CONDUCTING A NEIGHBORHOOD WEEKLY BIBLE STUDY
PRAY, PLAN, PROCEED
Steve knew this week’s study was going to be an interesting one. For the past few weeks he had been conducting a Bible study with people from his neighborhood. The group was an interesting mix of people. In addition to the core group from his church, there were a few people interested in religion but who never seriously studied the Bible before, and others who were completely skeptical of Christianity. But over the last six weeks the group had learned to respect and even enjoy one another, and this led to some lively discussions. Tonight, they were going to study the issue of hypocrisy.
“That’s the problem with Christians, Bill charged. “They’re such hypocrites.”
“I know,” said Susan, “It always seems like Christians are so judgmental and pushy.”
Bill waited silently hoping someone in the room would respond to these accusations. After a few deadening seconds, Mary spoke up.
I’d call myself a born-again Christian, do you think I’m judgmental and hypocritical?”
“No” replied Susan, “you’ve been different. That’s why I like coming to this study. This is the first religious group I’ve ever been in
where I don’t feel I’m being judged.”
The discussion went around the room for the next 20 minutes. Finally, Steve tried to conclude the discussion.
“I think we all agree that everyone can be hypocritical at times,” Steve said. “But there are two important things we need to remember. First, according to these passages, Jesus hated hypocrisy as much as we do. Secondly, a hypocrite is someone pretending to be something they’re not. But Christians are people who know they’re sinful and have put their trust in Christ’s death on the cross to pay the penalty for their sins.”
As the group broke up for the evening, Steve could tell that many people were thinking about Christianity in a whole new light. Not only was it easier for him to talk about his faith this way, but he could tell that the discussions were having a profound effect on a few people.
Evangelistic Bible studies are an excellent way to introduce people to Jesus Christ. They not only give you an opportunity to witness to your friends and neighbors, they also provide a place where people can process the claims of Christ without feeling threatened or coerced. People rarely change or grow until they have had the opportunity to express themselves in an open, affirming atmosphere. An evangelistic Bible study can be a safe place for people to express their thoughts and questions about Christianity.
But, evangelistic Bible studies do not just happen. They take careful planning and preparation. Let’s examine some of the groundwork that needs to be laid for an effective study.
First, pray about it. Ask God to give you a heart for those who don’t know Christ, and for Him to create a need in their lives. No matter how many seeking friends you have or how good a job you do on the study, your work alone will never change people’s hearts. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, plan it. Find a time in your schedule (you may have to eliminate some other commitments) and commit to doing a study for a certain period of time. If you don’t plan on doing an evangelistic study, you’ll never do it, Also, find some other Christians to host the study with you. Evangelism can be a scary business and when you’re alone it could be easy to get sidetracked or discouraged. But having a committed group can serve as a source of encouragement and strength. Together decide on a time and a place for the study. in addition, decide on a definite beginning and ending for the outreach. Most seekers will be uncomfortable committing to something without a definite finishing point, preferably from four to eight weeks in length. Also, decide what you will study. There are different approaches. You may want to study a book of the Bible, a topical Bible study, or do something on a topic of mutual interest. Brainstorm with your core group over what the needs are of the people they will be inviting.
Finally, proceed, Begin the process of inviting people, remembering to only invite seeking friends. This is a specific study with a specific purpose, to reach people with the gospel. You don’t want it to turn into a small group sharing time for Christians. Make a guest list of those you wish to invite. Invite those you think will come as well as those you don’t think will come. You may be surprised at who accepts your invitation. If you invite five guests or couples, normally at least one will be free to attend. The best invitation is a personal one. When you do invite people, be honest. Describe the evening for what it is. Don’t try to trick them into coming or hide what it is. Also, try to get together with the friends You plan to invite at least once socially before you invite them to the discussions (have them over for dinner, invite them to a sporting event, etc.). In the early weeks of the study, plan to reinvite friends to each evening of the study.
Being involved in an evangelistic Bible study could change the way you look at evangelism. These guidelines are just that, guidelines, they are not iron clad rules to be followed. But they will prove helpful in overcoming some of the barriers you will have in creating an effective evangelistic study. Next month we will look at effective ways of conducting the study once it has actually started.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM AND PUBLISHED BY COMMON GROUND, VOL. 12, NO. 7, JULY, 1994.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.