Hassam, a young man from
Egypt, just called to remind me that it is four years since he
found Jesus Christ in a Bible study in my house! Tomorrow he will
be baptized. Vasti, Ph.D. candidate from Brazil, recently
reminded me of my first visit to her campus and the Bible study
that brought her to the Lord. She then won her whole family! I
have seen more people find God in evangelistic Bible studies than
any other way.
It is better to use the
term Investigative Bible Study (IBS), because you
can use it in the hearing of non-believers, who would be
offended or put on guard by the word "evangelistic."
What is an IBS?
This remarkable tool is
a group discussion, where two or three believers lead a
majority of non-believers in the study of a Bible passage,
usually from the gospels, so they can patiently learn about Jesus
Christ and invite him to be their Lord.
young people have grown up in a post-modern culture, and have
become skeptical of the scientific truth approach of modernism.
But they are open to religion, if it is not Christianity, which
they think has been tried and has failed. (Look at the mess in
the Western world of Christendom!) But they are intrigued by
non-Christian religions and cultsNew Age ideas.
The fact that many have
never read a Bible makes them curious. Some welcome a chance to
study it in a group, because it is rumored that you cant
just read it and hope to understand it.
Many other non-believers
had some experience in a Protestant or Catholic church when they
were children. We find that many people will come to a Bible
study if it is a genuine IBS. We can invite them to our Bible
studies for Christians, but most do not return because they are
not comfortable as the only outsiders present. But many IBS
groups on campuses, in workplaces and homes, show that seekers
who will not attend church or other Christian meetings, are eager
for Bible studies, led by Christian peers, for groups of mainly
outsiders, in non-threatening, non-religious settings.
But the four evangelical
students I met at the University of Coimbra in Portugal did not
think so. (At that time the city of Coimbra probably did not have
a total of 100 evangelicals.) I had come to help these four
students start a campus fellowship. They told me that Bible
studies would not work in Portugalno one would be
interested. Finally, I asked if we could experiment just three
times. If it did not work, I would desist. They asked where we
should meet. I asked, "What is the busiest place on the
So we sat in the
cafeteria lounge of the medical school of this prestigious old
universityfour believers and two friendsall of us
frightened. I led the study. As people passed our little circle,
some turned back to ask what we were doing. Some pulled up chairs
and sat down. A girl, seated with her back to us, kept scooting
her chair closer so she could hear. Before I finished that short
passage, we had one circle of students sitting around us and
another circle standing around them!
I announced we would
study a similar passage the next daysame place and time.
You should have heard the protests! One said, "Tomorrow I am
only free at 10." Another wanted 4 PM. Someone said,
"Do it at noon." We scheduled more than a dozen studies
for those three days! We analyzed a different passage each hour
because some students came every timethey even cut class!
In the third study, two
girls argued that Jesus could not be God. Then engineering
student Carlos Jose surprised us by saying, "It's true! I
found out last night. I wanted to talk to God so much, and
suddenly I knew he was in my room with me! Then I didn't know
what to say." We were awed and convinced he had met
Then everyone ran off to
classexcept for Jorge, also in engineering. He said
nothing. So I asked, "Jorge, have you ever invited Jesus
Christ into your life?" He said, "No, but I would so
like to do it!" So we prayed together. He and Carlos Jose
became roommates. The skeptical girls and others found God in
evangelistic conversations lead naturally into IBS's, as we
answer seekers questions. (See GO's Workplace
Evangelism: How to Fish out Seekers.) In Brazil we also
posted small ads on campus bulletin boards. In Spain, where we
dared not do that, we gave out papers with a Bible passage, half
a dozen questions, and phone numbers of group members for
information on times and places of studies. But friendships and
personal invitations are the best way to get people to attend.
What is the value of
The IBS is useful
even for strangers we meet in travel, but is ideal for
co-workers, clients, fellow students, neighbors, acquaintances
from affinity groupspeople with whom we have sustained
contact. The IBS is an essential tool for tentmakerswho
support themselves abroad, making Jesus Christ known, on the job
and in free timelike the Apostle Paul. The IBS is essential
for local believers in hostile countries.
The IBS is a building
block for pioneer student work and church planting.
As seekers find God, the IBS becomes a DBS, a discipleship Bible
studyfor mutual instruction and encouragement. The campus
DBS is the core of a new student group. A home IBS grows into a
small house church. Churches and campus fellowships can be
revitalized by giving members IBS-DBS training.
An IBS is an easy way to
evangelize. Although not everyone can preach, almost everyone can
learn to lead studieseven new believers. If the following
guidelines are observed, a leader does not need to be a veteran
church member or have formal Bible training.
An IBS-DBS program is
designed for multiplicationfor cell division. If a group
has two experienced leaders, each can choose an untrained partner
and start new IBS's. Seekers who find God in an IBS become
familiar with the ideal tool for the immediate evangelization of
their family and friends!
Some start doing this
before making a profession of faith, like Marisa, in Spain, who
took a set of leader's questions so she could guide her father
through a passage we had just examined. Seekers Juan and Teresa
took, questions to share the passage with another couple.
Both the DBS and IBS
consist mainly of inductive Bible study, not theological
discussion, apologetics or the sharing of experiences. Both
consist of question-oriented discussionsnot talks or
sermons, because people usually do not accept their peers as
religious authorities. Participants examine the text for
themselves. (Sermons are effective in the church because the
congregation respects the pastor's spiritual authority and
greater theological knowledge.)
An IBS discussion is
excellent communication, because participants are not passive
listeners. (When people only listen they forget about 90% of what
they hear.) Group members are fully absorbed in analyzing the
text and sharing their findings. A leader skillfully guides them
with questions. A truth they discover in the text makes
more impact on them than a truth we present to them. The IBS
enables God to speak to seekers directly through the pages of his
Consider the following
IBS characteristics in more detail.
1. The composition of
An IBS may have from 5
to 13 people, but not more than half should be believers.
Preferably there should be only two believers for every six to
ten who do not yet know God.
So a study group for
believers does not become an IBS because a couple of
non-believers attend. They may find God, but when seekers are
outnumbered, many fail to return. Or they become defensive, or
then, afraid to speak. A decision may owe more to the pressure of
the majority or a particular friendship than to spiritual
conviction. The majority must be seekers.
2. Two frequent
a) How can you keep the majority non-believers
from agreeing on a wrong interpretation? Ground rules are set. At the beginning of
every session, the leader says, "Are we agreed that although
it is interesting to exchange religious opinions, our purpose
today is to see what we can discover about Jesus Christ in this
Then, if Jim gives a
wild answer, the leader can say, "That's a fascinating
comment, in which verse did you find it?" It gives him an
easy way to back down and the discussion proceeds. (But you may
want to chat with Jim afterward, since his comment reveals what
is going on in his mind and heart.)
if the participants do not believe the Bible is true? Few seekers will
believe the Bible is infallible or God's absolute truth.
Todays post-modernists do not believe there is absolute
truth. Should you try to convince them? Usually, not at this
time. They need only believe that this primary source document of
the Christian faith is sufficiently trustworthy to merit
investigation. They don't have to believe itjust see what
The Bible has the
"ring of truth" (J.B. Phillips). It is self-validating.
The Hebrew word for truth means realitythat
which actually is, the world the way God made it. Non-believers
cannot live by their agnostic world views because they keep
bumping up against Gods reality. Even as they argue against
Bible truth, their conscience says, "You know it's
true." You can count on God's Spirit! God's Word not only
informs but is powerful to convict and to give life and to
As someone pointed out,
"What is the best way to defend a lion? Just let him out of
3. IBS advantages for
a) Seekers do not feel threatened by a
believing majority, so they are more comfortable and
discussion is more spontaneous. When most participants are
novices, they lose their fear of giving foolish answers. They say
what they think. They are less likely to become defensive. You do
not want people to do much arguing because it will be harder for
them to admit they were wrong.
The Bible study will be more genuinenot artificial as it often is
when the majority know God and are subtly phrasing all their
answers for the benefit of the outsiders. The visitors soon
detect they are everyone's targets!
c) The study can be
less complicated. Theological controversies are not raised
unless the participants ask, because they confuse. But study of
the text must be thorough, not shallow. English majors may be
skilled at literary analysis, so we must do thorough analysis of
our passage or lose credibility. Some may be history majors. Bill
Moyers led a TV series of Old Testament studies with participants
who were writers mainly from different religions. They did superb
literary analysis, but completely missed what God was saying
through the passages. Do good study, but dont split
d) Everyday language is
evangelical jargon, and unnecessary theological terminology.
Exception: Terms like justification or salvation,
which are rich with content and have no exact equivalent in
everyday speech should be explained and used.
e) Seekers can
patiently learn the core truths of the gospel in a
non-threatening atmosphere. Maria told her sister, "At first it
may seem confusing then everything begins to make sense."
f) It is easier to make
a commitment to Jesus Christ in a group where others are doing it
g) New believers can
immediately evangelize others, using the same passages and questions that
h) For tentmakers it is
important that the IBS/DBS provides the ideal matrix for a new
house church that should develop.
4. IBS advantages for
The IBS is better use of your human resources, time and effort. Rather
than bring two non-believers into a group of twenty members,
divide the twenty into ten teams of two, each leading a study
with six seekers. They are evangelizing sixty seekers!
b) No pastor or campus
staff worker need be present, since even a new believer can lead a
study, if ground rules are followed, and if prepared study guides
c) Believers learn
effective personal evangelism as they listen to seekers
comments in the study. They are often surprised at what they
hear! The Christians meet the seekers during the week and
continue discussing points that arose in the group. Several
Christians asked me to teach them how to evangelizethat is,
techniquesnot realizing they were already doing effective,
natural evangelism, in these conversations between scheduled
d) Study leaders
quickly develop spiritual leadership and responsibility. This is superb training.
Reproduction is a mark of maturity, and spiritual parenting
brings rapid growth. Pair a mature leader with a new believer. It
is good training for a lifetime of ministry, at home or
abroadtraining that is difficult to acquire any other way.
fellowships larger group activities are more fruitful. Rather than struggle to bring a
handful of miscellaneous outsiders to a larger evangelistic
meeting, each IBS leader easily brings 6 to 8 already
half-evangelized seekers. Expect good response to a gospel appeal
from such select group.
f) The IBS is effective
for commuter type, non-residential campuses, These usually have few social
organizations. It is effective also for the workplace and the
g) The IBS is ideal
where larger group meetings are inconvenient or not allowed. A small study group can meet
h) The IBS is essential
in spiritually hostile countries. Many restrict all open religious activity
of Christians. But if small groups can sit together anywhere to
study math, or talk about soccer, they can talk about Jesus
Christ. Instead of large Bibles, use pocket Testaments, small
Gospels, or even just a page with the typed text and a few
i) Special care can be
given to the seekers, because co-leaders have responsibility for
only a few. The
personal interest is crucial in winning people. Jesus met
seekers' families, and took them to meet his, even before his own
brothers believed in himhelpful to seekers whose conversion
would alienate their families.
The IBS is a patient,
realistic kind of friendship evangelism, backed up by personal
concern for each individual's needs. Seekers see the difference
Jesus makes in the lives of their Christian friends, as they
study, or work or relax or play together.
They receive Jesus
Christ and continue to be discipled by the leaders, even as they
begin their own IBS's, and disciple their converts to the level
they have been taught. When several find the Lord in a small
social group (like the local bank, freshman biology, or the
English-as-foreign-language class), the impact is big. A chain
reaction of conversions may occur.
5. The IBS objective
objective of the IBS is to enable non-believing friends to
receive Jesus Christ as Lord.
But the immediate
objective is to enable them to make any positive response to
Jesus Christ. It is a good IBS if a participant: realizes that he
or she is not a real Christian, or that sincerity is not enough,
that indifference to God is rejection of him, or that Jesus
really is God, is alive and sees and hears.
In Brazil, Guaracy said,
"Now I know why I have never found God. It was never my
priority." Edgar came early to our study in Lima, Peru. He
said, "I hope you dont mind that I cheated. I just had
to peek at the next chapter!"
Rejoice over your group
participants intermediate steps toward God. Let their
partial response encourage and inform your intercession for them.
6. The IBS content
Mainly gospel passages
are studied, to see who Jesus really was, and to watch him in
action. Observation of Jesus is the shortcut in all
evangelism. He is the way to the FatherJn. 14:6.
(To prove the existence of our Creator God, don't begin with
Genesis, but with Jesus.) The gospels are the evangelistic
literature of the Bible. John 20:30, 31, Luke 1:1-4.
It is significant that
the gospels are not a modern biography of Jesus, but a series of
moving pictures that show him in action, so seekers can interact
with him vicariously through the characters in the
narrativeslike rich Zacchaeus, the woman at the well,
Nicodemus, the Syro-Phoenician woman, blind Bartimaeus, the widow
of Nain, etc. (Today, as in ancient times, story-telling is
the traditional method of communication in non-Western cultures,
rather than linear, logical arguments.) Lead the studies in such
a way as to feel the suspense and emotions in the original
Let seekers discover who
Jesus was, in the same way that he guided his disciples in John
1. If Jesus had said, "Now I want you men to know that I am
God," these fanatically monotheistic men would have charged
him with blasphemy and left. When John and Andrew first asked him
who he was, Jesus said, "Come and see." John 1:39, 46.
As they accompanied him and observed his humanity, his deity
stood out in sharp contrast. When he calmed the storm at sea they
exclaimed, "What kind of a man is this?" They knew
Psalm 65:5-7 says that only God can calm a stormy sea!
They had quickly became
convinced that Jesus was Messiah, but it took longer to be
convinced that Messiah was God. Jesus gives them time, until near
the end of his ministry when he asks, "Who do you say
that I am?" Only Peter has courage to say the awesome words
out loud, "We have become convinced that you are the
Messiah, the Son of the living God!" Matt. 16:13ff.
(The God who intervenes in history. This was not just a
repetition of "Son of God"the messianic title and
synonym for "King of Israel," which Nathanael used in
John 1:49.) You probably could have heard a pin drop, until Jesus
confirmed Peters confession.
Lead seekers to make the
same discovery by causing the narratives to live for them. To
explain away Jesus' humanity is to rob the incarnation of its
meaning. Do not say Jesus took no risk when he touched the leper,
because he was God. Or that he always knew people's thoughts. The
gospels make clear that only sometimes he used his prophetic
insight and power. Jesus became one of us, and accepted our
limitations, but without sin. The gospels show him thirsty,
hungry, sleepy, tired, hurt, and in need of prayer. We can
identify with him only because he became man.
As seekers observe Jesus
in action, he draws them to himself through the gospel
narratives, exactly as he did in the first century when
physically present. Imagine Jesus' gentle voice and the
compassion in his eyes as he speaks harsh words to the
Syro-Phoenician mother in Mt. 15. The harsh words were meant for
his disciples, not for her. I have seen seekers already loving
this man Jesus, even before they know that he is God or that he
died for them.
Plan short units of
studynot 28 chapters of Matthew, but series of three to
eight narratives. Then see if individuals are ready to receive
However, there is great
advantage in choosing consecutive narratives, as they appear in a
gospel. Each story builds upon concepts from previous ones, so
introductions can be shorter and explanations fewer.
Select only the most
appropriate narratives, and summarize the material between them
in the introductions.
Some O.T. passages make
good IBS's, like Psa. 1 and 23. For Jewish Vera, I began with
Psalm 139. Some N.T. are helpful when people are ready for
commitment, like 1 Peter 2:18-25, Rev. 3:20, 21. The gospels tell how Jesus lived and died; the letters explain
Mainly we need to break seekers' wrong stereotypes of him.
It is helpful to use
prepared Bible study guides, but few are evangelisticwith
content suitable for seekers. Not all are inductive, because the
questions only test people's ability to read, which is boring,
and does not lead to discussion. Inductive questions help members
discover, understand and correlate the facts in a text, and apply
them to their individual situations.
Start with Jesus the
Disciple Maker, by Ada Lum8 studies from John. See
other suggestions in the bibliography.
But leaders need to
learn how to prepare their own Bible study guides, in order to
lead the passages most suitable for their friends, especially, if
these are of Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist background. (Request
G.O.'s paper Inductive Bible Study Preparation.)
7. The time and place
The IBS could be in your
home or the seeker's home. But ideally you should meet in a
religiously neutral location in or near your place of work or
study. It should not be in a church. As to time, it should be
during an interval you and the seekers sharecoffee break,
lunch hour, etc., so it takes the minimum time and effort. But
interested seekers will even come to work or campus early or
remain later, to study.
You may be able to use
an empty office or classroom, a coffee shop, or nearby home. In
good weather, many groups meet outdoors. Some American students
led studies in their cars. Engineering students in Brazil met on
the roof of a campus building. I spoke to a group of aeronautical
engineers who brought sack lunches to their factory once a week.
Even Pizza Hut employees found a time and place to meet.
Time and place are
rarely an unsolvable problem, but reflect the fear of believers.
But in Brazil, Walter and Tietje, the only believers in their
chemistry classes, were bussed to their new campus building just
in time for the first class, and brought home after the last one,
with no free time in-between. There was no other transportation.
We prayed for them at our Saturday meeting. That week the
administration rearranged the whole schedule, leaving a two-hour
block of free time! We knew they had to do it because we
It is advantageous to
find a quiet place without too many distractions, unless you wish
to attract new seekers. Then find exposure in a crowded place.
A home has more warmth
and it is easier to serve light refreshments. But don't let
refreshments become burdensome. Take turns bringing cookies. At
lunch meetings in Cambridge, students served themselves to bread,
cheese and apples, and put coins in a dish.
8. Hosting an IBS
a) New participants
should be made welcome and comfortable. See that all are introduced, and initial
conversation helps everyone relax. (We did not object that some
seekers smoked. They were nervous, and we were not at church.
Today people are more sensitive to the practice, so do what your
group wants. )
b) All should use the
same New Testament to avoid the confusion of varying
can indicate passages by page number. A paragraphed, modern
language N.T. is ideal, like the RSV or NIV in Englisheven
Good News for Modern Man (simplified English). If you are working
with internationals, bilingual Testaments are popular if you can
find them in modern translation. English is on one side and
another language on the opposite page. Paraphrases like Phillips
N.T. or the Living Bible, are good for reading, but are too
freely translated for study.
c) The atmosphere
should be relaxed and reverent, but not Church-like. It should be loving and
accepting. A drunk medical student walked into our Bible study
group, noisily, and fell onto the sofa. She was so disruptive,
that I summarized the rest of the passage and served
refreshments. But Joao Olavo, angry at her, was convicted by our
gentle dealing with this needy young woman, and received Jesus
Christ that evening.
d) If believers feel
spiritually superior, seekers will sense it. Believers are forgiven, but
sinners still. They should be honest about struggles and
failures. A desperate couple went to church for help, but left,
disillusioned, saying, "Those happy smiling people could
never understand our problems." Honesty about our struggles
helps seekers share theirs.
e) Light refreshments
add warmth to the meeting. Even more important, if served at the end
of the study, they keep participants around long enough for
socialization and for individual chats about points in the study.
9. IBS discussion
You lead an IBS in much
the same way as a DBS, but with significant differences.
a) You need not begin a
new group with prayer. Paul did not pray aloud at the Areopagus.
Your discussion could be about footballbut happens to be
about Jesus. It might be appropriate to say, "Since we are
studying God's Book, let's ask for his help." Or you could
pray at the end. Ask, "Why dont we talk to God about
what we have seen today?"
b) Leaders should guide
with reverent enthusiasm. The gospel is so fantastic, it demands
excitement, or seekers will never believe we believe it.
c) The leader sets the
ground rules. "Are
we agreed that our purpose is to see what this passage shows us
about Jesus Christ?" If anyone gives a wild answer the
leader can ask "In which verse did you find that?"
d) The leader gives an
introductionnot on the lesson of the
passage, but on its historical-geographical background. Do not spoil the element of
surprise, of discovery, by announcing the lesson in advance! (Too
often study guides make this mistake.)
Also, God may intend
different lessons for different people. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones
told us he did expository preaching of consecutive passages
because there would always be something for everyone. Inductive
study shares this "cafeteria" advantage. I do not like
introductions that predispose seekers to expect a certain lesson
so they fail to see others. Application is important. But the
most important outcome of Bible study, is gaining a new
perspective on the Lord that leads us to worship, and to a deeper
relationship with him.
Let the introduction
provide historical-cultural background and build suspense for the
narrative. Imagine yourself in the story and feel it.
e) Have participants
read the passage aloud, by paragraphs, not by verses. Verses interrupt the thought.
f) A well-prepared
Christian leads the discussion firmly, but sensitively, with flexible use of written questions.
But if someone refers to a point that
comes later in the passage, comment on it briefly, and resume
your planned, more logical order. When you come to the
out-of-order question, say, "Now as we already noted. .
.," and then proceed.
g) Leaders ask the main
questions, using supplementary ones only to help the group dig
more deeply. If
answers are superficial, add questions. Don't be nervous over
silent momentspeople need time to think.
h) If they answer by
reading a verse, ask them to restate the answer in their own
reading can be dull, and you must see if they understood.
i) Pace the study
wellnot too fast or slow. Plan to reach the midpoint before
mid-time, so there will be enough minutes to summarize the story
and discuss the applications at the end.
j) Encourage the timid
to speak, asking them to read a verse or answer a simple
not an embarrassing, simplistic one. Once the ice is broken, they
often speak again.
k) Tactfully restrain
the too talkative participant. Refer questions to others by name. Ask the
repeat offender to help you involve the less talkative.
l) Get the participants
to ask questions, then refer these back to the group. The leader does not throw the
ball to each person in turn and receive it back. Rather, anyone
may catch his ball and throw it to anyone else. Let group members
interact. When the ball drops, the leader summarizes the
discussion and throws out a new question.
m) Define terms and
give sufficient historical and cultural information to clarify
points in the passage. The leaders provide this data. Less is
needed if consecutive passages are studied.
n) Keep the discussion
within the limits of the passage, and summarize frequently. If an extraneous subject comes
up, jot it down, for a private conversation. If everyone is
interested, suggest a future study of a relevant passage on that
o) Avoid unnecessary
references to other parts of the Bible since participants will
have trouble following. This point is often misunderstood.
Christians who do not know inductive study, often substitute
cross-references, ranging from Genesis to Revelation, instead of
determining what the basic text means. This misses the point of
the study. It also discourages participants from reading the
Bible on their own, because they think you have to be an expert
on the whole Bible to understand any part of it.
But to rule out all
cross-references is to impoverish the study. The leader should
use relevant references from the immediate context, from chapters
the group has already studied, and from anywhere in the
Bibleif they quickly resolve problems in the text or enrich
a lesson. Dont make excessive use of them. But it is good
to show how we let the Bible interpret itself. This is especially
important for Catholics who charge Protestants with interpreting
the Bible as they please.
p) Listen carefully to
what seekers say and the intent behind their words. (I list names of seekers on a
little paper, and jot down a word or two to remind me of their
significant comments so that I can follow up in personal
conversations.) Watch body language. At what point does a bored
seeker lean forward and give total attention?
q) Do not correct all
wrong answers immediately. Never say an answer is wrong. Because seekers rarely know much
about the Bible, they fear looking foolish. Say "That's
interesting. What do some of the rest of you think?" Receive
several right and wrong answers without comment. Then ask the
group if any verse in the text clarifies the point. It is not
humiliating when several people are wrong.
r) Do not attack the
faith of participants, but do not soften the text if it
contradicts their beliefs. Allow it to make its full impact.
s) Do not raise
theological problems, but be prepared to answer those that
seekers raise. Dont
split hairs. But make sure the study is substantial. You must dig
under the surface of the text for a credible study, interesting
study. The seekers are not children.
t) If there is
controversy, first seek a solution in the text and context, or
refer to some other part of the Bible. If it is a history-long theological issue,
summarize both positions, and proceed. For example, whether Jesus
had brothers, or just cousinsas Catholics insist. If a
subject like predestination is of interest to everyone, suggest a
special meeting with a speaker.
u) The leader must
finish the passage at the set time. Or some may be reluctant to come next
time. So if the study has lagged behind, summarize the whole
story, then its main lessons.
The main lessons cannot
be fully appreciated until the whole story has been understood
and felt. In a time crunch, it is better to finish the whole
story first, and let seekers make their own applications, than to
have spent time discussing lesser applications and never finish
the story and main lesson.
v) The leader should be
prepared to continue the discussion with those who can stay. Our Saturday Bible studies in
Curitiba, Brazil, with medical students, were to last an hour,
but would often go two or three hours after the closing. When the
group had become much too large, we had people sign up for one of
three different time slots. But almost everyone then came three
times a week! We couldn't keep enough Testaments on hand. Even
faculty in the medical school carried them around.
10. The crucial step to
When is a seeker ready
to receive Jesus Christ? If you reap too soon or wait too long
you spoil the harvest. When a seeker has understood the facts
about Jesus, expect response. Eventually, the seeker should
understand most of this 3-point checklist:
1) God created
everythingby whatever means. (Do not get drawn into a
discussion of evolution.) God is love, but he is also holy
(like fire). His love keeps us away from him so we won't be
destroyed by his holiness, until we allow him to change us, by
putting his Spirit into us. 2) People are guilty
before God, spiritually dead and doomed. 3) Jesus
is God and man. He lived a perfect life and then
voluntarily gave his life as our substitute to pay
our sins and give us life. Jesus arose bodily from the grave,
and lives today.
Commitment involves 3
essential steps: 1) Believe the facts of the gospel. 2) Repentaccept
God's verdict that they are guilty and dead. 3) Invite Jesus
Christ to come into their lives through his Spirit, to
be their Lord and King. His Spirit in them assures them of
eternal life. The test of commitment is loving obedience to God's
The seekers' comments in
the study tell you when they have found Goda new light in
their eyes, a new joy, a new thirst for his Word. Make sure their
faith is based specific promises.
If you think a seeker is
ready, ask the crucial question: "At this stage, what do you
think is the most important reason Jesus died?" (Leave room
for several answers.) If they say he died for their sins, ask if
they have thanked him and invited him in. If they say
"yes," ask for details. Pray together, and start their
follow-up program about assurance, life in Christ, forgiveness,
prayer, Bible reading, obedience, witnessing and Christian
If they don't know how
to invite him, explain a Bible passage like Rev. 3:20, 21. Don't
pray a prayer for them to repeat. But talk with them about what
they might like to tell God. Then let them find their own
wordsGod will understand. Focus on Jesus' promise.
If they say Jesus died
to give us the supreme example of love, use 1 Peter 2:18-25,
which agrees with them. But show that we cannot succeed in
following his example, so Peter goes on to say Jesus died on the
cross in our place. Then suggest a prayer of invitation.
If a seeker drops out,
he has probably just understood the cost of discipleship. Inner
struggle begins. Go after him. Show unconditional love. Pray.
11. The preparation of
Many study guides are
availablesee bibliography. But leaders should be trained in inductive Bible study
so that they can also prepare their
own. It pleased God to give us his revelation as literature. It
is more than literature, but not less. So we must observe the
writers literary devices. The form is as important
as the content; how something is said is as
important for meaning as what is said.
requires these 4 steps: 1) Observe what the passage
says. 2) Interpretdiscover what it meant
for the writer and the first recipients in their milieu, and
correlate the data. 3) Applydetermine how it
applies to us today. 4) Organize this data for
sharing, as a question-based discussion guide, a sermon, an
article, a play, a poem, a song, etc. (See GO Paper Inductive
Bible Study: How to Prepare a Passage,with worksheets and a
In an inductive
studyyou examine details, and let them lead you to
conclusions. (A deductive method begins with conclusions and
A study guide consists
of questions and notes to assist leaders to help participants to
discover inductively and quickly what it took someone much longer
to dig out.
Leaders will need to
prepare study guides because not enough evangelistic guides
exist, although excellent guides for believers exist on every
Bible book and on many subjects. (See IVP's Life-guide series,
and the Neighborhood Bible Study series. Quite a few of these
studies and others are available in foreign languages.)
Even when using a Bible
study guide, leaders should prepare the passage first, as though
they have no guide. They should have the joy of making their own
personal discoveries. Then they can look at the guide to see what
they missed or misunderstood, and add their own findings. Then
they can change the discussion questions, but they should do it
with care. One of the hardest tasks in preparing a guide is
designing good questions that will help participants dig under
the surface and make their own discoveriesand questions
that lead to good discussion.
When you are training
new leaders it can help to have a small form with discussion
leadership guidelines which the trainee can use for
self-evaluation. If other Christian participants also fill it out
it can help the trainee improve leadership skills. Trainees can
serve as co-leaders, helping the leader pace the study and
involve participants, and by praying. Then they take their turn
for leading and evaluation.
I sometimes brought all
the leaders together once a week to study the passage and to pray
for their respective groups. (See attached sample study.)
I hope you will discover
what an exciting and fruitful evangelistic tool an Investigative
Bible Study is!
--Ruth E. Siemens
Marilyn Kunz and
Catherine Schell, How to Start a Neighborhood Bible Study.
Also, study guides on many B ible books,available in 40
languages. Neighborhood Bible Studies, Dobbs Ferry, NY: NBS.
Ada Lum, Jesus, the
Disciple Maker. IVP.
Ada Lum, How to Begin
an Evangelistic Bible Study. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.
Ada Lum and Ruth
Siemens, Creative Bible Studies, on how to prepare
passages inductively and how to lead studies for believers and
seekers. English edition, Bombay, India, Jyoti Pocketbooks.
Spanish edition, El Estudio Biblico Creativo, Buenos
Aires, Argentina, Ediciones Certeza. English and other languages,
International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, 55 Palmerston
Road, Harrow, Middlesex, HA3 7RR, England, UK.
James F. Nyquist, Leading
Bible Study Discussions, Downers Grove, IL, IVP. Excellent
Peter Scazzero, Introducing
Jesus. All you need to know for starting an IBS, with six
lesson guides and leader's notes. Downers Grove: IVP. The author
found God in an IBS and pastors an exciting, self-reproducing,
inner city church with IBS's.
Lifeguide Series on the
whole Bible and many subjects. IVP.
(IVP, IFES and NBS have
studies translated into many languages.)
IBS Sample Leader's
Luke 19:1-10. A Tax Collector Meets Jesus
Note: This IBS sample leader's guide
presents: 1) The main questions in bold. 2) Supplementary
questions which follow are used only when the group needs
help to dig for fuller answers. Some questions need only one word
answers. 3) Explanations are in parentheses. If this
narrative were studied as part of a series in Luke, the
introduction could be short and explanatory notes few. It could
build on previous concepts.
Introduction: Trees, flowers and birds
announced springtime, and pilgrims were walking to Jerusalem for
the annual Passover. Picnics, singing and festivities began
enroute. But this year the air was highly politicized, with
rumors of revolution. First century Palestine was part of the
Roman province of Syria, but it was so rebellious, that Emperor
Tiberius sent his own man, Pilate, to be Procurator, and report
directly to him. Jewish separatist groups committed terrorist
acts. Additional Roman soldiers were sent to Jerusalem at
Passover, as it filled with visitors from the countryside and
from all over the Empire.
Every able-bodied Jewish
man within reasonable traveling distance was required to attend.
Jesus makes his way slowly through the region of Perea, teaching,
on his way to Jerusalem. In this third year of his ministry, the
common people have become convinced that he is God's long
promised Messiah who would one day use his miraculous powers to
liberate them from imperialist Rome. Some day he would set up
"the kingdom of God," with a great inauguration banquet
in Jerusalem. Gentiles would be ousted, along with many unworthy
Jews. All good Jews would be well-off. The kingdom would also
somehow usher in the end of history and a new age. Now in this
pilgrimage, the crowds around Jesus have grown large. Lk.12:1
says "So many thousands of the multitude had gathered
together that they trod upon one another!"
Why are the crowds so
excited? Where was Jericho? (On the Jordan River, about 17
miles from Jerusalemone long day's uphill climb.) What
does the crowd expect on arrival? Lk.19:11 says that rumors
have spread that this is the year Jesus will inaugurate the
kingdom, on arrival in the city! What did Jesus do at the
entrance of Jericho that would further encourage their
expectations? Lk. 18:35-43. (He had healed the blind beggar,
Bartimaeus!) Contrast Jesus' moodwhat does he expect in
Jerusalem? Lk. 18:31-34. (Arrest and crucifixion.)
Have two people read
the passage aloud in two parts, to see what happens in the
streets of Jericho (Lk.19:1-7), then what happens inside a house
Luke 19:1-7. In the
Find all the facts
that you can about the main character of this story before he
meets Jesus. What is his name? his nationality? his economic
status? What can we assume about his clothing and his home? What
is his occupation? Who are his employers? his employees? his
clients? What is his social status? his reputation? What about
his physical appearance? What personality problems do you suppose
he had? (Tax contractors and their employees collected for
imperialist Rome. Whoever promised the most revenue to Rome was
hired, and could collect for himself, too. Tax contractors were
hated, classed with prostitutes and bar owners, and shunned as
traitors to the nation.)
What shows how
desperately Zacchaeus wants to see Jesusand why? Think
of all the things he probably tried to do before the humiliating
climb into the tree. (A sycamore-fig tree in spring would be full
of leaves.) Why must Zacchaeus see Jesuswho does he
think this itinerant rabbi is? What had he heard about Jesus on
the tax grapevine? (Lk. 5:27-32 Jesus, God's promised
King, called a tax collectorMatthew Levito
join his team! Levi gave a banquet to introduce his colleagues to
Jesus. Lk. 7:34Jewish leaders despised Jesus for
befriending these outcasts, but Jesus called them his "lost
Try to visualize what
happens in 19:5-7. A rabbi always walked ahead of his
followers. The crowd would respect God's king. When Jesus stops
walking, what does the crowd do? When Jesus looks up into the
tree, what does the crowd do? What mixed feelings would
Zacchaeus have over his predicament? (Fear, humiliation?) Over
Jesus' words in v. 6? (Joy, awe, pride, jubilation, worry if
his house was ready?)
How far does the
crowd follow Jesus? Why are they offended? What political and
religious risks does Jesus take? (Religious leaders would
object that the house was as ceremonially unclean as a Gentile's!
Nationalist zealots charged him with siding with the enemy!) Why
does Jesus disillusion his avid fans? (They follow for wrong
reasonsa king of their own imaginations. The kingdom Jesus
began would be spiritual and worldwide, and not publicly
inaugurated till the end of history. John 18:36, Rev. 11:15.)
Luke 19:8-1O. In the
It was customary for
servants to wash the dusty feet of weary travelers. Imagine the
instructions Zacchaeus gives his servants about Jesus' sleeping
quarters and the banquet to be served! In vv. 8-10 they are all
Why is it significant
that Zacchaeus stands up to speak? What does it suggest about
the others in the roomJesus and his disciples? (They sit.
If eating, they recline on couches extending outward from the
table.) What does the host's standing up show about his speech?
(It is an important, formal announcement.)
In v. 8 Zacchaeus
tells Jesus, not about what he hopes to do, but about what he has
already been doing. What is his current policy? (A few Bibles
translate the verb as future, but the RSV and others correctly
translate the Greek verb as "I give"present
continuous. It is what he had already begun and was continuing to
do. Or else, he would not have been eager to see Jesus.)
Since Jewish law
required restitution of only one and a fifth of the amount stolen
(Lev. 6:2-5), why does Zacchaeus repay so much? What does
it show about his degree of repentance? ("If I
defrauded" means "wherever I have defrauded". . .
Think what it would mean to go back through his record books!) Why
does he give also to the poor? (He is grieved that he has
caused the poverty of many. How can he give half his fortune to
the poor and also compensate those he cheated? What does this
show about his wealth?)
started cleaning up his act the day he was convinced Jesus was
the promised King. Some townspeople might already have benefited
from his reimbursement, but most of the crowd were tourists who
would not know. His faith and repentance were clearly
demonstrated. Yet Jesus says, "Today has salvation come to
this house." What did Zacchaeus still lack that was given to
him that day? John 1:12. (A personal encounter with Jesus!
Without inviting Jesus into one's life, there is no salvation, no
new birth. Rev. 3:20, 21, 1 John 5:11, 12.)
Why would it comfort
Zacchaeus to hear Jesus say he was now "a son of
Abraham"? (Zacchaeus was now a man of faith like
Abraham. Abraham had laid foundations for the kingdom Jesus came
to establish, and would have an honored place at the
banquetLk. 13:28, 29. Now the King himself declares that
Zacchaeus, traitor and outcast, has all the rights and privileges
of full citizenship in the kingdom! He can even go along to
In v. 10 Jesus says,
"The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost."
What is the connection between this incident and Luke 15:1-7?
Who is Jesus to Zacchaeus? How does this explain Jesus
terms "lost" and "saved"? (He was a sheep
that was lost to the Shepherd and the flock, in danger, doomed to
death, left to the lions and bears. "Saved" or
"salvation" means to rescue, restore to God, heal, make
for Jesus, but how can we know Jesus came to Jericho also seeking
Zacchaeus, as he says? How does Jesus know his name? How does
he know that Zacchaeus' house is big enough for his team?
Probably every inn and house was already filled with pilgrims.
How does Jesus know Zacchaeus' mansion has no guests? (No one
would stay with this traitor!) Jesus invites himself. What makes
Jesus think Zacchaeus would welcome him?
How might Jesus have
heard about Zacchaeus? Luke 5:27-32. (Through the same
tax-collector grapevine that helped Zacchaeus hear about Jesus!)
Probably Levi learned through an ex-colleague that this repentant
outcast's mansion might be the only available lodging in
overcrowded Jericho. How did Jesus know Zacchaeus was in that
very tree? (Maybe a local friend saw him running and followed. Or
the disciples have been looking for him)
Why is it important
that Zacchaeus sought Jesus that particular day? (It is the
day Jesus was looking for him, and he would never again return to
Jericho. "Now is the day of salvation.")
A beautiful old hymn
expresses this experience:
" I sought the
Lord, and afterward I knew,
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
It was not I who found Thee, Saviour True,
No, I was found by Thee."
What are common
stereotypes of Jesus today and how can they be corrected?
What are the three
steps necessary for "salvation"?
Why is it not enough
to believe all the right facts about Jesus? (Many people
believe and reject, like the Jewish religious leaders. If Jesus
was right, they would lose all religious influence, political
power, social position and economic advantage.) Why do
convinced people reject Jesus today?
"salvation" before Jesus died. Like Abraham, he was
saved on credita debt Jesus would soon
pay. Today, our salvation is prepaid. As
Zacchaeus had to believe what Jesus would do, we must believe
what he has done. What are the facts about Jesus we must believe? (He is God, he paid for our sins, he arose and is alive
today. He is King!)
express his new loyalty to Jesus by receiving him into his house.
How can you invite him into your life today? In Rev. 3:20, 21
Jesus speaks of our innermost being and all the activities and
relationships of our lives as being our house. He waits
for us to open the door and invite him into be in charge.
Anything less insults the King of glory! We can trust himhe
loves us more than we love ourselves.
If seekers today
really believe Jesus is alive and present and able to hear
everything we say, what things might they want to tell him they
will change in their conduct and relationships?
What does it mean to
have Jesus as our personal Shepherd? To have him as our King?
persons can know the Good Shepherd has been following, softly
calling to get their attention. What are some ways he calls to
them today? 1) He turns their thoughts to himself and to
ultimate questions. 2) He exposes them to some part of the Bible.
3) He gives them good gifts hoping they will thank himRom.
2:4. 4) He allows them to have problems so they will call for his
helpPsalm 119:67, 71. 5) He sends them messages through
radio, TV, books, magazines. 6) He sends followers of Jesus
Christ into their lives. 7) He gets them into a Bible study
None of this is ever an
accident. Whenever he speaks to them through any of these ways,
they can know he is present, and should respond.
That day in Jericho
was Zacchaeus' last chance!
All seekers who
imitate Zacchaeus can find God, because he promises, "You
will find me when you seek me with your whole heart." Jer.
Copyright 1995, Ruth E. Siemens