Bible study is a powerful inclusion tool. Several excellent models of evangelistic Bible study (EBS) are available that have application across many adult ministries and lifestyles, each one appealing to a specific audience in a unique way. Here are some examples:
Bible content studies:
Disinterest and even contempt for Christianity may conceal profound spiritual questions. Content studies invite secular people to search for answers in the Bible. The Navigators, for example, have developed this concept in a variety of ways:
*Conversational Bible Studies. These informal studies focus on Jesus' teachings, require little advance preparation, and make every participant a learner-teacher.
*Inductive Studies. Complete with Bible research assignments, booklets such as "Knowing Jesus Christ" offer a more conventional, written question-and-answer method.
*Home Studies. Bob and Betty Jacks have written Your Home a Lighthouse, a how-to manual for planning outreaches in homes.
*Targeted Studies. Containing nonthreatening discussion material, Jesus Cares for Women reveals Jesus' identity by examining His ministry to women.
A trained Bible student can be paired with an unbeliever (or marginal Christian) for a one-to-one (1:1) study. Using easy questions, the duo examines the teachings of Scripture and simply lets the unbeliever make up his mind.
Questions often begin on a very secular level, such as "What's wrong with the world these days?" From there, the investigation deepens until the Scriptures emerge as the focal point. An alternative strategy simply delves into the content of the Bible directly.
The relationship formed between the leader and the student creates a natural inclusion pathway that leads the new convert into the discipleship process. A one-to-one approach can be adapted to visitor follow-up, midweek visitation ministry, referrals, etc. It is an evangelistic Sunday school class with an enrollment of one.
Felt needs community seminars:
Huge audiences gather daily around television talk shows, infomercials, and psychic hot lines in the hope of finding some clue to coping with life. Some are seeking entertainment, but many are truly desperate.
Offering life-skill training on subjects that concern almost everyone at some time will gain community interest. Among others, topics can include "Positive Parenting" and "How To Talk So Your Teen Will Listen."
The seminars can be taught in community settings (e.g., hotel conference room). They demonstrate the church's concern for the community, show the relevance of the Bible to life issues, and foster inclusion in the congregation.
Bible study is more appealing to some outsiders when presented in a fellowship setting. An example is found in the Alpha initiative. Beginning with one church in England, Alpha has now spread to several thousand congregations involving over 500,000 people worldwide.
Alpha features a fellowship meal, perhaps some singing, and then a brief talk on some aspect of the Bible (e.g., "Who Is Jesus?"). A small group discussion on the meeting's topic follows the Bible talk. The goal of Alpha is to provide a forum to which churchgoers can invite their unsaved friends. The dinner format makes it convenient and enjoyable for new people to attend.
Felt needs small group studies:
A host of materials is available for small group study of felt needs themes. Topics include "Divorce Recovery," "Death and Grieving," and "Raising Teenagers."
Felt needs studies are close to the bone, so the warm, positive environment of a small group is vital. In such a setting the Scriptures emerge as the key, not just to our felt needs but to all of life. The friendships forged between people include the new convert in the congregation before he is even saved.
An unbeliever who has questions about the Bible cannot avoid the claims of Christ simply by avoiding the church building. A caring Christian friend can provide materials suitable for study at home. Global University, for example, produces a variety of courses tailored for individual self-study. One title of special interest for evangelism is The Great Questions of Life. This six-lesson study covers topics such as "What's the Truth About God?" and "What's Life All About?"
Various inductive study courses are also offered by Global Youth Evangelism's (GYE) Christian Worker Program. These inexpensive booklets can be used by adult ministries for investigative self-study on any scale, ranging from one student to what GYE calls a mini-Bible school.
Think of video as just an advanced form of storytelling. Since the gospel is a story, the two go together naturally. While there is no substitute for the live teaching of God's Word, a video can open a portal of inclusion that draws the unbeliever into a lifetime of discipleship. Unless the secular person comes to faith in Christ, discipleship is not an option under any conditions.
The story of salvation is told in compelling terms in videos such as Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus, and A.D. These inexpensive programs can be lent to individuals or families or used as an EBS by incorporating their study guides. They can also be shown in the community as an invitation to further study.
Radiant Life's Spiritual Discovery Series (SDS) of adult electives can be applied to virtually all forms of Evangelistic Bible Study. Every course is written to be format-friendly: applicable to several outreach situations and audiences. Here are a few examples:
Letters to Corinth would make an excellent Bible Content Study in the classroom, small group or one-to-one setting
Facing Mid-life Challenges would be an outstanding Felt Need Small Group study.
Parenting: The Early Years could be very productive in the Felt Need Community setting.
One for the Lord, a study for singles, could be adapted for a Fellowship-Based Study targeting this group
Journey Into Integrity is a Felt Need Study that would be productive in formats ranging from formal classroom to informal home groups.
If the Word of God is what we say it is, secular people need to find out.
Instead of treating Scripture study as a trade secret of the church, adult ministries can make it the centerpiece of their evangelism strategy. Using an appropriate model of presentation, God's Word will not return void in your community.
Earl Creps III, Ph.D., director of the doctor of ministry program at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary Springfield, Missouri, is the author of several books on Christian education, including "Investigating Commitment to Membership" (GPH).Promotion and Training Department .Sunday School. All rights reserved. Used with permission.