NAVIGATING OUR FRIENDS THROUGH THE BIBLE

RAD ZDERO
Copyright (C) 2010. Permission is granted to email, post, and reproduce this article, but only in its entirety and with proper bibliographic referencing. All rights reserved.

Rad Zdero earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in bio-mechanics and bio-materials. He is the director of a hospital-based research group in Toronto. Rad has been involved in the house church and small group movement since 1985. He is the author of The Global House Church Movement (2004) and the allegorical novel Entopia: Revolution of the Ants (2008). He is also the editor of Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader (2007) and The Starfish Files house church magazine. His writings can be found at www.Scribd.com/rzdero. To make contact: rzdero@yahoo.ca

WHY THIS ARTICLE? Over many years, either as a student involved with a Christian group in a university setting, an associate staff with the Navigators ministry, a small group leader, or a house church leader, I have had the privilege of guiding a number of non-Christian friends and new Christians through the Bible. Some of these times were quite informal, whereas other times were more structured and systematic. Some of these occasions were one-to-one, while others were in a small group setting of 5 to 10 people. The outcomes have ranged from people committing their lives to Christ to sincere ongoing spiritual dialogue with seeker friends. Other friends, however, continue to struggle with their questions and doubts. I have also benefited from these experiences by becoming more articulate in communicating my faith, becoming more dependent on God for results, and having more compassion for people. The goal of this article, therefore, is to suggest some principles I have discovered in my journey
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over the years in guiding non-Christian seekers and new Christians through the Bible. KEY PRINCIPLES #1. Do We Have Any Non-Christian Friends? Many Christians live in a Christian bubble. They listen to Christian music, watch Christian movies, read Christian books, and hang out with Christian friends. But, if we are going to reach the world for Jesus Christ, then this bubble has to be burst. We must make it a priority to get to know non-Christians on a personal basis. Then, as we steadily move along in the process of “friendship evangelism” with our friends, more often than not, they will become interested in knowing what the Bible has to say. Some will even be willing to meet on a regular basis to look through the Scriptures with us. #2. Inviting People to the Bible Study If we find that only one of our friends at a given time is interested in the Bible, that’s fine! If, however, several friends show interest, we may need to consider the pros and cons of forming a larger study or discussion group. There may be

Navigating Our Friends Through The Bible

Rad Zdero

scheduling, personality, psychological, or other barriers that might prevent us from bringing everyone together at the same time and place. For example, it would not be advisable to put people together whose personalities would clash, those who are loud and those who are timid, those who are argumentative and those who do not like to disagree, etc. The key here is to anticipate obstacles, making the environment comfortable for all involved. We may, therefore, need to meet with some people one-to-one and other people in a small group setting, which obviously requires more of a time commitment on our part as we get involved in several of these contexts. But, the potential eternal fruit is far greater than the cost. So, let us stay the course, count the cost, and not give up in tough times. #3. How Often to Meet Although this will mainly be dictated by our own schedules, it is helpful to have a weekly meeting time. From my experience, this is a reasonable commitment level for people, especially if the study group is promoted as a “course” which lasts for, say, 10 or 12 weeks. Many people today join courses for night school or sports teams which only run for a temporary season during the year. A monthly meeting, however, may lower people’s interest and result in "Oh, I forgot it was this week" and "Oops, I've double booked" and even "I've changed my mind about attending." These excuses can be used by the Enemy to strengthen spiritual blindness, but can be avoided by simply having a regularly scheduled weekly meeting.
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#4. Comfortable People are Open People We must ensure that everyone in the group is made to feel comfortable. We can do this by uniquely tailoring the study to their needs and expressing acceptance of everyone's ideas, doubts, and questions. Let us create a forum for real dialogue and discovery. We have to keep in mind that because we are dealing with nonChristians or new Christians, they may have all sorts of ideas they have picked up along the way which are completely contradictory to biblical teaching. Instead of criticizing and minimizing their ideas, we can turn these opportunities into teaching moments by saying something like, “Well, that’s a really interesting way of looking at things. I can respect how you arrived at that opinion. But, let’s see what the Bible has to say about that.” Then, we can allow the Holy Spirit to guide our friends in a new direction as we open up the Bible in exploration. #5. Modular Sessions If possible, it is helpful if the material covered for each meeting is modular or stand-alone, meaning that the material can be understood in itself without reference to a prior session. This will benefit those who may only periodically come to the group. It will also make discussion and learning easier because things are being laid out in easy, step-by-step, bit-sized pieces. This may not always be necessary, especially in a one-to-one situation or when there is a high commitment level from a small group for consistent attendance. #6. Appropriate Material We should choose the portion of the Bible with

Navigating Our Friends Through The Bible

Rad Zdero

the seeker or young Christian in mind. Although we may have a particular thing we are reading and finding beneficial, it may not be something of immediate benefit to our friends. Instead, we should find out what they know, what they have already read, what they are interested in, what questions they have, or what struggles they are having in their lives. So, some friends may need an introduction to Jesus through one of the gospels because they do not even have a nominal Christian background. Yet, others may need to dive into heavier material like Romans because of the specific issues or questions that need to be addressed. We must be flexible. We must be wise teachers and recognize that each person is different and will respond to different material. #7. Addressing Side Issues We should not be afraid to spend a session just dealing with issues that genuinely concern someone and that seem to be a barrier to their faith. These could be intellectual or emotional issues. If we can clear some of the big rocks out of the way, then the plow will pass much more easily through the soil. Sometimes, everyone in a small group has particular questions at the same time that can be dealt with in a special session or two. Or, we can offer to meet individuals outside the “official group time” to address individual issues, questions, and concerns. Perhaps we can meet over a dinner or coffee. Someone may have really joined the group to discuss only one issue, which may be the only barrier they have in committing to Christ. Often, special sessions that take you away from a reading schedule (such as discussing one chapter each week from the gospel of John) may be easier if you are
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meeting one-to-one with a friend because it is simpler to make changes with only one person in mind. In any case, let us be flexible in taking people through the Bible. #8. Keep Christ Central In guiding friends through the Bible, let us always keep Christ central. This is easier if we are reading one of the gospels or one of the Christological passages in a letter to a New Testament church. However, even if we are going through passages from the Old Testament, we will likely run into Messianic prophecies, which we can easily highlight as being pointers to the promises that Christ fulfilled. Even many of the characters in the Old Testament, like Adam the first-born, Abraham the father of nations, Moses the deliverer, and David the king, were “types” or “foreshadowings” of the life and ministry of Christ. Fodder for good discussion! #9. Having All The Answers We certainly will not know all the answers to every single question that someone might have. It is fine sometimes to say, “That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer. But, I’ll do some thinking about it.” We will never know the answer to every philosophical, emotional, scientific, or historical objection that people have. But, we can show a genuine interest in what the other person is confused or concerned about, write down any questions they have, and promise to get back to them with an answer. Let us remember that the seeker can teach us a few things too with their fresh insights, helping us to understand God better. God may have brought our friends into our lives for our benefit too!

Navigating Our Friends Through The Bible

Rad Zdero

#10. Asking Good Questions Our job often is not just to teach, preach, or tell, but rather to facilitate, guide, and allow people to discover God's truths for themselves. We should not try to rob them of the chance to allow the Holy Spirit to draw them to himself through the Bible. Let us learn to ask really good questions and allow our friends to offer their own insights. Jesus was the master at asking intriguing questions. He often elicited insight from people who would not have understood things otherwise. This is not to say that we should never clarify certain points and expound on certain items when needed, especially when there is a huge misunderstanding on a very central biblical issue. The two methods of teaching—the telling and the facilitating—are not mutually contradictory and can work together rather effectively. #11. Let's Respect People's Time If we have committed to one hour each week, let us stick to it. This is especially needful if people have to leave immediately after the meeting for work or class or some other engagement. Let us not infringe on people's time. If there are those who want to continue dialoguing about Scripture after the "official meeting time" is over, then let us be open to that. But let us respect the time of those who do not or cannot stay longer than the stated time. #12. Friendship and Hospitality We should create an atmosphere of friendship and hospitality. If we are hosting the meetings in our own home, we have a perfect opportunity to value our friends by being hospitable with food,
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drink, and other amenities. A warm, inviting, fun atmosphere can also give people a reason to come to the meetings in addition to the content of the Bible discussion. And let us take an evening out for dinner, for a movie, for a coffee or tea with the people in our group. Let us develop relationships. This sometimes will speak much more loudly to people about the truth of the message we proclaim, than the Bible study sessions themselves. #13. Murphy's Law Murphy’s Law says that whatever can go wrong, eventually will go wrong. Although this is perhaps a bit overly pessimistic, the lesson is that we should expect obstacles to occur because it is a spiritual struggle we are engaged in. This battle may come in the form of scheduling conflicts, missed meetings, people not completing homework, chronic lateness, illness, withdrawl from the group, etc. Let us not be discouraged, frustrated, or take things personally. Let us faithfully sow the seed. #14. Pray and Work No amount of effective rational argumentation, practical demonstrations of love, emotional pleas, or personal testimonies can bring someone into the kingdom of God. However, these are gardener's tools that God can use for sowing seeds, watering, pruning, weeding, and nurturing the soil. God does use us for this task. However, it is God that causes the actual growth. And because it is a spiritual battle we are engaged in for the eternal destinies of our friends, one of the most crucial things we can do is pray that God will reveal himself to our unsaved friends and

Navigating Our Friends Through The Bible

Rad Zdero

grow a spirit of passion in our inexperienced Christian friends. As John Wesley once said, pray as if it all depends on God and work as if it all depends on you.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES Dawson Trotman (1992), Born to Reproduce, NavPress, 35 pages. Larry Kreider (2000), The Cry for Spiritual

CONCLUSIONS I hope this short article has whetted your appetite for the adventure of guiding your friends through the Bible so they can discover Christ and the new and eternal life he offers. What I have written is not “rocket science” or “brain surgery”, as they say. Much of what I have written, in fact, is common sense, as the Holy Spirit leads us to take practical steps. Sadly, however, for much of the church what I have written is not common practice. Because many have never had someone guide them through the Bible one-to-one or in a small group setting, they would not know how to guide others. Although understandable to some degree, my hope is that the Lord ignites a passion in us to reach out to our non-Christian and new Christian friends, see them come to Christ or grow in their faith, and continue in their own journey of discovering God and God’s plan!

Fathers

and

Mothers,

House

to

House

Publications, 185 pages. Leroy Eims (1978), The Lost Art of Disciple Making, Zondervan, 188 pages. Michael Green (1995), One to One: How to Share your Faith with a Friend, Random House. Michael Green and Alistair McGrath (1995), How Shall We Reach Them? Thomas Nelson. Rad Zdero (2004), The Global House Church Movement, William Carey Library Publishers, 155 pages (Best price at www.missionbooks.org) Rad Zdero (ed.) (2007), Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader, William Carey Library Publishers, 528 pages (Best price at www.missionbooks.org)

SEE BOOKS BY RAD ZDERO ON NEXT PAGE

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REVOLUTIONARY BOOKS
by RAD ZDERO

The Global House Church Movement Rad Zdero gives you biblical, historical, and practical insights for a radical new type of church that is arising all around the world. This book is guaranteed to challenge your understanding of what the church is really meant to be and do! Perfect as a study guide to kickstart a new house church! (paperback, 155 pages) Best price from … www.missionbooks.org

Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader As the editor of this volume, Rad Zdero has compiled the writings of almost 40 house church leaders and scholars from 20 countries in over 60 provocative articles. Get trained to start your own network of missional house churches no matter where you live! (paperback, 528 pages) Best price from … www.missionbooks.org

Entopia: Revolution of the Ants An allegorical tale written in the tradition of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia chronicles and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. An adventure of grassroots revolution in the hierarchical and ordered world of an anthill. The system must change! Although just a fable, it has challenges for the church to grapple with. Fun for kids of all ages! (paperback, illustrated, 132 pages) Best price from …
www.oaktara.com www.amazon.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
RAD ZDERO earned his Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada), specializing in bio-mechanics and bio-materials. He is the director of a hospital-based research lab in Toronto, Canada. Rad has been actively involved in the house church and small group movement since 1985 and is dedicated to encouraging the full restoration of original New Testament Christianity in our day.

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