David Helm. One to One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian. Kingsford: Matthias Media, 2011. 103 pp. $7.99.
[F]or 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 energy 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 (8-9, emphases original).
In One to One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian,
David Helm encourages believers to engage in intentional, regular one-on-one Bible reading with non-Christians, new Christians, and mature Christians. In this way, the church would reap the benefits of salvation of the lost, sanctification and strengthening of believers in the faith, and training of believers for ministry.
In Part I, Helm provides the what, the why, and the how – making us aware of the evangelism and discipleship opportunities available, showing why the best way to take advantage of these opportunities is to engage in one-on-one Bible reading as opposed to waiting for church events and programs, and giving practical suggestions in how to get started and how to structure and navigate typical meetings. He also addresses the issue of preparation, first highlighting advantages to each approach, and then giving suggestions in how to prepare. This section ends with a very encouraging personal story of a non-Christian that Helm had built a relationship with who eventually became a Christian in the course of reading the Bible with him.
Part II provides framework and ideas for getting started. Helm introduces two methods, one for beginners (the Swedish method) and one that is more advanced (the COMA method). The Swedish method basically entails looking for and discussing a light bulb (anything that stands out), a question mark, and an arrow (anything that applies personally). The COMA method involves discussing context, observation, meaning, and application. This section also provides suggested passages to study with each of the three categories of non-Christian, new Christian, and mature Christian (chapter 9), an introduction to the main genres of biblical literature with some tips for applying COMA method to each one (chapter 10), and an eight-week plan through Mark’s gospel with discussion questions (chapter 11). Appendix 1 provides a few resources for one-to-one Bible reading from the publisher (Matthias Media), again broken into categories of non-Christian, new Christian, and mature Christian. Finally, Appendix 2 provides more COMA questions for the major biblical genres, as well as an eight-week plan through Mark’s gospel.
This is a short and little book, and can easily be read in one sitting. For Christians who don’t have much experience leading small group Bible studies or mentoring, it is an excellent resource that can encourage the believer to step out in courage and boldness to initiate a one-to-one Bible-reading relationship. Helm pastorally encourages the reader throughout the book that anyone can do this, that you don’t need to know all the answers, and that ultimately it is God and the power of His Word that we trust. Coupled with intensely practical suggestions and sometimes step-by-step instruction (including several suggested reading plans complete with suggested discussion questions), this is a great resource for someone who might otherwise not know what to do and not ask someone to study the Bible with them.
For believers who have led small group Bible studies and/or have mentored other believers, this book is very basic; you probably won’t learn anything new, and you’ll probably find that you’ve already implemented most of what this book suggests. Towards the end, I also found that a significant chunk was pages of lists of Scriptures and questions; again, for someone without experience leading Bible discussions, this is probably a helpful roadmap. For those who have the experience, it might seem unnecessary.
The one thing I wish the author would have addressed is the matter of time. I would imagine that most who pick up this book are passionate about the local church and are already quite involved in many ways, including in a small group Bible study. Since it seems the author’s vision is to see every believer also engaged in one-on-on Bible study with a non-Christian, new-Christian, and mature Christian (weekly, biweekly and monthly, respectively, as hypothetical suggestions), it can leave us thinking how in the world we could find the time for three separate individual Bible studies in addition to church Bible study, other ministry, etc.
Overall, though, I do think the message of this book is a great one because all believers are called to engage in evangelism to the lots and building up other believers. One-to-one Bible study is an effective way to pursue these callings, and this book is a great manual for the task.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of the book for free from the publisher for review. I was not obligated to provide a favorable review, and the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.