The Joy of Studying the Bible with Seekers

I believe that seeker Bible studies are the single most effective way to show Jesus to a friend. God is not a message or a theory, but a person. And this person is made known to us by the gospel stories.

The Italian context in which I live is characterized by suspicion and skepticism. It surprises me that in this context more seekers than I would have expected are curious to study Bible passages in a safe place with other fellow seekers. And when they come, oh, it is fascinating to see their reactions: “My first impression was shocking: I discovered in the Bible a marvelous figure, so human when angry and indignant in the face of unbelief and hypocrisy, and so divine in speaking with an authority never seen before… and even able to forgive his persecutors!’” says Gianluca, a medicine student.

Over and over again, I’ve witnessed how in studies like these, people get so much into the story that Jesus himself seems to jump out of the pages. They see Jesus, they see God. They are so shocked by his actions and struck by his words that they become hungry for more. As the weeks go by, and as they discover different aspects of this fascinating Nazarene, some cannot respond otherwise than with a decision to follow him.

When the first person in the group decides to do so, it’s amazing. The others see the life of someone who was sitting next to them in the previous weeks (‘one of their own’) transformed – just like the people they have been reading about in the gospels. The new believer becomes the most powerful witness within the Bible study group.

“It is real. It is not a fairy tale. Something happened to me that I still cannot fully understand, but I know that it is real” says Viviana, a business student. This is so intriguing that sometimes others in the group will want to experience the same thing. I had the joy of seeing almost entire groups of seekers become followers of Christ.

This is the power of God working through people who have met him in his Word. The Word did become flesh, and he is living among us today. He is waiting for our faithfulness and boldness in inviting our friends to find the living God through the gospel stories.

Sarah Breuel, GBU staff in Italy
sarahbreuel (at) gbu.it

Surprised by Jesus

I used to believe that the Bible is an old book that nobody reads. But then in October 2012, I met José, a Christian graduate who became a good friend. One day we started talking about the Bible. For me, this was a very sensitive topic. I thought that you had to avoid talking about politics and religion if you want to have a good relationship with others.

Then José invited me to a COMPA Bible study. I came away with more questions and doubts than before. José had given me a Bible, but I did not know how to read it. So, I asked him to teach me. He agreed and in the following week, we had our first official Bible study.

The approach which COMPA Mexico used to study the Bible was similar to the study technique which I used in science. This attracted me. I was surprised to realize that it is possible to take a rational approach to the Bible.

I was even more surprised by the person of Jesus. I discovered a new face of Jesus; I met a different Jesus. Previously, I thought that Jesus was one of many smart people in the history of our world – the smartest in his time. But I did not know that he has a big heart full of love. I used to think that Jesus was just a human being, but discovered that he is God.

BiblestudyMexicoReading John 1 was particularly significant for me. When I first read this passage, I was very confused: How can Jesus be God? How can he be both a person like me and fully God? These questions made me want to investigate more.

As I got to know Jesus better through other biblical stories, I started to understand. My vision of the world changed and I started to believe in a personal God. I became aware of my sin and the darkness in me. And what is most important: I met the love of God through the grace and hope which he gives us in Jesus.

I’m a scientific person. I want to be sure of something before I believe in it. If somebody had shown me a miracle, I don’t think that I would have believed. But I love to read; I love words. Jesus came into my life through his Word. I discovered that all the evidence necessary to believe in Jesus is there in the Bible, the Word of God. Early 2014, I started a Bible study group in my own school (see picture).

Sara Medina, student of chemistry and physics in Mexico
(sara.medinagom (at) gmail.com)

Uncover – Introducing your Friends to Jesus

They say that the best ideas are often the simplest ones. Uncover is a simple idea – an attractively designed Bible study resource with a series of six evangelistic studies in Luke’s gospel. This booklet can be used in small groups or more informally in one-to-one meetings.

Along with it, a special “Uncover” edition of Luke’s gospel was published. It encourages seekers to go beyond reading just the passages which are included in the Bible study booklet to discovering the whole story of Jesus. This gospel edition includes links to short online videos which speak to some of the questions which seekers might have as they read the gospel.

After an initial training phase, the IFES movement in Great Britain (UCCF) challenged all of their core student members to read Luke’s gospel with at least five of their non-Christian friends.

Sam Hardy dared to take up this challenge: ‘I shyly asked my flatmate to do the Uncover study with me and he thoroughly enjoyed it. He has since become a Christian.’

Ed was invited to an Uncover Bible study by his Christian friend Jonno. He shares: ‘I found it interesting to look at the gospel in depth with someone who knew more about it. The more I read, the more I wondered if it were true. Jesus was always able to answer people’s questions and loved them. He was an incredible character.’ As Ed continued to investigate, he was drawn to Jesus and became a Christian.

Many similar stories could be told. All of this is taking place in a post-Christian context which means that many students have little or no understanding of who Jesus is and what Christians believe. A negative attitude towards faith is common. Uncover invites these students to examine the evidence about the life and purpose of Jesus using Luke’s gospel – to uncover for themselves who he is. Instead of expecting the students to come to Christian meetings, the gospel is taken to them: in the coffee shop, in their flat or wherever.

The response to Uncover has been amazing. Students have grasped the vision like we have never seen with any past gospel project. They have found new confidence to invite their friends to meet Jesus in the gospel. Since we started this project in 2011, thousands of non-believers have been reading Luke with their Christian friends; hundreds have come to faith. God’s Word is still powerful to draw students to Jesus today – in any and every context!

It has been encouraging to see that a number of other IFES movements in Europe have been inspired by Uncover. Some have translated the material for use in their own context.

For more information on Uncover, see: http://www.uccf.org.uk/uncover/.

Pod Bhogal (PBhogal (at) uccf.org.uk)
Head of Communications, UCCF

The Unexpected Result of Reading Scripture. A Testimony.

Although my parents were atheists they still considered themselves Muslims. I became a Muslim after the Soviet Union collapsed and religion was allowed. Some relatives told me that I was becoming more and more like a fanatic.

But then my sister accepted Jesus as her Savior. When she told us about her decision we all stood against her. It was such a shame for our Muslim family! We put pressure on her and once I even hit her. While I was away in the army, my sister became more mature and bold in her faith. When I came back, I was surprised at how confidently my sister shared about Jesus, but her words meant nothing to me. For me she was a betrayer.

One day my sister invited me to free English courses. I understood immediately that the people offering these courses were probably missionaries, but I didn’t care. I wanted to learn English so that I could find a good job or immigrate for a better life in the West. After the English lessons, we were invited to stay on for Bible studies. After a while, I started staying and we would often argue: I argued that Jesus is only a prophet; they were convinced he is God. One thing that shocked me was their love. Sometimes I would behave very rudely, but I always felt accepted.

A year after visiting this group regularly, I decided to read the gospel. I wanted to prove to those “lost and deceived Christians” that Jesus is not a God, but only a prophet. So I started reading and could not help enjoying it. Every day I would run back home after work to continue reading. Everything was great until I read John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” I was shocked by this statement: “nobody”??? What about Muslims? What should I then do? I wished Jesus would not say that…

I understood that I needed to make a decision. My first prayer to Jesus was, “Jesus, if you are really a God, let me know that and I will follow you.” Some time passed and I felt unusual peace like never before. I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I didn’t tell anyone for about two months. When I shared this news with my sister, she happily said, “I knew it would happen, I was praying for you all these years!” This happened in 2001 and since then I have walked with the Lord.

The author is involved in IFES ministry as a volunteer

How can they believe?

How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? (Rom. 10:14)

Before becoming a Christian, I really felt that my life didn’t have any meaning. I was searching for myself, my identity; I didn’t know what to do with my life, and most of all, I was afraid. I didn’t have self-confidence, and I almost always felt excluded and rejected. And then, I simply had to grow up. In order to grow up you must know what you want, find a meaning in life. I didn’t find any and was constantly changing my mind about which studies and future profession to pursue.

Just a few months ago, I could not have imagined a God who rules the universe and that my will could be under the control of a higher being. I felt condemned to live without any guidance and believed that after death there’s nothing. I had vaguely been told about God when I was younger, but so vaguely that I did not know Jesus. I concluded that God was too far away and abstract and that he couldn’t exist. I had totally rejected the idea of believing in him. How should one believe in this distant and obscure figure if one has never been in contact with him, and if there’s no proof of his existence? I simply did not understand this idea of faith, and anyway I’d never opened a Bible in my life. For me, it was an intimidating and austere book.

But this has changed. I’ve been studying English at the university in Paris for the past three years, and last year, I took a course titled: “The Bible in English literature”. That year I started going to the local IFES group (Groupes Bibliques Universitaires in France). A friend of mine had told me about it, and explained that the Bible was studied there. I went because I wanted to learn more about this book I knew nothing about, particularly in view of my university course.

It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. First, because the people I met there are now dear friends, but also because that is where I heard about Jesus for the first time. I felt right at home after only a few weeks, but I did not yet believe in God.

For that to happen, I had to attend a weekend organized by IFES in February 2011. That’s when I truly realized that God was the missing piece in my life. I think that knowing Jesus more and more through the IFES’s Bible studies is what helped me most to step out to God in faith and to finally believe in Him.

Sophie , French student