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We love to start churches with people who do not yet know the Lord. I'm often asked, "How do you do that? How do you transition a normal conversation into one about spiritual things?"
The last two posts have been guest posts by John King on Discovery Bible Studies, an interactive Bible study pattern that God is using in many different parts of the world. I came up with several questions as a result of his posts, including this one.
Me: Give me some examples of simple ways to invite other people–especially those who are not-yet-believers–to join in a Discovery Bible Study.
John: The way that seems to work best for the people I have trained is to say something like, “I learned something new about God recently.” They only tell what came up in their recent DBS when someone gives permission by saying something like, “Well, what did you learn?” Jesus warns his followers, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).
Too many believers attempt to ram the Word down the throat of not-yet-believers and wonder why they don’t appreciate it. We need to use discretion. When an interest is shown, then give them a brief summary statement about God’s character or about a blessing that he recently gave. Keeping this short is critical because they may only be curious, not open, yet. The goal is to see if that truth or blessing resonates with this person. Then if the person wants to know/experience more, she/he will let you know. Spend the bulk of your time looking for those who God is preparing to hear the gospel. These are the people who will be blessed by a Discovery Bible Study.
Me: Are there any particular pockets of people you find most responsive to DBS
John: The common denominator that I see is “everyday people.” Believers who have viewed themselves as unprepared to make significant contributions to the spread of the kingdom find DBSs empowering. Different people have told me months/years after their training that what excited them is they had always assumed they were not qualified to share the gospel with others because they did not go to Bible College. These comments always take me to Paul’s statement that apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers are called to “to equip [God’s] people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). Often, the more highly educated a person is the less likely he/she is open to the idea of the Holy Spirit speaking to everyone through the Word.
Me: You used some fairly “mature” Scriptures with this group. Do you find you can use this kind of Scripture with not-yet-believers, or would you choose something more basic?
John: All not-yet-believers will eventually need to experience a series of studies we call “Discovering God.” This is a mixture of Old and New Testament texts that allows them to discover the character of God. These passages are powerful because they will eventually replace the core worldview stories by which these people live. God can use “mature” passages to bring them to faith, but even then they will need to work through these texts to reshape their deepest thoughts and also they will need to know them so they know where to take other not-yet-believers.
Choosing appropriate passages is critical. Connecting with heart-felt needs/passions is one of the works of the Holy Spirit. Read through the proclamations in Acts and you will discover great diversity. God’s final answer for our problems is always Jesus, but we have an incredible storehouse of ways to connect with people and avoid the “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Me: Can you describe a little more of the reproductive movements you have catalyzed? I'd love people to gain some sense of the overall picture of what you are doing and to catch a vision for what can happen through DBS.
John: God has blessed me to be able to start reproductive movements in Africa and in the U.S. I have also trained people in Asia and Europe, but I have not heard whether or not reproductive movements have begun, yet. In West Africa there has been abundant fruit borne in a formerly war-torn nation. Folks there use the Discovery approach in all their group studies. They use it with great fruit in the prison system. They use it when they train Muslim business men in a Leadership Training. Scriptures provide us with a wonderful resource of transformative themes that result in our lives being blessed. Here in the U.S. there is a multi-site legacy church that uses the discovery approach with their discipleship groups.