Preface: If you go to Redeemer Church in Lincoln, we have extra copies of this book that I want to give away. Please don’t be shy–contact me, and I will get you a copy. I want this book to be a resource for evangelism, discipleship, and leadership training in our community and our church, so if you are interested, it’s yours!
Although I rarely get that excited about practical ministry books (I’m more of a Bible, theology, and history guy), I want to promote a new book that has influenced my approach to ministry more than any other single book that I can remember: One-to-One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian, by David Helm.
I came across this book at the 2011 Conference of the Gospel Coalition in a workshop about the principles in the book The Trellis and the Vine, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. (Audio for the workshop is here.) If you are familiar with The Trellis and the Vine, then you will probably like Helm’s book, which was based on similar principles.
One-to-One Bible Reading opens with a simple question: What would you do in order to share the gospel with someone who knew very little of Jesus, to disciple a younger believer in the faith, and to train a mature Christian for ministry and leadership in the church? You could adopt three different strategies to each of these people (e.g., an outreach event for the unbeliever, a discipleship program for the younger believer, and a special interest class for the mature Christian). But is this best for each of them?
Now, if any of those plans for growth were the kinds of things that came into your mind, I want you to know that you are not alone. After all, for generations we have been conditioned to think of spiritual growth mainly in terms of an event to go to, a program to register for or a class to take. The church often puts its creative energies into initiating events, programs and classes specially designed to win people to Christ and help them grow in the faith.
And yet, as successful as some of these plans have been, we might still be missing out on something more dynamic–something more straightforward and right for this day and age–that returns gospel growth to the everyday fabric of personal relationship, rather than relying on church-run programs. (p. 8-9)
The “dynamic” means for accomplishing this is breathtakingly simple: one-to-one Bible reading. Helm lays out a vision where everyone in the church pursues the people they know in their very ordinary relationships (from family, work, school, common interests, etc.), asking them to read the Bible with them, one-on-one.
So, you might ask someone who doesn’t know Jesus to read through the Gospel of Mark with you; someone young in the faith to read through 1 John with you; someone moving toward leadership to read through 1 Timothy with you. And then you do just that, talking, praying, and wrestling with questions along the way.
To me, the beauty of this book is that it offers a practical vision for ministry that matches one of my most basic convictions: that all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I *could* try to come up with something clever for each person I meet whom I want to see grow in the gospel; or, I could trust the Word of God and the Spirit of God to do the heavy lifting.
The latter sounds much better.
This brief book could probably be read in about an hour’s time, especially since much of its 102 pages is taken up with sample study questions, reading calendars (e.g., Mark in 8 weeks), and Bible book suggestions for different circumstances. I do not know the last time that I have read a book with more value-per-page than this one.
The larger vision laid out in the book, looks like this (quoted from The Trellis and the Vine):
Imagine if all Christians, as a normal part of their discipleship, were caught up in a web of regular Bible reading–not only digging into the Word privately, but reading it with their children before bed, with their spouse over breakfast, with a non-Christian colleague at work once a week over lunch, with a new Christian for follow-up once a fortnight for mutual encouragement, and with a mature Christian friend once a month for mutual encouragement.
It would be a chaotic web of personal relationships, prayer and Bible reading–more of a movement than a program–but at another level it would be profoundly simple and within reach of all.
It’s an exciting thought! (p. 12; The Trellis and the Vine, p. 57)
An exciting thought indeed.