Part 1 of this series began by relating the background of how most members are brought into fellowship with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is through Bible studies. It also gave the definition of a Bible study: the systematic search for the meaning of a given theological issue. The article then went on to explain the four purposes of the Adventist Bible study philosophy and the wonderful fulfillment one experiences when students choose to accept Christ as their personal Savior and are baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll review the 15 pre-study steps to be taken by the instructor before arriving at the study location and what to do before opening the Bible for the first time with the students in their homes.
The following methodology is based on established procedures
used successfully for decades in societies of general
Christian background (the United States, Latin America,
the Philippines, Australia, Canada, and parts of Europe) and
in some non-Christian countries (India, Africa, China, other
parts of Asia, and even Russia). The general methodology
has already been shown to be successful by thousands
of pastors, local church leaders, and laymembers. After a
few studies using the following procedures, you—the elder,
deacon, deaconess, or lay worker—will become an expert
in soul-winning. As your skills deepen and your successes
grow, the desire to make every effort to bring Christ to each
new contact (and to look for new contacts) will become a burning passion, and, through you, God will continually
increase His kingdom. The subsequent points are directly
related to Bible study procedures; a careful study and occasional
review of them will increase your skill in sharing Bible
studies with your students.
BIBLE STUDY METHODOLOGY: SETTING THE STAGE
1. Before giving the study in your home or office, review
the particular study that you are going to give that day.
Pray, asking the Holy Spirit to be present and for God to lead
you in your delivery and enlighten the minds of the person
or group with whom you will be studying. It is true that God
can speak through a donkey if necessary (as in the case of
Balaam) and that God’s grace will cover all the mistakes you
are surely going to make. However, God will not give His
blessing on a bad preparation.
2. It is important that you have a complete theological
understanding of each study you will be giving. Your understanding
should be in harmony with the Church’s official
position; otherwise, if your students learn later that your position
is at variance with the Church’s or pastor’s position,
they will be confused, which may lead to a falling away of
their personal commitment or previous spiritual and doctrinal
development. If you feel you don’t have enough understanding,
contact your pastor or refer to the book Seventh-day
3. The studies should be progressive, that is, from the easiest to the more difficult ones. And certain studies should be given before others, so that successive lessons may be more easily understood, such as the Law of God before the Sabbath.
4. During your review, read the texts before and after the verses in the study you will be giving. Sometimes the context verses don’t seem relevant to the particular verse you will be using, and since sometimes the people you will be studying with will read these verses and ask questions about them, you need to be prepared to deal with them properly. It could be embarrassing (or worse, you could lose credibility) if you can’t give a good explanation.
5. Always look for the good news in every teaching. Find the link between it and Jesus, the loving Savior.
6. During the review, if you are timid, pretend to be actually studying with the students, as in a mock study. You can go through the study with them audibly, asking the questions out loud and making your comments the same way. Hearing your own voice will strengthen your self confidence. Remember that you are not alone: Jesus is with you.
7. While you are doing the personal review/mock study, try to anticipate possible rebuttals and objections that may be raised by your students so that you can prepare satisfactory answers. Make notes in your Bible or in the proper place where you can quickly access them.
8. Arrive at the study on time. Be prompt, even if the culture isn’t a precise one. Arriving late may be an excuse for any of the students you will be studying with to absent themselves from the study the next time.
9. After arriving, greet everyone cordially, but don’t spend a lot of time chatting. Dive straight into the study. Learn some key sentences to move from small talk to the essential reason why you have come.
10. If you know your students are not acquainted with
the Scriptures, explain some basic things about the Bible.
For example, you might explain that the Old Testament has
39 books and was written between 1600–400 BC, while the
New Testament has 27 books that were written between 35–
100 AD. Show the student where the two are divided, how
they are separated into chapters and verses, and where the
index is. Explain that the Old Testament was originally written
in Hebrew and the New Testament in Koine Greek, which
was the vernacular of that time and not the same Greek that
is used in Greece today.
Explain that the Old Testament is a history of God’s people
(mainly the Jews). They were first called the Children
of Israel, the name God later gave to Jacob, the father of
the 12 tribes of Israel that later became the Hebrews. The
Old Testament is categorized into five sections: Pentateuch
(the five books written by Moses), Historical Books, Poetic
Books, books of the Major Prophets, and books of the Minor
Prophets. The New Testament was written by Jesus’ disciples
Next, explain that the New Testament tells about Christ’s
life on this earth, the early works of the apostles, the beginning
of Christianity, and the theological writings of various
apostles. The 27 books are divided into the Four Gospels,
the Historical Book of Acts, the General Epistles, the Pastoral
Epistles, and the Prophetic Book of Revelation. There are no
original manuscripts (autographs, as they are called) existing
today. There are only copies.
Explain to your students that, in ancient times, there
were scribes who dedicated their lives to copying the Old
and New Testament books, which they did very carefully in
order to avoid errors. Religious documents were written by
the scribes without commas, periods, semicolons, verses,
sentences, or paragraphs. There were no separations between
words, and people were used to reading that way.
After copying a document, the scribe would find the middle
letter and word and check those against the original. If they
didn’t match, the scribe rechecked the manuscript until the
error was found.
Then, in 1227, Archbishop Stephen Langton broke the
text of all the books of the New Testament into chapters; later,
in 1550, Robert Stephanus printed a final edition into the
Greek language that was the first to have word separations,
sentences, and verses in it, a feature Stephanus invented to
help the reader more easily understand the meaning.
11. If the television or radio is on, ask as diplomatically as possible for it to be turned off. If the hosts have prepared a lot of food, eat it, but make it clear that you do not wish to eat every time you visit them. In some cultural settings, this remark might be a relief for the hosts.
12. Be sure not to offend people. Even if your host insists you should not take off your shoes, always take them off anyway, if that is part of the culture.
13. Invite the family or person to sit at the table or to be seated in a formal setting. This makes the study more serious. Sitting in the living room on the couch and in comfortable chairs changes the dynamics of the environment and often leads to a casualness which isn’t conducive to serious study. Be sure to have enough light so everyone can see and read well.
14. Either before or after the study, suggest that the meeting be done alternatively in the students’ homes and in your house. Asking people to visit you is a good way to avoid the perception of a giver-receiver relationship.
15. Have prayer if it won’t offend them, asking God to
enlighten the study. Make the prayer short. Don’t ask anyone
else to pray. Later on, you may do so when you are able to
discern the students’ spiritual status and willingness to pray.
Don’t sing a religious song (or a secular one) unless someone
suggests it and you are absolutely sure it won’t offend
Lamar Phillips is a retired minister and church administrator who
served for 39 years in six world divisions.