It is quite common for those who are practiced at teaching (including this writer) to develop lessons that lead a nonChristian through a number of biblical texts in order to reach a predetermined goal with a friend. While there is certainly a place for studying a topic that helps bring a person to Christ or helps them see God’s story of redemption, there are also some concerns we should consider in using this method as our primary approach.
As an alternative, I have found that there are good reasons for using a complete text as delivered by the Holy Spirit in order to draw an unbeliever to Jesus. For example, using Mark and Acts as the primary text still allows us to introduce a person to Jesus and make the points necessary to deal with doctrinal errors .
Consider the following advantages:
- A topical style lesson developed by a teacher is very difficult for another Christian to use in teaching a friend. We have to be a fairly seasoned to use someone else’s material. Even those of us who are experienced are challenged by it. However, all of us can learn to teach the basics of a gospel like Mark.
- By reading through a complete text as written by the Holy Spirit, a student can see everything in context and begin to feel comfortable both with the teacher and with their own ability to understand the text for themselves. This is valuable for their confidence in discovering truth and giving them a foundation for future study.
- Reading through the text allows the Holy Spirit to present his message in his way. The Spirit has artistically painted his message so that he can draw the hearts of people to God. We mess that up when we jump all over the Bible. There is a time for a topical study, but that should not be the primary approach of our teaching. To illustrate, one of the ladies I have been teaching for the past 6 months stopped me in the middle of a text and said, “Our studies have really changed me in an amazing way. I grew up going to a church, but all the study was about how to be a better person. Now with these studies I’m seeing God and how beautiful he is and how wonderful his plan is. It makes me love him.” With that, another lady in the study followed up with, “I have noticed the same thing. It is so exciting to see God instead of just knowing what is right and wrong.”
- Leading a novice Bible student through 15-20 texts in an hour causes him to trust the teacher to be using each scripture in context. It is impossible for the student to know whether these passages are being used correctly or being twisted to fit the teacher’s desires. Even if the teacher is being fair with the text, the student cannot be sure without slowing down and learning the whole context, something that is impossible when tying together so many passages in a short time.
- Flipping all over the Bible makes people suspicious and can get them confused. It can seem like a “sales job.” In fact, this was expressed to me by one of our converts a number of years ago when I started to do the “first lesson.” Imagine a Mormon doing that with you on the book of Mormon, or a Muslim on the Koran. Another person I was studying with was struggling with believing that baptism was necessary for salvation. When I asked if she would like to see all the passages on baptism, her response was, “Absolutely not!” Then she followed up with, “Now if you would like to read through Acts with me so that I can be assured that I’m seeing baptism in context, I’d be glad to.” That’s what we did, and she became a Christian.
- Here is what is really wonderful. You always know what you are going to study next and the prep time is minimal after you have done it a few times.