By Tim Massengale
The story is told of an elderly gentleman who one day took his young, seven-year-old grandson behind the house to plant the summer garden. The little boy was instructed to make a hole in the freshly tilled soil with a sharp stick. Into each hole the Grandfather dropped two or three seeds. First they planted a row of corn, then a row of turnips, then a row of beans, and so on.
Eventually the child tired of his task and wanted to try his hand at planting. The old man considered this for a moment and finally decided he could try. After the hole was made the young lad carefully dropped in three seeds and then watched his Grandfather cover them up. Several hours later, the spring planting was complete.
Two months later, the old man was working in the garden, pulling weeds and applying fertilizer to the young plants. He paused and looked over the coming harvest. He tried to remember what rows he planted and what rows were planed by his grandson. For the life of him, he couldn’t tell. The seeds grew hardy and strong regardless of who put them in the ground.
The lesson is this: the seed did not care if the hand which plants it is a grandfather with a lifetime of experience or the hand of his seven-year-old grandchild. You see, if we will put seeds into the fertile soil, God will do the rest. God will cause the sun to shine; God will cause the rain to fall, God will cause the seed to germinate and grow. And so we learn that if we will do our job, God has promised to do His job.
This is a lesson well heeded by the Church. If we will plant the Gospel seed in the hearts of men, God will do the rest. But we have to put our confidence in the seed, the Word of God. We have to go forth and plant.
Psalms 126:6 – He that goeth forth and weepth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Home Bible Study Works
In the opinion of many who are involved in church growth research, one of the best methods of evangelism is that of home Bible study. It plants the seed quickly and effectively. Anyone can teach one and, with a little effort, anyone can obtain a study to teach.
Without a doubt, home Bible study lessons such as Search For Truth, Exploring God’s Word, and the shorter one and two lesson studies like Into His Marvelous Light and A Place Prepared For You, have been the greatest “tool” of evangelism in recent times. Thousands have been brought to the saving knowledge of Truth in the comfort of their own home by an individual with a burden, a Bible, and a Bible study chart or booklet. Entire churches have been raised up through this one outreach method alone. Because of its effectiveness, I personally believe that every church should try to establish an ongoing Home Bible Study Ministry within their local assembly.
For too long our philosophy of evangelism has been askew with the New Testament pattern. Our strategy has been “come hear.” We invite people to Sunday School to “come hear” the lesson. We invite people to church services to “come hear” the preaching. We invite people to revivals to “come hear” the evangelist. But the commandment of Acts 1:8 didn’t tell us to tell the world “come hear.” The New Testament pattern was “go tell.” Gil Stricklin once remarked that inviting people to church is like “making a set appointment between the fish and the fisherman.” Few fish will “bite” that kind of approach.
Home Bible study works!
“Oh, but it doesn’t work in my area,” you say? Those that claim such an excuse do not truly realize what they are saying. To state that the home Bible study ministry does not work is to say that the Word of God does not work, for that is all a home Bible study consists of.
Isaiah 55:11 – So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Anyone can teach one!
“But I can’t get my people to teach one,” you reply? Have you truly put the time, effort, and money needful to train and motivate your people in this most productive of ministries? Yes, there are other ministries you could promote. But no other ministry will bring you more solid, lasting results than will the home Bible study ministry.
Keys To Home Bible Study Success
If you would like to see a Home Bible Study (H.B.S.) ministry successfully launched in your local church, consider the following seven suggestions to seeing it operate successfully.
First, plan to set aside a week each year to bring in an outside speaker to promote the Home Bible Study ministry. This might be an evangelist who has successfully taught H.B.S. seminars in the past or a pastor who has an effective H.B.S. ministry within his church.
This type of annual seminar will do two things: first, it will re-spark the excitement of using H.B.S. as a tool of winning the lost, and second, it will train your new converts and motivate them to become involved. The importance of such an annual seminar cannot be stressed strongly enough. This annual “shot in the arm” will help reaffirm to the church your commitment to the Bible study ministry, as well as keep the ministry alive and exciting. Contact the Indiana District Home Missions Department for a list of who might be available in your area.
Secondly, make home Bible study a separate department with its own director. If done correctly, directing this ministry is a major responsibility. Don’t put too much else under this individual. Home Bible study is a very big job and requires much time and effort.
Third, the Home Bible Study director needs to realize that a successful H.B.S. ministry requires considerable promotion. Flyers, posters, pulpit announcements, bulletins, skits, and more should be used – not to get studies, but to get teachers. The best way to obtain studies is for the teachers to get their own. Handing a study to a teacher is not a good practice. When a teacher obtains their own study, they have more of a burden to follow through and be faithful. If they have trouble finding their own study, one Saturday going door-to-door with the Quest Survey will supply them with several.
Fifth, the Home Bible Study Director should keep good records on both his teachers and students. Knowing the number of new studies started and the number of studies completed each month is important. You should also know your “percent of drop” rate, meaning they quit before the study was completed. If a lot of studies are canceling before reaching the last lesson, it shows poor teaching methods and additional training may be needed.
Next, the Bible Study Director should work diligently to obtain studies from many sources. Some of the best sources for Bible studies is Visitor Follow-up, Bus Ministry parents, going door-to-door with the Quest Survey, newspaper ads, direct mail, and so on. But remember, the best results will always come from friends winning friends. You must win a friend before you can win a soul.
Finally, rarely is the home Bible study ministry successful in a church unless the pastor himself is involved to some degree. If his time will not allow him to teach a ten or twelve week study, he can use Into His Marvelous Light or one of the other shorter studies. However, the pastor should be able to get up and tell about the Bible Studies he has taught. Rarely can you motivate people to become involved in something you are not willing to be involved in yourself. This is especially true in a smaller church. If a pastor uses the excuse that he is “too busy” to teach Bible studies, he can expect his people to use the same excuse.
Power Planting Tool
Years ago seed was planted by hand. The farmer would walk through the field and broadcast the seed as evenly as possible, praying for rain that would cause it to grow before the birds came to pluck it up. Today, seed is planted by large mechanical planters that can plant hundreds of acres per day. Better methods have brought greatly increased production.
How long it takes to do a job is greatly influenced by the tools you use. You can cut down a tree with a pocket knife, but it would take months of work. Or you can use a chain saw and have the tree on the ground within minutes. Better tools bring faster, better results.
In sowing the Gospel seed, some methods simply work better than others. These methods are more effective and efficient, winning more people to God for the time and money invested. The home Bible study ministry is certainly one of these power-tool methods.