For some, the prospect of studying the Bible with someone else seems unfathomable. “How do I start?” “Where do I begin?” and “What if I’m asked a question I can’t answer” are just a few of the questions asked by would be one-on-one instructors. While I don’t promise to have all the answers to these questions, the attitudes below are attitudes that, if employed, will go a long way in your one-on-one Bible study.
Knowing where to start a Bible study can be tricky and the truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of “where should I start?” Different students require different starting points. Some need to be introduced to the idea of God and His existence, others believe in God, but aren’t sure about what sets the Bible apart from other religious texts, and others are akin to Apollos needing correction in an area or two of doctrine (Acts 18:24-26). The truth is you won’t know where to begin with someone unless you take the time to listen and understand where they are coming from.
Understanding also comes in handy as the study progresses. Sometimes previous studies bring up questions in the mind of the student. Those questions can sometimes be tabled until later on, but other times they need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Listening to the one you are studying with can open up opportunities to address in real time the issues that are on their mind.
Quick spoiler alert for those of you attempting to study with someone else: you WILL be asked a question you don’t know the answer to, and that’s okay. The unanswerable question is one of the greatest fears people have in regards to one-on-one study. You know what you should say when this dreaded question is asked? “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” This honest admission of ignorance and willingness to pursue the answer does far more good than we can imagine. In a lot of ways not knowing the answer to a question can be a good thing, because it shows the student that their burning questions can be answered by Jesus through His word.
Before we leave the discussion of honesty I want to add the importance of being honest about your personal life. It’s okay to open up about sins you’ve struggled with in the past (preferably after a relationship has been established with your student), and it’s okay to study with them in your home even though it’s littered about with children’s toys. Christians aren’t perfect people and the more we can do to erase that façade the more opportunities to reach out and study with others with increase.
Over the course of several studies a lot of ground is covered, much of it new ground for your student. As a result, it can be hard to grasp some of the spiritual concepts discussed. As the teacher we have to remember the privileged advantage we have having been trained by others for years in church to know about God, His Son, and His word. Many of those we study with are coming in blind, so take your time with them and go at their pace. We’re not trying to dump information; we’re trying to bring them to Christ.
This patience becomes especially necessary in regards to baptism. It’s at the moment of immersion that we become children of Jesus and when we study that subject with someone it can be tempting to push them for a decision. Here are a couple truths we need to keep in mind:
1) Christianity is not an endeavor that should be entered into lightly. Changing one’s life to fit the desires of a perfect Being takes a lot of work and we should encourage people to correctly count the cost before making their decision.
2) Baptism isn’t the goal of the Bible study, a relationship with Jesus is. I’m not downplaying the importance of baptism here, I’m simply saying that sometimes we study just to get someone in the water, and end up with a Christian who doesn’t know Christ. Lead people to Jesus and He’ll lead them to the water (Acts 8:35-36).
When studying the Bible with someone, be understanding, be honest, and be patient. This may not remove all the fear from studying, but it will increase the effectiveness of what you are trying to accomplish.