It was Thursday, small group night, and the six of us met and ate together. We talked about the good things that had happened so far that week and the challenges we had faced. After a short time of praise and prayer for our Discovery Bible Study (DBS), we opened our Bibles (and phones) to Psalm 103. We read a few verses each in English and Farsi, then Daniel* and Esther* read the whole Psalm aloud for us. Bibles closed! Now we tried to remember what we had read. One person began telling and we all chipped in till we had covered the main points. Then we sat quietly reading the text for ourselves and thought about how God was touching us through the passage.
Elham*, a newish believer, focused on his 'rescue from the pit.' Esther remembered how God had used Moses to open the Red Sea for the people of God and saw it as symbolic of our great deliverance in Jesus. I commented on God's father-like compassion and Julyan was struck again by the brevity of human life in contrast to God's everlasting love. Maryam* felt the enormous scope of worship in the Psalm and how we must tell our souls to join in, even when we don't feel like it. That was the action point, so it led naturally to a time of worship and prayer for one another's needs. We all left feeling we had been fed by the Word and had connected with each other.
DBS is a Bible study tool that emphasises obedience in keeping with the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 20). Purists of this method insist on obedience steps after every study and on the group holding each other accountable. Scripture is, after all, profitable for teaching, rebuking and correcting (2 Timothy 3:16). One week Maryam knew she had to make a difficult phone call to a friend she had wronged. And she did it! Obedience trains in righteousness and her report back to the group the following week brought joy to us all. In our experience there isn't always a specific action point for each person. The Word is God-breathed, often evoking a godly sense of awe and gratitude which shapes our values and attitudes.
There are several positives I see in using this style of study. It is enjoyable because everyone is fully participating. We read, listen, think and all share so we remember what we have learnt, especially if it has involved an action point. The newest member can contribute as easily and sometimes with more freshness of insight than the mature believer. Anyone can lead and therefore it's reproducible. Our more traditional style of study didn't happen if the leader was away. This method doesn't look to 'a sage on the stage but rather a guide at the side.'
If we are going to see our mission of vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached fulfilled, we will need a way to help believers and seekers get into the Word of God. Our understanding of God, His gospel, His ways and purposes must be informed by the Bible itself. It was finding Jesus in the Scriptures that caused the disciples' hearts to burn on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:32). Vibrancy comes from the Word of God kneaded into our lives by the Holy Spirit. As we humbly submit ourselves to hear and obey, our faith communities will have a strong foundation and a life that reproduces. This simple format of DBS enables even new believers to start their own groups.
Of course, it isn't a magic bullet or the whole story and teaching and mentoring leaders will be essential for the spiritual health of any movement. Nevertheless, Discovery Bible Studies will be a key contributor to seeing vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.
I would encourage anyone interested in this topic to learn more about the DBS rationale and how it is being used by God in both rural and urban settings. You can watch a short YouTube video about how it is being used in Africa.
From 1980-1995 Lenna and her husband, Julyan, lived in Turkey, focusing on discipleship and church planting. Now they live in Scotland where Lenna supports Julyan in his role as Ambassador for OM's Muslim ministries. Locally, the couple are involved with their church's ministry to Iranians, Kurds and Turks.