Why Bible Studies?

by Nov 11, 2021Bible Study Offer

Methods of evangelism have always been a hot topic among Christians. As culture changes, innovative new methods of church growth are on high demand. In the quest for “all things new” in evangelism, the mention of giving more Bible studies hardly gets anyone excited. Why should we be excited about the church growth potential of simple, old, tried-and-true Bible studies? To answer this question, we must first review how evangelism works. 

The Evangelism Process

Jesus used the growth process of a plant or tree to describe the process of winning souls to Christ and growing the kingdom of God. He spoke of sowing seed and of laboring for the harvest (see Matthew 13:3-23 and Luke 10:2). He used illustrations of a mustard seed that starts small and grows into a large tree, and a fig tree that needs to be fertilized in order to bear fruit (see Matthew 13:31-32 and Luke 13:6-9). The apostle Paul picked up on these teachings of Jesus, explaining that those who sow bountifully will reap bountifully (see 2 Corinthians 9:6), and that while we are called to plant and water, only God can cause something to grow (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

These consistent illustrations from nature’s growth process should impress us with the realization that there are no short cuts in evangelism. Soul-winning is a process, not an event. The soil of the heart must be prepared with friendship and service. The seed of the Word must be planted to test the soil. Spiritual interest must be cultivatedwith ongoing Bible study. Decisions to follow Christ and the truths of the Bible must be harvested, and the harvest must be preserved with ongoing discipleship of new members. All of this may seem straightforward and simple, but it is frequently forgotten when evaluating methods of church growth. 

We often hear that new and different methods are needed to reach the current generation. Creative ideas that assure better than average results are presented, all while drawing attention and funding from church leaders who are more than ready to reward “innovation” in evangelism. But the question we should be asking those with new methods of evangelism is this: “What phase of evangelism?” Is the new method intended to prepare the soil of the heart, or is it a new method of planting the Word? Is it a new method of cultivating spiritual growth or of harvesting decisions to follow the truth? Or is it a method of preserving new members? We need to understand which phase of the evangelism process the new method proposes to accomplish, because it rarely if ever will accomplish them all!

The Indispensable Method

Most new methods of evangelism focus on the first one or two phases of the evangelism process. This is important to understand, because new methods of preparing the soil will never replace the need for cultivating and harvesting with Bible studies. Even so, many churches today hardly mention the need for members to give Bible studies, and they stopped holding full-scale evangelistic meetings long ago. Their evangelism focus has shifted almost entirely to random acts of kindness, community service projects, family-friendly social events to establish belonging and community, or perhaps weekend lectures covering contemporary topics. Is there anything wrong with any of these ministries? Absolutely not! The truth is, we need these and a thousand more like them. The problem is not with these methods, but with the idea that they can ever grow a church without Bible studies or evangelistic meetings. Not only do new methods of preparing the soil or planting seeds not replace the need for Bible studies, they actually increase that need by finding and developing more people who are open to hear the truth!

The reality is, Bible studies are timeless and indispensable, and they will always be at the heart of Seventh-day Adventist evangelism. Someone may become a member of the church without ever being the recipient of a random act of kindness or felt-need ministry; or without ever attending a health event, church social, or Vacation Bible School. But no one becomes a Seventh-day Adventist without Bible studies. They may be personal Bible studies or small group Bible studies. They may be in the form of a one-month evangelistic series, or last a year or more. They may be video Bible studies, online Bible studies, or correspondence Bible studies. But one way or another, every Seventh-day Adventist goes through Bible studies before baptism. Here is where the truth grips the heart and decisions are made to believe and practice in harmony with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

The Message Matters

It must always be remembered that soul-winning power does not lie in us, but in the Spirit of God working through the message entrusted to us. Building friendships, gaining trust, and being compassionate will always be vitally important; yet the ultimate goal is not merely for people to trust us, or to love us, or even to be blessed by us. In the end, we want them to behold Christ, hear and accept the message of the gospel, and be gripped by the truth of His Word. Only Jesus, through God’s Word, can convert hearts. They must be “born again … through the Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23), and sanctified through repentance, faith, and obedience to the truth.

It is often asserted that “actions speak louder than words,” and when dealing only with humanity, this is true. Yet we should always remember that our actions donot speak louder than God’s words. Herein lies the real reason that Bible studies will always be at the heart of Seventh-day Adventist evangelism. Because the only thing powerful enough to persuade someone to become and to remain a Seventh-day Adventist Christian—to follow a path that is contrary to culture, contrary to mainstream Christianity, contrary to ease and convenience, and often contrary to friends and family, is the overwhelmingly clear and compelling power of the message itself, revealed in the Bible and written on our hearts by the Spirit of God. 

Take a moment to consider how the truths of Scripture have changed your own life. Then, ask God to begin preparing you to share those same soul-saving truths with others.

Pr. Jim Howard is the Associate Director of the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

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