Ch 6: Workers Together with God
34Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39"We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.
How does one get Christians to work together toward God's appointed goals? This is a big question, but one very natural way to see this happen is to foster the idea of home Bible classes as they can be used to reach the community with the gospel of Christ.
The Church in the World
Some time ago there appeared in Decision magazine an article by Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary which beautifully describes the ministry of home Bible studies. It goes like this:
I well remember my introduction to the home Bible class move-ment. A church leader invited me to take her class while she was out of the city. I arrived at the house, opened the front door and found the living room filled with smoke.
"Oh, I'm awfully sorry. I have the wrong house," I said.
"No, you're Mr. Hendricks, aren't you?" they said. "We're waiting for the Bible study. Come on in."
A female dreadnought was sitting on the divan, taking a drag, and I still recall the Scofield Reference Bible, no less, as she blew the smoke across its pages and said, "Whooo! What do you think Paul means by this?" I said to myself, "Friend, you can't come to know Christ in here."
I was never more wrong. I thought this lady's problem was her smoke, but that wasn't her problem at all. It was her soul. And most of us can't get beyond the smoke to the soul.
There is a marked difference between the church of A.D. 74 and the church of A.D. 1974. The New Testament church was primarily called to be a school, a training ground, a place for the equipment of saints to do the work of the ministry. These saints were then to go out and penetrate the society in which they found themselves and to confront men and women with the Gospel of the Grace of God.
Today we reverse those arrows. Instead of going out, we have constituted the church as a soul-saving station, and if an individual is going to come to know Christ, he must come to the church, where a professional will present the Gospel to him. In effect we put a sign up on the church that says, "Here we are, you lucky sinners. Welcome!" And they stay away in droves.
Week after week the minister either preaches to a wilderness of wood or evangelizes the evangelized.
The times demand the New Testament approach, with laymen engaging in significant witness.
I love to share this story for two reasons. It records the confession of a seminary professor admitting he was wrong, which is very refreshing. But even more important, it exposes a prevalent attitude we Christians often show toward the non-Christian world. We can be such a smug, stuffy bunch, drawing up our Pharisaical skirts tight around us for fear of contamination. A home Bible class ministry can really set us right about great vehicle for evangelism, and illustrate in living lessons the ministry of the saints and the role of pastors.
The problem Howard Hendricks describes is not new; the Lord has always had to move his people through this "contamination" barrier. It's recorded early in the history of the church in Acts 10. Do you recall the story? I call it "The Tale of Two Hungry People." Here's a recap of the action in updated form.
Two Hungry People: The Italian and the Kosher Jew
There was this Italian army lieutenant who, in spite of his pagan background, knew how to pray-and even to share his pay with God's people. So God, responding to his hungry heart, made some rather elaborate arrangements to bring him to a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
God sent him a messenger with instructions for him to seek a man called Peter who was staying by the seashore in Joppa. Cornelius obeyed immediately and sent his men to bring Peter to Caesarea.
Meanwhile, back at the seashore, Peter (the other hungry man) was waiting on the balcony for dinner to be prepared when God gave him a vision. (Whether Peter was asleep or conscious is hard to say.)
It was a very strange vision, especially to Peter, for he saw a sort of sheet come down out of heaven filled with all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds. A voice said to him, "Rise, Peter, kill and eat." But this kosher Jew replied, "No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." The voice again, "What God has cleansed, you must not call common." And three times this dialogue was repeated.
About this time Peter must have wondered what he ate for lunch that would give him such a nightmare. But right then Cornelius' men arrived from Caesarea and asked for Peter. If it had not been for the prompting of the Holy Spirit coinciding with the arrival of these men, Peter probably would have reached for the Alka-Seltzer and forgotten the whole thing.
But instead he asked, "Why are you here and what do you want?"
They explained their mission and invited Peter to go to the home of Cornelius to share his message with them. Peter invited them to stay the night and the next day they headed for Caesarea with Peter and some of his Christian friends.
A New Testament Home Bible Class
When they arrived at the house of Cornelius, what a sight greeted them! Cornelius had invited all his friends and relatives, and Peter found himself in a house full of people.
At first Cornelius, in his understandable pagan ignorance, tried to worship Peter, but Peter said, "Stand up, I'm just a man like you. And I'm sure you realize we Jews aren't supposed to fraternize with you pagans, but God showed me I'm not to consider you 'unclean' as I have all my life. Now, what do you want of me?"
A perfect introduction
So Cornelius told the story of his heavenly visitor and introduced Peter to his assembled guests with these words. "Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all you have been commanded by the Lord."
What a great introduction! We realize you are God's man with his message . . . now give it to us!
The next phrase is interesting: "And Peter opened his mouth..."
I should think so! Wouldn't you?
Good News---even for Italians!
Peter, the reluctant apostle, was finally turned loose with enough liberty to declare the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Here are a few snatches from his message. Read the rest for yourself in Acts 10:34 to 44:
"I see that God shows no partiality."
"You know the word---good news of peace by Jesus Christ."
"He is Lord of all!"
"They put him to death."
"But God raised him up and made him manifest."
"He is the one ordained by God to be the judge of the living and the dead."
"Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
That's about as straightforward a gospel presentation as you can get!
And, "While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word." He never finished the message! While Peter spoke they believed the Good News and entered into life!
I know lots of pastors and teachers who would love to have their messages end this way. No need for an invitation or ten verses of "Just As I AM---just the ready response of hearts open to the Good News!
Here is a prime class. Note the ingredients:
- A teacher---Peter
- A host---Cornelius
- A home opened to friend and relations through a hospitable sharing heart
- The gospel presented
- Some prepared people with open hearts
- A clear response of faith
But what are some of the deeper implications of this story? And what can we learn from it for our own use twenty centuries later?
Look at Peter for a moment. He was not about to be moved from his "kosher" views. Those Gentiles were unclean! Did you notice the threefold repetition of the dialogue between Peter and the Lord? It must have gotten a little heavy the third time around the same sound track.
And how about Peter's classic "foot in mouth" statement: "No, Lord!" These words lust won't go together. We can say "No" and we can say "Lord," but not "No, Lord." If he is truly Lord there's no way we can tell him no.
It's clear that Peter was thinking more of his empty stomach than about some heart-hungry Italian.
How about that Italian? Here's a different story. Note:
- He was immediately responsive.
- He didn't delay or demur.
- He was eager to share God's message even before he heard it.
- He even invited his relatives! (Pretty good for a pagan Roman. Some of us don't do that well as Christians.)
- He gave the perfect introduction for a speaker: tell us what you've heard from God.
- He heard the gospel and believed the first time he understood about Jesus Christ in his saving work.
Behind the scenes
- His story is really great. But what really put it all together? Did you notice?
- It was God at work behind the scenes who really accomplished the results!
- It was he who sent the two visions.
- It was he who persuaded the reluctant apostle.
- It was he who moved the heart of this pagan Roman to invite his friends.
- It was he who sent the Holy Spirit upon them as they believed.
What can we learn, to apply to our twentieth century scene? Perhaps this:
- God can use a home as a beachhead for evangelism.
- There are hungry hearts around.
- We do need to shed our false views of Christian separationism.
- Worldlings are not unclean! They are ones for whom Christ died.
- We must stop saying "No, Lord" and begin to move out to them.
- We can go as "just a man" among men---without formal theological training or ecclesiastical sanction.
- We must tell the Good News about Jesus Christ, Lord of all!
- We can expect some to respond by trusting him and acknowledging his Lordship.
But perhaps most important of all:
- God is at work behind the scenes to set up the action.
But, too often, we Christians are slow to respond.
Is it possible that, as in this story, there are people out there in the world more ready to respond than we are to go and tell them the gospel?
I well remember one dear lady who discovered the joy of knowing Christ the very first time she heard the gospel presented in a home Bible study. God is still at work preparing hearts and seeking those who would worship Him!
But before we leave the biblical scene for modern examples of the same kind of action, look with me at a couple more New Testament examples of a home Bible class ministry.
I always have to chuckle a bit to myself when I look at the example of Paul in Acts l8:5-8. Here we see the gospel message being rejected by the Jews in the synagogue, so Paul simply moved next door to the home of Titius Justus. And what happened there? Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, became a Christian!
I like God's sense of humor. In effect he says, "You think you can thwart my program by rejecting my truth in your ecclesiastical
Setting? No problem--I'll just move next door." So a simple home setting becomes the place where Christ can "settle down and be at home" in believing hearts---even the heart of a Jewish religious leader!
Even earlier in the New Testament record we see the Lord Jesus in some of the same kind of action. In Mark 2:14 we see Jesus calling Levi, a publican (later called Matthew), to follow him. And the next verse records: "...as they sat at table in his [Levi's] house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus..."(Mark 2:15)
Here's a home Bible class scene with Jesus as the teacher! And what a likely bunch of candidates for salvation---tax collectors and Sinners. It seems that Jesus sought out publicans quite often, for We see him calling Zacchaeus, "Come down out of that tree; I'm planning to stay with you" (Luke 19:1-7).
It Really Works!
Could we gather from this that perhaps the Lord would like to use our homes as a beachhead for evangelism, through a simple Bible Study approach?" I've seen it work so beautifully that examples come flooding into my mind. I'd love to share some with you.
There's the first home study I ever taught, more by accident than intent, but clearly by God's appointment. It began with a phone call from a friend who had recently become a Christian. He said, "Say, Bob, I have just begun to realize that I really don't know much about the Bible, and now that I'm a Christian I need to study it. Would you be able to come to our house and help us study the Scriptures?" Now, how can you say no to a request like that?
So we began, just the two families, to meet each week to study tile Bible. The ensuing action, as I review it, was rather remark-able, and I can only explain it by the fact that God was at work behind the scenes in all of it. For just a few weeks later we counted thirty-two people in that living room scene. We didn't realize it, but we were in business.
The first response
The first one to receive Christ in that study was a young man of Roman Catholic background who, out of the blue, went down to a stationery store and bought birth announcement cards to send to those of us who had been praying for him and sharing the gospel with him. I still have the card. I kept it because I was so impressed by the clear response to God's Word that it portrayed. It reads like this:
NAME: John Paul
WEIGHT: Considerably less
PARENTS: Our Father and His Son Jesus Christ
This, all without human pressure, but with human cooperation in the program of God to reach hungry hearts with his truth. This first one to acknowledge Christ in the home study was a good friend of the host, and the first one he had invited to the study.
The next thing we knew, this new Christian (whom we'll call John) showed up with nine people. Like Cornelius, he had invited his friends and relatives.
We learned later that John, a few days before he came to the Bible study, had piled all his guns into his car after an argument with his wife and roared off down the freeway at ninety miles per hour. He told us that any cop who had stopped him would have faced the muzzle of a loaded 38 caliber revolver.
Shortly after he became a Christian, John said one day to his wife, "Dear, have you ever asked Christ into your life?" She replied, "Why no, as a matter of fact I haven't." He said, "Why don't you?" So she did!
Not long after that this young woman, with typical tenderness and sensitivity, asked me, "Would you teach a class for just my family? They're very shy folks, and I don't think they would come to a public study." At the time I was already teaching several times a week, in addition to a full-time engineering job, so I said, "No, I'm sorry, but I just can't do it right now." She was obviously disappointed, but didn't stop hoping and praying. A few weeks later I had to tell her, "Let's start the class. The Lord won't let me say no any longer."
And on---and on
We began a study of Romans from Phillips's "Letters to Young Churches" in their home, and the first night the hostess's aunt received Christ. A few weeks later when this woman's husband became a Christian, there began a flow of productive action that extended for the next several years.
The first year we had a class in this couple's home, they personally invited one hundred of their friends . . . and seventy of them came! Of that number at least fifteen or twenty (perhaps more) became Christians. It got so exciting and productive that we wondered what was wrong if someone didn't find the Lord each week.
Some Typical Action
We observed some remarkable responses in this home Bible study scene:
There was Emma, who was uninstructed but so concerned to get at the truth that she asked every question that popped into her head. She didn't care if it sounded dumb, she asked it any-way. And what an asset she was, for the very questions she phrased were in the minds of many others in the class who were too timid to ask them. Emma visibly changed (even in ap-pearance) from week to week, as we confronted God's truth together-and it wasn't long before she was a Christian. She said one night, "I sure wish my husband could enjoy what I now know about the Lord, but he'll never get close enough to find out." Not more than a couple of months later he, too, was in Christ. He made the mistake of getting too close. He stopped to pick up his wife one night and responded to the host's gracious invitation to have a cup of coffee!
Mormons make good Christians
Then there was Rose, a lovely young woman of Mormon back-ground, even related to some branch of the Brigham Young family. She found the joy and liberty of knowing Christ, and as a young Christian a few months old in the faith stood up against the local Mormon bishop with the testimony of a new life in Christ, standing on the Word of God. She confuted his attack so well that he got mad and said, "Stop quoting the Bible to me. That's a dead book"' She was ultimately accorded the honor of suffering for Christ's sake by being excommunicated from the Mormon church. All this she experienced as a young believer---and facing the hurt of not being understood by family and friends.
Another young Mormon woman sat in the Bible study until the sixth chapter of Romans, and suddenly burst into tears as I was teaching. I well remember the look I got from my wife as if to say, "What did you say to hurt this dear girl?" I wondered, too, because I find it easy to have "hoof-in-mouth" disease, and I thought perhaps I had offended her. My wife followed her out as she left the room and discovered the facts: she hadn't been offended at all, but as the Scripture unfolded to her understanding she suddenly realized that all the terrible burden laid on her by the legalistic Mormon system was totally unnecessary. She found through Romans 6 that Christ had borne all her sin and guilt and had set her free from slavery! Her tears were tears of joy, and really represented her confession of faith in Jesus Christ. She became, along with others I have mentioned, one of the most delightful open-hearted Christians I know.
You say, "You've told mostly about women. Do any men find the Lord in this home study scene?"
I'll say they do. One of the classic examples was a 240-pound ex-football-player man-about-town. He showed up at a Bible study at the invitation of a salesman friend. One of those extroverts who take charge in every situation, he went around greeting every-body as if he were the host instead of a recent arrival. Everyone knew he was around.
He sat down right under my nose and listened attentively as we studied Romans. (You've understood by now that we have found Romans to be a good landing place from which to expound the gospel.) As I recall, he made no comment the first week he came. And I said to myself, "We'll never see him back in this scene; he's too sophisticated and worldly to look for a second treatment with this material. But how wrong I was! He came the next week, made himself right at home, and asked the two best questions I've ever heard from a non-Christian.
I was reviewing the first several chapters of Romans, and in the process I used the word "sin" a number of times. (It's hard to avoid that word in Romans.) "Whaddya mean sin'? What's that?" He wasn't challenging the concept, he only wanted it defined. So I replied with several biblical definitions like: "To him that knows to do good and does it not-that is sin" (James 4:17) And, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). (I wanted to be sure he had room to include himself in the target area.) With that he said, "Okay," and settled back to listen again.
A bit later I used the word justified (another word that's hard to avoid in Romans) and again he said, "Hey, hold it---whaddya mean 'justified'?"
This time I answered with a dictionary definition: "Webster says to be justified is to be declared blameless of sin on the grounds of Christ's righteousness, imputed by faith."
At that he got a bit wide-eyed and then seemed visibly to relax. We went on with the study, and when it concluded I thought, "I'd better move in on this guy tonight, for I don't expect him to show up a third time." (You're so right: I should have learned the first time not to sell God short-and I can still hear the Lord saying, "Oh, you of little faith.") Anyway, I sat down next to him and after an exchange of small talk I said, "Dave, do you know that my wife has been praying for you for over two years?" (We had met Dave about two years before he showed up at the Bible class, and my wife, Pearl, had been so struck by his fouled-up language that she began to pray that he might come to know the One whose name he tossed around so carelessly. To my shame, I had really not thought about him more than a few times in those two years.)
Dave's eyes misted up to the point of overflowing, and he re-plied, "Well, you can tell her that now she can stop."
This was his confession of faith in Christ-to say, in other words, "Her prayers have been answered." "Why don't you tell her?" I suggested. And he said, "I will."
He proceeded to seek Pearl out where she was serving coffee in the kitchen, clamped her in a great, big bear hug and gave her a resounding kiss. Pearl retreated in confusion, not knowing what it was all about until he explained, "I just want to say thanks---for caring and praying."
It turned out that Dave had visited church after church, had blown a small fortune "living it up" to try to find satisfaction, but apparently had to come to a simple little home Bible class to find out how to be justified by faith. I became "Old Dad" to him, and he often greeted me by planting a big kiss on my bald forehead---all to express his appreciation for one who would share the Good News of the gospel with a seemingly unreachable, sophisticated man-about-town.
Think this kind of action is worthwhile?
A nuclear physicist
A quite different situation was the case of a Stanford nuclear physicist. While working on the linear accelerator on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, Dr. John McIntyre somehow showed up at a home class I taught occasionally as part of the teaching team. He was a liberal education for me! Asking every question you could think of and some you wouldn't, he gave the typical scientific approach to the Bible and the Christian message. Usually you can expect the same ten to twenty questions from non-Christians, but John gave it a much more intensive and intelligent look than most. Every time we'd meet he would have another tough one, so much so that I began to duck around corners to avoid him (not really, but I began to feel like it). But he was never argumentative-always investigative. So, often I would say, "Jack, I don't know the answer to that one, but let's both check it out and compare notes next week." Invariably we would come up with explanations for the seeming discrepancy or problem which he would accept as satisfactory, and we would go on to the next question. Over a period of many months his investigation continued, until one day he was able to say, "My mind is satisfied that the Bible is reliable and trustworthy, not full of contradictions and errors as I'd been told." And yet he was still not a Christian. So he took one further step. He reasoned, "Having gone this far, if I'm being honest, I must respond to the demands the Bible makes on my will-not just my intellect."
About then he discovered the words of the Lord Jesus, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me" (Rev. 3:20).
Here's a place I can check it out. "Lord, I'm opening the door. Now you prove to me that you've come in!" This was the Scientist stepping out of his detached role as objective observer and putting himself in the experiment! And though his proposition may sound a bit presumptuous to some of us, I'm sure the Lord didn't mind a bit! All he really needs is a chance to prove his availability and confirm his presence in the life, and this is what John McIntyre proposed.* You know the outcome. Today this nuclear scientist is a committed Christian, enjoying his life in Christ.
* Dr. John McIntyre's testimony has been printed in His magazine as "A Physicist Believes." He has also written articles for Christianity Today. He was president of the American Scientific Affiliation in 1973.
All kinds of action
The life-changing ministry of the Lord at work in home Bible classes has reached all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. There have been housewives, physicists, salesmen, teachers, milkmen, firemen, Christian Scientists, Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Episcopalians, plain American pagans, Humanists, liberals---you name it---from Ph.D's to beer bums, who have found joy of salvation in Jesus Christ through a simple home study of the Word of God.
If an Italian soldier (Cornelius) can make it in this scene, how about the rest of us?
How does all this fit into the church scene? Here's how: a pastor and his people can team up together like Peter and Cornelius did, only more so. The pastor can teach-not only teach the Scriptures in a home class, but also teach his people how to teach a home class. Remember? "Equipping the saints for a work of ministry" is the name of the game for pastors. The home of a Christian couple can provide the setting for the most exciting ministry you could ever imagine. The brief on "Friendship Evangelism Through Home Bible Classes" in Appendix I gives some guidelines.
The pastor's part
I remember a choice young doctor who teamed up with me on a home class. We would meet every Friday at 5:00 A.M. to review the class and discuss where we had won and where we had "missed it." He confided in me that on Mondays before the class he felt like selling the whole thing for a plug nickel and that it scared him more than taking his oral exams for his medical license. But on Tuesday after the class he wouldn't take a million for it. And the first one to find Christ in his class was a dear little Japanese girl who soon began sending a weekly air-letter exposition of Romans in Japanese script to her family in Tokyo!
Ready to try it?
We have seen all kinds of evangelistic Bible classes: small and large, in homes and industry, in America and Guatemala, informal and not-so-informal, in the super-sophisticated culture of California and in the Oriental scene of inscrutable exteriors and face-saving. The opportunities abound for this ministry, for the human heart is the same everywhere-and the need for Jesus as Lord is all-pervasive.
In our local scene we have had home classes as large as 300, if you're impressed by size. I can remember a class in the Atherton home of one of our elders where we counted 191 people. But a little circle of 15 or 20 in someone's living room is far better, in my estimation. But we don't quibble about numbers. We just minister to those whom God sends.
We have had classes in the business world, in such industrial complexes as Lockheed Missile & Space, Litton Industries, General Electric, and Pacific Telephone. One summer, using Moody Sermons From Science films in both home and industrial settings, together with testimony and commentary by scientific-minded Christian men, we figured out we reached about seven thousand men and women with the message of God's grace in just ten weeks. One of our men in the telephone company has teamed up with other Christians in the company to make studies available and get them announced in the company paper. This action has even spread from the San Francisco office to the Fresno area. See their study format in Appendix J. It's a good one.
The program was so well received at Lockheed that each week it moved to larger rooms until Lockheed began to have trouble getting the use of its own conference rooms. We may have set back the program for outer space in favor of God's plans for inner Space.
Then, after the first series of film showings, the Lockheed management received complaints from the shop stewards-not because the films were being shown, but because the hourly em-ployees (who only had a half-hour for lunch) didn't get to see them! So a group of Christians at Lockheed set up a second series of films to be shown during the lunch hour-in the cafeteria!
In Foreign Lands
I have personally taught a Bible class in the home of the mayor of Guatemala City, with the U.S ambassador, some UN delegates and most of the city council in attendance. And, believe it or not, we had a pointed, lively discussion of the Christian message through an interpreter. The U.S. ambassador, Gordon Mains, a Christian, said to me after the class, "This is the first time I've ever been 'bait' for a Bible class." He realized that if he were there, all the nationals would want to attend, too. Ambassador Mains was later tragically assassinated by radical elements in that country.
The following week in Guatemala I taught a Bible class in an Episcopalian priest's home with mostly lawyers attending. And I shall never forget the city secretary, Mario Guerra, who was very kind to me personally. He sort of attached himself to me in one of those relationships only the Lord can create. After quizzing me until midnight at the class, he wrote a letter in Spanish to me at home, telling me that he considered me his spiritual counselor. What amazing things the Lord can do, even with some of the world's important people through a country boy from California.
But the best home study I had in Guatemala was in the Christian warmth of the home of a delightful couple, Juan Jose Rodas and his wife, Ketty. Here was the relaxed, open and participative kind of scene I look for as ideal. We considered the claims of Christ in John's Gospel, in a realistic confrontation of the Son of God. And I shall never forget the loving Latin abrazo of little Juan as his arms reached to surround this big, old "Norte-Americano" in a parting expression of thanks for sharing God's good things.
The reality of armed political conflict, with people being killed just a few blocks away from Judge Rodas's home, was a pointed contrast to the gracious, redemptive climate of that living room scene focused around the One who is our peace, as the Prince of Peace.
In another land and culture, a missionary friend of mine in Japan adapted the idea of a film ministry through the church to the home environment. He calls it "Family-size Evangelism." The viability of this plan is being demonstrated as well suited to the Japanese culture. After all, it began in an Oriental culture. Why should it not work there?
Variations on a theme
In my view, variations on the theme of evangelistic Bible studies are endless: there are sharing-type studies, discussion group approaches, downtown noontime studies in restaurants or executive clubs---you name it. A man I know even began a Saturday morning study in his office with his ten best customers. He asked them to read the book of Proverbs and try to find a statement to include on their business cards.
Some Obvious Advantages
A home Bible class ministry offers some considerable advantages over most other forms of evangelism. Here are Some of them.
People will come to a home to study the Bible. It is a keen opportunity for honestly inquiring folks to get answers to some of their long-standing questions.
There are no financing problems. As long as the host can keep making payments on his mortgage there's a place to meet. The participating Christians can share the costs of coffee and cookies. So we can present the gospel without charge or financial appeal.
We can just present Jesus as Lord, since we have nothing to join and thus no road blocks to hinder open, honest consideration of the gospel. Barriers topple when our non-Christian friends discover this.
It employs the body of Christ in Christian cooperation and thus relieves pastors of the impossible job of trying to reach the whole world by themselves.
There is built-in follow-up, first through Christian friendship to the ones we invite, but also by the continuity of teaching through the Scriptures.
We reach the right audience, our own friends and neighbors, by taking the message of Christ to them.
It gets Christians charged up about their life and ministry, because it's exciting to see God at work changing lives. Also, they get Opportunity to interact with real-life problems and questions and learn how to meet them. It's pretty hard to be bored in this atmosphere.
It combines zeal and knowledge. The new-found love for Christ and the joy of life in him so beautifully seen in new Christians teams up with the maturity and knowledge of the older ones.
Maximum advantage accrues to the non-Christian contacts of both to understand the truth of God.
Christ is preached to those whose eternal destiny is at stake, and some will believe! Unfortunately not all will receive Christ, but all who come will have a clearer understanding of the proposition presented in the gospel. It's up to them to say yes or no to Christ, as they will. But many say yes! Perhaps some are just waiting for our approach to them right now (like Cornelius).
As God's people, beginning with pastors, perhaps we should get serious about using this exciting vehicle for reaching our lost friends and neighbors through some form of evangelistic Bible studies. I'm sure the Lord has ways to show you that we've never learned! How about it?
Message transcript and recording © 974, 1995 by Ray Stedman Ministries, owner of sole copyright by assignment from the author. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permissions policy, all rights reserved.