Jesus’ command to make disciples doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. In fact, there are many seemingly ordinary things Christians can do to make an impact on those around them.
Kevin Halloran recently conversed with Sean Martin, WordPartners’ Director of Training in Europe, to talk about one-to-one Bible reading.
Kevin: Can you start off making the case for one-to-one Bible reading?
Sean: I want to start on the personal level. My case for one-to-one Bible reading goes back twenty years to when I became a Christian. The man who led me to the Lord met with me regularly to read the Scriptures, pray, and disciple me. It had an enormous impact on my life and I’m very grateful to God for that.
One-to-one Bible reading is something that captured me on the personal level as a disciple of Christ in my early walk and I’ve kept up one-to-ones the last twenty years as I’ve walked with Jesus.
To make the case for one-to-one Bible reading, I think it’s helpful in the midst of being in the trenches of life and ministry to go to the 10,000-foot level and ask, “Why do we read the Bible anyway?”
The prime reason I read the Bible with people and would encourage others to do so as well is because we believe, as evangelical Christians, that the Bible is the Word of God. We believe that God speaks, and what He has spoken has been written. We believe that the Word of God brings life and transformation. When God speaks, things happen.
Consider Genesis 1 when God spoke the creation into existence. As He spoke, so it was. As He spoke, so it was. That’s a common refrain in the creation narrative. We see that creation and life is a direct result of God speaking. In Isaiah 55:10-11 God compares His Word to the rain that comes down from heaven:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose…”
We need to ask ourselves: do I share that conviction? Do we really believe that God is a speaking God and that what He has spoken is written in the Old and New Testament Scriptures? Do we believe that His Word still brings life and transformation today?
This is why we share the gospel with unbelievers. As we tell people the gospel message, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 it is the power of God to save those who believe, both Jew and Gentile. This is a conviction that underlies all Bible ministry, not just one-to-one. Do you share that conviction?
Secondly, we have a conviction about the Great Commission. In Matthew 28, the risen Lord Jesus says He has all authority on heaven and earth and commands all disciples in every age to make disciples of the nations. One-to-one Bible reading is another way to fulfill the Great Commission.
How do I make a disciple? I can read the Bible with someone one-to-one. Both they and I will grow as disciples of Jesus as God’s Word speaks its life into our hearts and as we pray.
“One-to-one Bible reading is a simple way to fulfill the Great Commission.” Sean Martin
One-to-one Bible reading is a simple way to fulfill the Great Commission. One of the reasons I like one-to-one Bible reading is that you don’t have to be a professional pastor, a great evangelist, or seminary educated. What are the qualifications? Three things: 1) Do you love God? 2) Do you love people? 3) Do you love the Scriptures? That’s it.
Whether you’re a new Christian, a mature Christian, young, middle age, or old—it doesn’t matter. It’s a simple way to fulfill the Great Commission. Sit down with someone for an hour a week to pray and read the Scriptures together, and watch God do His work. I’ve seen God do it over and over again as I do one-to-ones and as I’ve been discipled myself. It’s terrific.
Kevin: One of the challenges I had when I first started one-to-one reading is focus. There are a lot of different rabbit trails you can go down trying to answer every question someone might have from the text. What is your main focus in one-to-one Bible reading?
What are the qualifications for one-to-one Bible reading? 1) Do you love God? 2) Do you love people? 3) Do you love the Scriptures? That’s it.
Sean: I think focus is a key word Kevin because, in some senses, one-to-one Bible reading time is like any meeting. Imagine a work meeting, for example. Many people express their frustrations for meetings because we thought we were going to meet about a certain topic, but we talk about other things and go on tangents. A one-hour meeting turns into a three-hour meeting. If you don’t have a focus, a goal, and some organization, the same thing can happen in your one-to-one.
To focus, I use the Swedish Bible Study Method. When I start to meet with someone one-to-one to read through Genesis a chapter at a time, I say, “I want you to read Genesis ahead of time. I’ll read it too. Let’s answer four questions before we come so we’re prepared.” Those four questions are:
These four questions give us a focus and drive the meeting. We know those questions will shape our time and we will move methodologically through the questions. It’s a rich time and helps us avoid rabbit trails.
Our goal isn’t to answer every single question, but rather to understand the main idea of the text, apply it to our lives, and pray over it.
In Part Two, Sean shares recommended books of the Bible for one-to-one reading and tips for preparing.