by Berry Kercheville
In two previous articles (December 15 & 17, 2015), I wrote about “9 Ways to Be Evangelistic without Being the Teacher.” In this article I want to share with you a tenth, and extremely valuable way, to share the gospel even if you are not the teacher.
Host a Neighborhood Bible Study
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27–32)
Jesus repeatedly used homes as opportunities to teach. The setting was intimate, “one on one,” where people could get their deepest questions answered and connect with the Master. It is no different today. Homes provide one of the best settings for teaching. A home is informal, and interaction is comfortable. It is a far better atmosphere for an unbeliever than church worship or a church building. In Acts 20:20, Paul reminded the Ephesian elders of the way he worked among them, “teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I have tried numerous evangelistic methods over the years; some have worked well, others have had success for brief periods of time. But the one method that has never failed is a neighborhood Bible study. It seems that regardless of cultural changes, friends of Christians are willing to join a small group Bible discussion in a home.
Therefore, here’s the question: how many Christians live in an apartment or a house? That is just about everyone, isn’t it? Most Christians are able to host a small group Bible study. The process is simple. Gather a group of interested Christians who will support the effort. Each of you invest time in a friend. Make a connection deeper than a casual greeting. Plan a study that will last 6-8 weeks. Find a good teacher who is practiced and gentle with outsiders. Pick a text that is not overly challenging. Ask your friend if he or she would like to join the study. If you are flexible, ask what day of the week would be good and what time of day would work best. Once your friend has committed to the time he or she prefers, contact your fellow Christians who would be willing to join the study and invite their friends. Even if at present you do not have anyone to invite, tell other evangelistic Christians that your home is available.
What to Teach
There is hardly anything in scripture that is off limits as long as the teacher and the Christians in the class understand that the biblical text will be covered at a “beginners” level. Recently, I taught five lessons on, “How to Understand and Enjoy Your Bible.” Through invitations offered by Christians, we had nine visitors. Textual studies also work well. In the beginning, simpler, shorter books like James, 1st and 2nd Peter, or Ecclesiastes are excellent studies. To involve the class and avoid lecturing, hand out a “textual worksheet,” that is, the text to be studied on a handout, with a three to four inch margin for notes. Hand out pens and colored pencils and give the class 10 minutes to mark and discover the text. Now ask a simple question: “What did you see? What did you find that interested you?” Allow the class to discover for themselves and verbalize their discoveries. This will build excitement and confidence in one’s ability to understand God’s message.
Rules of Thumb
Here are some simple guidelines that will create greater success:
- Limit the class to no more than eight weeks and then take a break. Taking a rest (especially for the benefit of the one hosting the class), enables you to gear up for a “restart” and allows time to make new contacts and generate excitement for the next study.
- Caution the Christian members of the class to avoid “insider language” that would be misunderstood by a guest. In other words, to say, “There is only one church,” will not be understood in its biblical context. Using the phrase, “Church of Christ,” will be understood in a denominational context, not as the universal saved body of believers. Your goal is to teach the scriptures, not convert a person to the “church.”
- Enthusiastic discussion and questions offered by the members is “catching” and will encourage guests to feel comfortable asking their own questions and offering their observations.
- Encourage members of the class to connect and make friendships with guests. Include them in other activities like luncheons, potlucks, and social outings.
- Be especially prepared to set up a personal class when a guest asks questions that cannot be easily covered in the public class. A “one on one” study is the goal, and is most conducive to sharing the gospel on the knowledge level of your guest.
Here are five reasons why a neighborhood Bible study is effective:
- Invitations are easier than inviting to church.
- People are more likely to come to a home than to a church building.
- Your friend will get to know more Christians making their transition to attending worship easier.
- More Christians can aid in the teaching process and provide encouragement. Evangelism becomes a church or team effort instead of an occasional individual effort.
- When small group Bible studies are recurring in a church, members will always have an opportunity for invitations when new people come into their lives.