Mastering A Plan for Formal Time Together—The Bible
IA. Developing Habits of Holiness
1B. Plan Meeting for about 1-2 Hours
Plan for your formal meeting times together to be not less than an hour and probably not more than two hours. Obviously needs fluctuate and situations arise, but don’t give the impression that your meetings together will last for hours. Your friend may have a busy schedule and it may be difficult to carve out more than one to two ours. Further, he/she may shrink back from meeting with you if you’re always taking longer than you said you would.
2B. Pursue A Deeper Friendship
Use the first few minutes of your time together to laugh, share, and catch up on each other’s lives. Perhaps you haven’t seen each other for a week or so and it’s time to reconnect. Ask them how they’re doing, how their family is, how things are at work, etc. Listen as they talk because much of their heart will be revealed at this time. You will come to understand their lives, pressures, struggles and successes better. This in turn will give you insight on how to love them better as you help them grow strong in discipleship. On several occasions I spent time with a person, who was supposed to be helping me in the faith, and never once did they ask me a question about my life. This is not good and often leads to bitterness, and in one sense it’s easy to understand why; people hurt each other (sometimes very deeply) when they do not love very well. So move into their lives and empathize with where they’re at.
3B. Pray Together
Ask them to pray with you as you orient them to your time together. Pray for the things they just talked about, for the things on your heart, and for the study you are about to review together. Encourage them to pray as well, and bless their prayers after you’re finished praying together: bless their prayers with a word of encouragement, even if they weren’t that accurate, theologically speaking. You’d be amazed how much God can understand. The heart is key. As long as they’re turning their heart to him in prayer, he’ll teach them more. Remember too, that you will be doing a study on prayer next time. Use that as an opportunity to input in this area.
4B. Review Study Together
1C. Questions about the Study
They should come having completed the Bible study. They’ve already learned how to meditate on Scripture from the Lessons on Assurance” so it is fine to ask them to do the study ahead of time. Do not, however, give them grief if they have not done it or are not finished yet. Bless them and encourage them. Then do the study together right there. Work through as much as you can. Leave the rest for the next meeting and encourage them to finish it on their own.
As you work through the passages together, questions will arise. First, you will be asking questions, but then other questions will develop as well. Generally these will come from obvious points of tension in the Bible itself as well as points of blessing and struggle (in light of the Bible’s teaching) in their own lives.
1D. Questions You Ask
The questions you should ask as you work your way through each passage are questions designed to surface his/her understanding of the text and topic. For example, “What do you think Paul means by ‘always’ in this passage?” “What does Paul mean when he says that we should pray ‘without ceasing’?” Keep the questions focused on the meaning of the passages you’re studying. Direct him into the Bible to get answers to questions. If he answers the questions off the top of his head, help him to go into the passage and its context to find the answers. Help him “hook-and-eye” things together in the Bible. Teach him to relate passages together properly. The purpose of these times together is to help your disciple “search the Scripture” and reason from them. This is a key life long skill that they must develop. NOTE: You are not as concerned with the answers as you are with the way he’s answering them.
2D. Questions Due to Points of Tension in the Bible
Often times the Bible will state something that appears confusing or difficult to understand. This is generally due to the fact that the Bible was completed around 2000 years ago, in a different culture, with different languages from our own and because our spiritual condition often renders us unable to comprehend the significance of what it said. These hurdles are by no means insurmountable, but undoubtedly your disciples will ask questions such as “What does that mean? or “What does that imply?” or “I don’t understand a word of what he’s talking about.” Be patient and try to answer the question from the text as well as other passages that you know in Scripture. If you simply don’t know the answer, then tell him/her: “I don’t know, but I’ll see if I can talk to our pastor (i.e., somebody who might know) to get an answer.” In the process of doing so you are teaching your disciple humility and how to go about getting an answer that he can then compare with Scripture (Acts 17:11). Do not dismiss the question simply because you don’t know the answer or don’t consider it important. All things being equal, if he asked the question, he’s probably interested in an answer. Your effectiveness as a disciplemaker will be severely limited if you do not consider his questions important enough to warrant a thought-through, sincere response.
3D. Questions Due to Points of Blessing and Struggle in Their Lives
During the study your disciple will ask many questions and some of them will reveal that he/she is really struggling with what the Bible appears to be teaching in a certain place. If they are struggling with something, and they have misinterpreted the passage in question, then just point out the error gently, and confirm the proper meaning of the passage. But, if they have really understood the passage well, and they’re struggling with it, you will need to do several things. First, confirm in their minds that they really have understood what the particular text is saying, and how it relates to the rest of the Bible’s teaching on the subject. Then empathize with their struggle and relate it somehow to God’s love for us as displayed in the cross. So no matter what the problem is, they realize that God’s love for them is secure. Then encourage them to put the issue on hold until they learn more. Remind them that great men and women of the faith have had their struggles and have continued to love God with all their heart. In most cases the issue will resolve itself in their minds as the Holy Spirit works in them. If you can, tell them how God has helped you when you’ve struggled with the Bible’s teaching on some issue.
2C. Synthesize and Summarize the Bible’s Teaching
At the end of your study of the topic, after you’ve asked your friend lots of questions about the various passages, it is time to help him with his summary of the Bible’s teaching on the topic. Help them to write a succinct statement on the topic and relate to other teachings from the Bible.
After you have synthesized the Bible’s teaching on the topic you will want to brainstorm on how to apply it to your lives. Keep the applications in line with the text, creative, personal, measurable, and attainable. If the application involves a major issue, such as moving, resigning from a job, etc. more study, prayer, reflection, and counsel should generally be sought. The applications should be thought of in terms of relationship with God, family, Christians in general, the world, and even in terms of the relationship we bear to Satan as our enemy. Humility is the foundation of all application of the Bible and love is the goal.
3C. Verse Memorization
You will want to help your disciple memorize verses from the Bible. They might want to memorize a verse or two that best captures the meaning of the Bible regarding the topic under consideration. Or, they may want to memorize a verse that most encourages them to practice what the Bible is teaching on the topic.
5B. Apply It Together (Accountability)
After you have brainstormed about possible applications for the week coming, take 10-15 minutes of your time and apply the Bible right then and there with your disciple. If the topic is worship, then worship together for 15 minutes. If it is prayer, then pray for 15 minutes together. If it is fasting or giving you may have to seek a later time to apply it together. But make sure you exemplify what the Bible is teaching.
6B. Pray Together and Confirm Next Meeting Time
At the end of the study pray together, blessing God for all he has taught you and blessing one another for the fellowship and encouragement. Briefly discuss the time to meet next week and then talk about any other informal times you want to get together, perhaps your family with his.
When you are alone after the meeting it is time to evaluate how your disciple is doing and to pray for them. There are several things to think about. First, is everything o.k. in their lives or are they in a crisis situation that needs immediate attention. In other words, what is the biggest problem in their life right now and what does God want you to do about it. You may discover that there’s nothing you can do about it, but you may also find significant ways to help. Be sensitive to where they’re at as people.
Second, how are they doing with the Bible study, understanding and applying. Are they developing in the virtues we outlined. If so, how? Where are they weak; where are they strong? Do they show signs of a maturing faith, greater longing and hope, and love for God and others. Are they growing in the moral virtues as well. And the intellectual virtues? All these assignments you will do with them are building as foundation for that kind of life: a life of Christlikeness. Keep praying for them each day, asking God to fill them with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding that they might honor him by fruitful living (Col 1:9-10).
IIA. A Study on the Bible
1B. Why Start with the Bible?
The reason that we do our first study on the Bible is because it opens our disciple’s heart to its importance and how to meditate and think through the Bible. Since all the other lessons involve work in the Bible, it is best to learn how to read, study, and meditate on it right up front.
2B. A Study on the Bible for New Disciples
1C. The Importance of the Bible
1D. Deuteronomy 32:47.
1E. Where were the Israelites? What were they getting ready to do?
2E. How does Moses refer to the Word of God in Deuteronomy 32:47? What does this mean? Is it similar to Jesus’ comments in Matthew 4:4? How?
3E. What does the term “life” mean in Deuteronomy 32:47? How does this relate to what Jesus said in John 6:63?
2D. Isaiah 66:2
1E. Who is the one God esteems or thinks highly of?
2E. What does it mean to tremble at His word?
2C. Nature of the Bible as God’s Word
1D. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
1E. How much of Scripture is God’s word? What do you think the expression “God breathed” means?
2E. Is there a sequence of thought in the following words: teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness? What then is the goal of Scripture then? How does v. 17 contribute further to this idea?
2D. 2 Peter 1:20-21
1E. Why is it so important to understand that men spoke from God and not from their thoughts only?
2E. What was the Spirit’s role in relation to the writing of scripture? How does that relate to Peter’s experience of Christ and the Transfiguration in Matthew 17?
3D. 1 Corinthians 2:13-14
1E. How does Paul express the idea of being “carried along” by the Holy Spirit?
2E. What does Paul say about the man without the Spirit of God in him? What does he mean by “receive” or better “welcome”? How does this help you understand your non-Christian friends?
3E. Why would unbelievers consider God’s truth foolishness (see Romans 8:7)?
3C. The Bible and Growth in the Christian Life
1D. Deuteronomy 29:29.
1E. What are the secret things that Moses speaks of?
2E. Who do the things revealed belong to? Why does God reveal his thoughts to his people? How does this affect them, their family, their kids’ families, and so on?
2D. John 17:17
1E. What does it mean to be “sanctified”?
2E. What is the relationship between truth and sanctification? What does Jesus say is the “truth”?
3D. James 1:21-25
1E. Sanctification begins with salvation. How is the “word” (i.e., the preaching of the cross) related to salvation?
2E. What happens if we listen to the word but do not do what it says? How could this happen? Give an example.
3E. How is the Bible like a mirror? Explain James’ analogy. What does James mean by “blessing” and under what circumstances does God give it?
4D. What do the following passages teach you about the Bible?
1E. Matthew 24:35
2E. Hebrews 4:12
3E. 2 Peter 1:3-4
4E. Jeremiah 15:16; 23:29
5E. Matthew 4:4
5D. Colossians 3:16
1E. What does it mean to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly?
2E. How is the “word dwelling in us richly” related to the rest of the verse?
4C. Three Good Examples of Bible Oriented Lives
1D. The Example of Joshua (Joshua 1:8)
1E. What two things were Joshua commanded to do?
2E. What does it mean to meditate?
3E. How often was he to meditate on the Book of the Law?
4E. Why was he to meditate on the Book of the Law?
5E. What did God promise him if he obeyed the Book of the Law?
2D. The Example of Ezra (Ezra 7:10)
1E. What does it mean to “set your heart” on something?
2E. What three things was going to do?
3E. What is the significance of the order of the three things?
3D. The Example of the Bereans (Acts 17:11)
1E. How were the Bereans referred to by Luke? Why?
2E. How can they be an example to us in terms of the Bible and listening to preaching and teaching?
5C. The Centrality of Christ in Scripture—John 5:39
1D. What is the context of Jesus’ comment?
2D. What did he say about the Scriptures?
3D. How does this help you in understanding Scripture?
Take a few minutes and summarize the Bible’s teaching on itself, it’s importance, and its relationship to spiritual growth. How do the Biblical examples of Joshua, Ezra, and the Bereans illuminate the Bible’s own teaching about itself, its importance, and its relationship to growth and God’s work? Write a summary statement for all of this. Try and relate this to what you’ve learned about the work of the Spirit and the goal of our election, i.e., holiness and usefulness to the Lord.
3B. Memorize A Passage
You will want to encourage the person you’re discipling to memorize a passage of Scripture at this point. He/she can do it by writing it out on a 3” x 5” card or simply underlining it in his Bible. The following is a list of verses that you can use throughout this follow-up plan.
1) The Bible: 2 Timothy 3:16-17
2) Prayer: 1 John 5:14-15
3) Worship: Revelation 4:11
4) The Quiet Time: Mark 1:35
5) Serving: Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 4:10
6) Fellowship: Hebrews 10:24-25
7) Evangelism: Matthew 4:19
8) Giving: 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
9) Fasting: Matthew 6:17-18
4B. Meditation on Scripture
The key to all good Bible study is sweat. Spend time asking the text questions and seeking answers. But in the end, spend much time in prayerful meditation, filling your mind with the text and allowing the Spirit to guide, convict, mold, and encourage you with it (Rom 15:4). Some keys to meditation are: (1) memorize the passage so that you can work through it in your mind’s eye; (2) run through the passage many times in your mind, emphasizing different words each time; (3) always be asking how this particular passage relates to other Scripture and your life.
The application from this lesson is to ask God to deepen your love for Him and His Word, and to spend fifteen minutes in meditation on the text you memorized. Do this together and then spend a few minutes sharing what you’ve found. Always let him/her share what they’ve found and don’t criticize their interpretations at this point. It is enough that they’re in the Bible and that’s what you want to celebrate together. If they ask for help, certainly give it, but do it in such a way that majors on what they did see that was right!
The larger and life-long application will be to set a specific time each week for Bible study, meditation, and reflection. This can be any length of time, but it is difficult to get anything accomplished in less than 1 ½ hours. You be the judge of what you need in order to accomplish your goals in this area. But it must be personal, measurable, and attainable. Help the new Christian to begin to learn to set this time apart for the discipline of study and reflection. Do it with him/her for the first few weeks or months so that they can see what you do. It is during this time that you can pass on more about Bible study, interpretation, meditation, and reflection.
When changes come into our lives, like job changes, moves from one city to another, or new children “hit the scene,” this can really throw us off. There is no need to feel unhealthy guilt. Jesus is Lord over our circumstances. Just think through what this “study time” might look like now and when it can happen in light of the new circumstances. Sometimes new mothers have to get up several times each night to the point where they’re simply too tired for a number of months to spend much time thinking about the Bible or anything else for that matter. The verses they have memorized will be a great source of encouragement and strength during such prolonged periods of fatigue. When things begin to change, however, a person should seek to reestablish the life-long “habit of holiness” of study and reflection.
6B. Progressing into Deeper Studies
When a person has gone through all these question and answer Bible studies there are more skills to develop. But this is a good place to get them started digging into Scripture. For more information on how to study the Bible, please see the article on our website entitled “How to Study the Bible: For Beginners—Stage One and Two” (http://www.bible.org/docs/splife/study/toc.htm ). Again, no matter how much a person knows the Bible, in order for that knowledge to be of any practical and conscious use to them, they must meditate on it and give it a chance to hook-and-eye together with their life. Always emphasize meditation. (See our website for the Scripture memory program there as well.)