If somone who had never stepped foot in a church building before, found himself stranded on a desert island with nothing but a Bible, would the Word of God be enough to lead him to surrender his life to Jesus?
I believe so, mostly because I’ve seen it happen.
Well, maybe not the whole desert island thing, but the situation wasn’t all that far off.
The first place I ever witnessed disciple-making go viral was in a local county jail. The catalyst for this movement of new disciples was not a new program brought in, or a trained speaker giving an altar call. Instead, the spark was a simple piece of paper that helped empower inmates to read their Bibles. On the front-side was 4 columns with 4 simple questions (Discovery Bible Study questions), and on the back, as many Scripture lists I could fit.
Over the next few months, what I witnessed was nothing short of revival. I printed off as many of these single sheets of paper the programs staff would allow, and I gave them to inmates who I understood to be influential. These inside leaders told me stories of inmates passing these papers around like it was the most sought-after contraband in the whole jail. They would sneak them under cell doors and pass them to each other during meals. They would “kite” them to each other before going into solitary confinement. They would then use that same piece of paper as a guide to discussion when they would gather together in the pods during break and do a group Discovery Bible Study.
It was amazing to see what happened when the Word of God was unleashed. People came to Jesus in subtle and dramatic ways. There were no trained theologians or streaming sermons. This was simply the Holy Spirit revealing himself to spiritually hungry people who personally sought after truth by reading the Bible for themselves.
In the KC Underground, we’ve seen and heard similar stories all over the city. As normal followers of Jesus attempt to live like missionaries in their own neighborhoods and networks, we’ve found that there is a powerful hunger for truth in the everyday spaces of culture. As the world continues to feed people the same recycled answers in new containers, more and more people are discontent, realizing these worldly answers cannot satisfy the longings in their heart.
The answer? Much like I witnessed in jail years ago, is not a new program or a packed out auditorium, but instead it is getting the Word of God into the hands of spiritual seekers and allowing God to do what he does: draw hearts and transform minds.
Here in the KC Underground, we seek to come alongside the average Christian to help them plant the Gospel in their relational networks, and to make disciples from the ground-up. In doing so, we’ve discovered the essential need to equip the saints with simple tools they can reproduce with those with whom they are walking.
Perhaps the best thing we can do to help our spiritually-open friends and family is to help them seek truth on their own.
Below are 4 tips to help you help others begin to read the Bible on their own, so we can see the Word of God unleashed in every corner of our city!
- In a world with a billion expert voices, help those tune their ear to hear the only voice that matters. Point them to the Bible, not other resources.
We live in a culture of information overload, which actually cripples us from knowing who to listen to. This is true in the Christian resource world as well. As you begin to make disciples from the ground-up, remember this: keep it simple. Avoid giving these spiritually curious friends of yours the book by your favorite Christian author, or the sermon series from your favorite teaching pastor. Instead, point them directly to the Bible. Don’t be afraid to encourage them to seek answers directly from God’s Word. If they’re truly hungry, there’s no better starting point! They may just need some help of where to start (see Tip #4)
- We need to model Jesus’ art of cultivating spiritual seekers.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus seemed to purposefully confuse the crowds? My favorite example of this is in Matthew 13 when he’s speaks on the Parable of the Sower. His disciples came to him in verse 10 and asked, “Why do you speak to people in Parables?” Basically, they don’t quite get his teaching style. They’re wondering, “Jesus, why do you speak so mysteriously?”
Jesus then goes on the quote a seemingly obscure passage from Isaiah, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding, ever seeing but never perceiving…”
The disciples ask Jesus why he speaks so mysteriously, and he responds with the most mysterious answer ever.
Jesus seemed less concerned about delivering the clearest sermon possible with its 3 points and concise thesis statement. Instead, Jesus seemed to weed out the crowds in order to find those who were truly seeking something else in life. He was not focused on merely giving answers, instead his strategy was to stir the pot to unearth spiritual seekers.
Just as Jesus’ teaching style of using parables seemed to take the hearer from casual understanding of God to deep, authentic, searcher of the mysteries of the Kingdom, we too need to focus on cultivating spiritual hunger rather than feel like we need to be the answer-provider. The best way to do this? Encourage your people to get their fingerprints directly on the Word of God. Help them sit in the words of Jesus, and don’t feel like you have to answer all their questions. And when they do arise, the best strategy is to point them back to the Word so they can keep the search going. Your job is to journey with them, and perhaps provide them with a solid pathway to get started (again, see tip #4!).
- Focus on practical response over intellectual understanding.
Another temptation for everyday missionaries is to feel like their early disciples have to “get” everything early on. It’s easy to get fixated on transferring as much information as possible instead of allowing the truth to seep deep in the hearts of those you’re walking with.
Remember the way of Jesus. When calling his disciples, he didn’t pick the uber-educated or the super gifted, instead he recruited the ordinary people and simply said: FOLLOW ME.
Discipleship began at that moment, even when they knew next to nothing about Jesus or about the Law. They simply heard the voice of Jesus, and responded with a step of obedience.
When thinking about making disciples from the ground up in our own relational networks, we must begin at that same starting point. We don’t have to implement the perfect strategy, or know all the answers, but instead our focus can simply be this: get people at the feet of Jesus so they can hear his word and respond with their lives.
The best way to do this is by focusing on immediate obedience rather than comprehensive understanding. When your friends begin to read the Bible on their own, encourage them to focus on responding to what they are reading with tangible and personal life applications. In this way, the Words of God don’t become information to agree or disagree with, but instead they take root in their hearts as authentic and powerful, and find real traction in their lives. Knowledge will come when we encourage our early disciples to sit-in God’s Word and respond with real action steps.
- Give them a tangible starting point. Check out the helpful resource below: Spending time with God: Where to begin reading the Bible and hearing God’s voice
Similar to what I witnessed as a volunteer going into the local county jail, when spiritually hungry people are given a simple roadmap to help them personally dive into the Bible, incredible things can happen. Check out this simple resource that helps anyone get started. It provides a simple suggested structure of personal prayer and Scripture reflection, along with very practical tips of how to navigate the Bible, and with what passages to begin. When living on mission and making disciples from the ground-up in your relational circles, remember, don’t overthink it. The Bible, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is enough. Because when you mix a hunger for truth with the Word of God, the results are real encounters with the living God who speaks.