We know we must go and teach the gospel to every creature (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15).
Over the years, great and wonderful tools have been produced to help us conduct Bible studies, including the Jule Miller Film Strips, the John Hurt Series, Back to the Bible, Fishers of Men, Evangelism Made Simple, the Open Bible Study, and Circles of Truth.
The dilemma for many Christians lies in how to get into a Bible study. There is no magic formula, gimmick, or gadget that will answer this question. It is a rare occurrence when you meet a complete stranger who agrees to study the Bible. I am certainly not dismissing these random meetings, but I am just stating the obvious. During the last twenty years, the majority of our Bible studies have budded from relationships.
Shortly after the establishment of the church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), a rapid growth occurred that filled the whole world with the message of Christ. In Acts 2:41, there were about three thousand souls. In Acts 4:4, there were about five thousand men. In Acts 5, Luke records, “Believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (5:14).
What enabled such growth? The Bible says, “Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Many preachers focus on the word “added,” and rightly so. Knowing that our denominational friends believe you can join a church, we remind audiences that the Lord “adds” those being saved to His church.
Perhaps we have overlooked another important teaching. Luke also says the church enjoyed “favor with all the people.” According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, the word favor means “grace on the part of the giver, kindness . . . acceptable.” Brethren, everyone wants to be accepted, and who does not love kindness?
Most Bible studies occur because you have developed a relationship and secured the favor of the prospect. It is the ultimate form of selflessness to love your neighbor as yourself.Maxwell wrote, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
No one knew this better than our Lord. Luke says, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Jesus was and still is the Master Personal Evangelist. His ability to gain the favor of His fellow man was a key to His success.
In our world of fast food kitchens and drive-through windows, we rarely take time to secure the favor of others. Basic communication skills are being lost to texting and instant messaging. Our social groups have been reduced to Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps there has never been a society with a greater thirst for favor than ours.
God created man as a social being. The Bible states, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone’” (Genesis 2:18). Many are longing to find that first century favor from churches today, but sadly, in too many places, it is just not there. Could it be that the lack of Bible studies by Christians today is linked to a lack of favor?
The following are some suggestions on how to show favor to others. I must warn you up front that this will take both time and a commitment on your part. Moreover, you will experience disappointments, hurt feelings, and downright discouragement, but the Lord promises the reward is worth it all!
1. Home: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). Have we forgotten that our homes are mission outposts? Christ should be woven throughout their borders. The mat in front of too many Christian doors reads “Come Back Later” instead of “Welcome.” Open homes equal open hearts. Our first century brethren had open homes. They were eating together, praying together, and studying together (Acts 2:46; 5:42; 20:20).
2. Hospitality: I am afraid that this Christian attribute is almost lost in modern America. Hospitality is defined as “love of strangers.” The Greek word is used in Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” All Christians are commanded to display hospitality, and elders are to be proven in this qualification (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
Our hospitality to others should never be the reason behind their gospel obedience, but the lack thereof could be the reason they do not obey. It is time we unlock our deadbolts and stop worrying about the cobwebs and dirt. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42).
3. Hearken: Everyone wants to be heard. James said, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). Spend a lot of time asking others about their family, hobbies, past experiences, and the things they enjoy. This is a time to find common ground and to develop friendship and trust. As you listen, take mental notes of things that may need emphasis during a study. Have they been divorced? Do they have any religious background? Do they have family who are devout in a particular religion? Does their speech reveal any Calvinistic beliefs?
4. Hesitate: It is very important as you listen to hesitate and deflect. This is not the time to refute, reprove, rebuke, or instruct, regardless of what is said. Remember, you are building a relationship.
Further, do not answer all questions. I know this is a strange suggestion and may even seem rude. Believe me, it has taken a long time to understand the power of hesitation (deflection). If we truly respect the power of the Word, we must stop telling everyone what we think and how we feel, and show them the truth in the Scriptures. The quicker we get people into the Bible, the sooner God can begin working on their hearts. Someone may ask, “Why don’t you use a piano in worship?” You need to say, “That is a great question; let me show you.” Hence, the Bible study!
The psalmist said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). We must never forget our goal is to get people into an organized Bible study. Conversations and chats do not save people. If all Christians opened their homes, extended hospitality, hearkened to the prospect, and hesitated to give their opinions, we would have more Bible studies than we could ever hope to conduct. Luke recorded, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42).
—Rob L. Whitacre