Imagine if everyone in your church were regularly reading the Bible. “Everyone?” you might ask. “I don’t even read it regularly.” But if this happened at your church, do you think your church would grow in the likeness of Christ?
Imagine if everyone in your church were regularly engaged in evangelistic relationships. “Maybe a few people, but certainly not the majority,” you think as you get sweaty palms, knowing you don’t consider yourself an evangelist. We all recognize the top evangelists in our midst, but surely not everyone can do that, we think. But what if we did? What if we each pursued one other person with gospel aims?
Imagine if everyone in your church knew how to disciple others. “In your dreams,” you chuckle. “Discipleship is the pastor’s job. He’s been trained for it.” But what if you could be trained for it? What if there were a simple way to help yourself and others grow in grace?
In my experience of local-church ministry, I have found a simple activity that, by God’s grace, encourages us to read our Bibles, pursue evangelism, and engage in discipleship. It’s called one-to-one Bible reading.
2 People + 1 Bible + Regular Meetings = Gospel Fruit
One-to-one Bible reading is not complicated. It consists of two people meeting together on a regular basis to read through a book of the Bible.
They might meet weekly or bi-weekly. At their meetings they do a few things: pray; read through a passage together; ask simple questions related to observation, interpretation, and application; pray again; and schedule a meeting to read through the next passage. They continue meeting together until they finish reading the whole book together.
This simple activity gets people reading their Bibles regularly. It’s also helpful as we encounter difficult-to-understand passages. Think of your friends who avoid reading the Bible because they stumble over Levitical laws, minor prophets, or Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts. And think of the texts that often confound you.
Reading the Bible with another person is greatly encouraging. Perhaps both of you will have the same questions. Or one of you will have an answer. Or you can each do some research and report your findings at the next session.
With the help of a friend, reading the Bible isn’t daunting. In fact, it’s satisfying.
With the help of a friend, reading the Bible isn’t daunting. In fact, it’s satisfying to understand the life-giving words of Scripture and to grow in that understanding.
Bible Reading as Evangelism
One-to-one Bible reading is also an effective way to share the gospel with someone who doesn’t believe in Christ. For example, I have friends who are interested in the faith but object to Christianity. These objections are almost always because my friends listen to what other non-Christian critics are saying, and they don’t read the primary source (the Bible) for themselves.
I tell them they can’t reject something they haven’t read firsthand. Then I invite them to read the Bible one-to-one with me.
The last time I did this, my reading partner had to acknowledge the reality of Christ’s divinity and holiness through his teachings, healing, and service to others. As we read through Mark’s Gospel, she cried when we got to the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion scenes. How could Christ’s friends give up on him?!
Over the weeks we met together, the Lord slowly worked in my friend’s heart and moved her to repentance and faith.
Bible Reading as Discipleship
Once someone repents and believes Jesus is the Christ, Bible reading can’t stop. Discipleship must continue—for both new and also longtime Christians.
In the case of my friend, I encouraged her to continue on the path of discipleship by reading one-to-one with someone else, choosing a new biblical book to discover.
As she reads the Bible more and more with other Christians, she grows as a disciple, learning about God and his redemptive work through Christ. She grows as a disciple seeing how to live a life of holiness pleasing to God. She grows as a disciple in her understanding of Scripture so that she can be evangelizing, too. No matter where we are on the discipleship path, reading the Bible will always help us grow (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16–17).
Through this regular practice, we will see more church members—including ourselves—reading, evangelizing, and discipling. The method may be simple, but the fruit will be eternal.
One-to-one Bible reading isn’t the only way to evangelize and disciple. But if we’re stuck on what to do in these areas, it’s a good place to begin. Through this regular practice, we will see more church members—including ourselves—reading, evangelizing, and discipling. The method may be simple, but the fruit will be eternal.