What Is the Discovery Bible Study Approach to Discipleship?
One of the best tools for discussing the Bible that has emerged in recent years is the Discovery Bible Study. This method of engaging people with the scriptures has proven very effective, regardless of culture or language.
The simplicity and universality of its approach enables any Christian to make disciples, share the gospel with people who don’t know God, or strengthen and encourage existing believers, using God’s word.
Many of the disciple making movements being supported through business startups that began through iBAM’s entrepreneurship training program are using Discovery Bible Study to share the gospel with others in their communities.
This is happening in China, Central and Southeast Asia, and elsewhere.
What Is Discovery Bible Study?
Discovery Bible Study is more than just a gospel presentation where the goal is to make someone want to pray the ‘sinner’s prayer.’
The purpose of this is to engage with scripture, understand what it says, consider how you need to respond to it, and look for ways to share it and involve others.
It relies on a small group approach to reading and studying the Bible. You can use it in house churches, Christian business groups, church small groups, campus Bible studies, and in many other settings.
The study begins by reading a passage of scripture. Then, you work through a series of simple questions, always focusing on four areas:
- What does this passage say?
- What does this passage mean?
- What will I do in response?
- Who can I tell so another group will start?
Every person has a unique circle of influence. So, the point isn’t to grow one group until it’s bursting at the seams. The point is to start new groups based on existing relationships each person has, once they’re ready to lead one. And that doesn’t have to take years.
Using this approach, just one committed disciple maker can multiply himself or herself thirty, sixty, or a hundred times, and it doesn’t have to take a lifetime to do it.
We have seen this happen in places like Indonesia, China, and various nations in Central Asia.
What Happens in a Discovery Bible Study Meeting?
You can adapt the approach to fit your context, but the recommended meeting plan goes something like this:
1. Deepen Relationships
Begin the meeting by having each person share three things about their lives.
First, they share one thing they are thankful for that week that has gone well – something to praise God for. Then, each person shares something that is causing them stress or hardship that they need prayer for. And last, they can talk about someone they know who has needs, and that the group may be able to help address.
With this opening to the meeting, the participants learn what’s going on in each other’s lives, care for each other, and set the tone for continually looking outward, beyond the group.
2. Review the Previous Week
Next, retell the Bible passage that your group studied last week. Talk about how well you responded to it. Did you do anything different? Have any struggles or victories? Did you share what you learned with someone else, or do something that involved another person as a result of what you learned last week?
The goal here is to build in the rhythm of not just reading and talking about the Bible, but in doing what it says. This is how you build a foundation on the rock, and not on the sand, as Jesus teaches at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.
3. Study the New Passage
For the new Bible passage for that week, someone reads it aloud. Then, the other members of the group re-tell what was just read. Anyone can add details as needed, and the goal is to help everyone gain enough familiarity and understanding of what the passage says so they could describe it to someone who isn’t at the meeting.
Then, the group discusses the same basic questions each week:
- What does this passage have to say about God – the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?
- What does this passage say about humans?
- What does this passage say about God’s plan?
Next, each person talks about what they should do in response to the passage.
Do they need to change anything in their life? Start a new habit or behavior? Stop an old habit or behavior? Go talk to someone? Take a new risk? Forgive someone? Re-commit to something? Repent for sin?
The responses can vary all over the place, depending on the scripture itself and on what each person is dealing with in their life.
But the essence of this part of the Discovery Bible Study is – what do I need to change?
When you spend enough time thinking about the passage and discussing it with the group, every person will discover something in their life they need to change.
5. Share and Expand
Lastly, each person in the group thinks and shares about someone else who needs to hear what they just learned today. You might also talk about strategies to tell that person or to invite them to a future Discovery Bible Study meeting.
What Bible Passages Should We Use?
If you want to start using the Discovery Bible Study approach yourself, their website has a number of thematic studies for different situations such as new believers, hope, and honor and shame.
How iBAM Helps Fuel Disciple-Making Through Business Using Discovery Bible
In many countries, the biggest challenge in spreading the gospel and making disciples isn’t the lack of interested people. It’s having a strong presence in the community and the financial backing to support the expansion of the disciple making movement and provide for people’s needs.
Lots of people are struggling just to meet their basic needs, and this impairs their ability to set time aside to attend something like a Discovery Bible Study.
By training Christians who live in these countries in how to start and run their own businesses, this big challenge gets overcome.
The business stands as a positive presence in the community and earns the respect and admiration of the people around. It also gives the business owner the platform and the influence to make disciples – with employees, customers, other business owners, and others they interact with. The business can also provide financial support for the ever-expanding discipleship efforts.
And, as more income gets generated for more people, fewer church leaders and members have to move away just to find work. This is a major challenge in many countries.
iBAM provides training and support to help Christians in other nations start and run new businesses that are focused on discipleship and sharing the gospel within and beyond their communities.
Discovery Bible Study is one of the most valuable tools we have found that believers in other countries have used to make disciples who make more disciples, and rapidly expand the Kingdom of God.
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