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

Speaking Scripture

He, who has an ear, let him hear! Reading Bible passages out loud is one way of actually hearing what we are reading. ‘Speaking Scripture’ takes this into an account. It is an excellent way of entering into a passage, for example in small group Bible studies. Instead of the Bible passage being read aloud once, it is spoken repeatedly. Students learn to listen carefully. As they listen and imagine the context of the first hearers, they begin to speak the words in a way which is so much more alive and meaningful.

When using this approach in a small group Bible study, the facilitator gets different students to ‘speak Scripture.’ As one student speaks a portion of scripture, invite those listening to respond: ‘How was the speaking? Can you feel anything? Did it make you think further?’ Then ask other students to try speaking it. Some background information can help the students imagine the situation. The facilitator can ask the students to identify with what is happening by putting themselves in the shoes of the people involved: this includes all the characters of a narrative, but also, for example the psalmist, the prophet, or the writer of a letter. The facilitator can ask questions along the way, like: How do you think Jesus says this to the invalid? In what tone does the invalid respond? (John 5). How would Paul have said what he writes in the letter to Philemon? How does the psalmist utter his thanksgiving to God?

‘Speaking Scripture’ has proved to really help students enter into the passage. In the initial stage, students may find it a bit awkward, and they may laugh as they speak. But when they put themselves into the passage, the Word comes alive to them, touches their own lives, and changes their approach to understanding God’s Word. To be a little bit more creative, acting can also be added in as the students speak scripture. However, the facilitator needs to see whether this will distract or help, as it can sometimes be a hindrance.

You can begin by trying out passages from the gospel narratives. You can then try out epistles, psalms, prophecy. In fact, all genres found in the Bible can be approached in this way. ‘Speaking Scripture’ has changed me and the way I facilitate Bible studies with students. May you also discover the great value of this approach! Come and be participants by speaking Scripture, speaking and entering into the Word that transforms lives.

Lee Wan Ling, staff worker FES Malaysia
wanling (at) fes.org.my

An Albanian Experience

I really wanted to help students read the bible, not only on a daily basis, but also in such a way that they read it book by book. Together with the students, I discussed about how we could do this. It was hard to find a way. Many things did not work:

  • We thought that each one of us would read the bible on their own and then once a month we would discuss what we had read. That did not work because a lot of us did not find the time to read.
  • We tried to meet together to read a bible passage and discuss it. That did not work because we were reading isolated passages and it was difficult to see a connection between them.
  • We had problems finding a time for the group to meet together.
  • We found it hard to decide how we would do the reading with so many reading plans around.

In the end, we decided to read through the whole bible in three months. We helped each other by meeting twice a week to read and discuss together. We discovered that it was best to meet at 6:00 in the morning. Since we did not have a place to meet, we met in a bar café. This was really good because it gave us the opportunity to speak about what we were doing with the waiter, bar manager, and other staff members.

It was a difficult experience because towards the end we struggled with our readings. If we missed a day, we had to read double as much the next day. Now, the three months are over: one of us finished on time and three of us finished two weeks later.

We are really happy with what we did. So, we decided to read through the bible another two times this year – once in six months and once in three months.

We have started to pray for October 2012 because our desire is that each of us can get involved with three other people to read the bible next year.

Was it a worthwhile experience? It was one of the best experiences in my Christian life: the joy of reading together, studying together, discussing together and starting the day with God is an experience that I would never trade for anything else. It is not over. I’m looking forward to doing it with another group and seeing how the students will do with their new groups.

The question is: Reading the bible? How can we help students to do it? My experience and answer to this is: READ IT WITH THEM.

Juljan Muhameti, staff worker BSKSH (IFES Albania)
juljan.muhameti (at) gmail.com

 

 

 

Bible Study Nights in Burkina Faso

Five years ago, the first Bible study night took place within our fellowship. The idea is to have students gather and spend a long time studying the Bible. Since days tend to be very busy and weekly fellowship meetings usually last one to two hours, we thought about nights. Nights of prayer were common, and so we decided that in a similar way we could use nights for studying the Bible. It is encouraging to see how this activity has since been spreading from one city to another.

What does a Bible study night look like? Usually 60 to 90 minutes are dedicated for each Bible study. The activities are largely run in small groups using different and creative methods of Bible study. On April 30, 2012, around 200 students met from secondary and tertiary schools in Koudougou. The main theme of the night was “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth” (Joshua 1:8). It was amazing to see so many students spending the whole night around the Bible seeking to improve their relationship with God.

This was their programme:

19:30 Welcome, prayer and worship
20:20-21:50 Bible study on James 1:16-25
22:00-23:30 Bible exposition
00:15-1:45 Bible study on Acts 17:1-12
1:55-3:25 Bible study on 2. Timothy 3:10-17
3:50-4:20 Bible study on Joshua 3:1-17
5:00 Closing Prayer

The Bible studies were done using different approaches e.g. “head, heart, hands” or “journalist of a Jerusalem newspaper”. Times of worship and breaks were interspersed between the Bible studies.

Youl Juliette attended the event in Koudougou: “I learnt a lot from this night. I used to often read the Bible in a superficial way, but the different methods used during this night allowed me to ask questions of the text and understand it better.”

Nignan Emmanuel from secondary school came for the second time. Of his first experience, he says: “I learnt to read, meditate, and examine the Scriptures. Before that experience, I was not taking things so seriously. I also learnt that there are various methods of studying the Bible and some of them are even easy to use.”

Repeatedly, we hear students say that these Bible study nights have fostered their love and passion for Bible study. Thank God!

Dieudonné Tindano
Member of the national Bible Study Department, Burkina Faso
tindieud (at) yahoo.fr