’s still powerful to do that, and then even just for yourself, if you have Psalms that you’re memorizing, just doing every other verse where you record the other verse, so that you know what the next verse is coming. Because then that keys in your brain what the next thing is coming, because you’ve repeated it so much and you know that next line.
Josh: Yeah, that’s fascinating, I love that. Yeah, I’ve always enjoyed, and I think we’ve said this before in previous interviews and videos, just this idea that vocalizing what you’re memorizing does wonders, I think mostly because you’re using a number of different parts of the way that you memorize. You’re using your speech, you’re using your hearing, And usually when I’m speaking, as you see, I’m using my hands, and so that uses just like this motion as well. And I think all of that just kind of contributes to being able to memorize that particular passage that you’re wanting to memorize.
Jeremy Kluth: I think there is definitely a benefit in that, in a variety of different ways, especially for those who are memorizing Scripture. Yeah, whether you’re using your hands or whether you’re doing it with different funny accents or voices, it’s all going to be a part of helping you with that, because you’re making a memorable experience, you’re making it fun, you’re making it engaging, and it’s something that you’re going to be able to take with you and to know that you’re engaging with the truths of Scripture and you’re allowing yourself to have fun while you’re doing it.
Josh: Ok, so you’ve got Scripture Alive, which is this really cool ministry, where you go around and recite Scripture. And one of the things that you mentioned in a previous conversation was, and I’ve felt this personally where it feels like, you stand up on stage and you recite Scripture, and there’s this part that almost, I don’t know, this is just me, it feels kind of like, ugh, everybody’s looking at me. And then when we’re done, everybody’s going to congratulate me. And as somebody who does this and goes around to churches, how do you get beyond that feeling of, “Hey I’m doing this for the edification of the church, but man, I’m on stage, the spotlight’s on me, everybody says good job when I’m done,” you know what I mean?
Jeremy Kluth: I know what you mean, because that is a part of it. I had connected with Marquis Laughlin, some of you may have heard of him with your own journey of Scripture memory with or even just seeing people recite it dramatically. Marquis Laughlin has the Acts of the Word, which is a full-time ministry. He’s been doing it for about 25 years. And he does what I do, he does solo dramatic presentations. He does, I think, seven books of the Bible. And I connected with him a couple years back, and I remember just wanting to get his insight and his thoughts on it and what it’s been like for him.
And he talked about that aspect of people can see a play, people can see a musical, people can see a Scripture reading at church, when it’s for a sermon, before a sermon or whatever it might be. But there’s something entirely different when you combine the word of God and drama. And he hesitated to actually call it performed. He didn’t want to call himself performing the Scripture or even a performance. His phrase that he uses is he likes to call it a presentation. And the reason that he said that was because he said that it’s hard to explain really what I do and what Marquis does.
Because once people see it, they get it. But if you don’t see it live, people are like, “Well he did this dramatic Scripture reading,” but yet there’s no book by me, there’s no Bible near me, I’m not looking down at a page and saying it. And it is a recitation, but yet there’s something, there is that next level. And that’s not to focus on us, it’s the fact that it is the revealed word of God proclaimed with clarity and power, because of the gifts that we’ve been given.
And so we are simply mailmen delivering the mail. Now what is the mail? The revealed, living, and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, inerrant, inspired word of God. And we want the Bible to get into their hearts and to draw deep down and to bring out fruit, spiritual fruit, that we’re planting seeds.
Now the reason it’s called a mailman is when a male man comes to your door, and they give you that mail, they give you that letter from the college that you’ve been hoping to be accepted to and you open it up, and you find out you were accepted into the college. You don’t thank the mailman. I mean, you might hug him in excitement, but you don’t thank the mailman, because he’s not the one who gave it to you. You thank the sender. And you thank the message there, you know that that’s excitement.
Or if a grandma is sending you a birthday card with money or what not, again, you are going to thank her and thank her for her generosity, thank her for her kindness and thank her for her love. You are not thanking the mailman.
We happen to be gifted mailmen that are bringing it so that people can understand the Scriptures, but what we’re doing is simply connecting the dots for people with the Bible and what the Bible means. But again, the message is the word of God, and so we want people to look to God and say, “Thank you Lord, for this message.”
And this message is greater than any message you would get from any mailman. It is the salvation of good news of Jesus Christ. And we get to share that and bring that to life with Scripture stories and Scripture passages.
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