Choosing your topic
This will be determined by factors such as:
1. The immediate point of interest of your prospects, as indicated by their conversation or questions; e.g., World conditions. Questions about the existence of God. Life after death. Doubts about the truth of the Bible. Problem of suffering, etc. Philip, in his first Bible study with the Ethiopian eunuch, "Began at the same scripture" that his prospect was puzzled about (Acts 8:35). A good cue for us!
2. The special needs or circumstances of your prospects; e.g., A recently bereaved family would need comfort, assurance and hope from the Bible. A man battling with the drink, habit and longing for freedom would need the positive gospel assurance: "Christ can break the grip of this evil habit!"
3. The stage your prospects have reached in hearing the Advent message; e.g., We are instructed to "melt" the prospects' hearts with "the love of God", to teach them the gospel and lead them to surrender their hearts to Jesus, before confronting them with testing truths, such as the Sabbath, the Tithe, or the Mark of the Beast. This procedure is always best. Otherwise, we put the cart before the horse! See Evangelism, pp 230, 231
4. The Church connections or religious background of your prospects. Obviously there would be somewhat different approaches for Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. NOTE: Do not be stereotyped in your selection of topics. There is no one set order or pattern of Bible studies, to be followed rigidly in all cases. Adapt your approach to the individual circumstances of you prospects. Advanced doctrines or testing truths should not come before their time!
Collecting your material
1. "Pray yourself teachable!" Maintain a constant attitude of dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
2. "Think yourself empty!" Exhaust your own knowledge of the Bible first and, when you have done this, go to other sources.
3. "Read yourself full!" Consult Adventist books and printed Bible study outlines that are available. Use you concordance. In extremity, get help from your Pastor.
Constructing your study
1. Have a definite aim in view (i.e., concerning what you want your prospects to understand, believe, or do).
2. Analyze your subject by asking questions about it, such as: "How?" "When?" "Where?" "Why?" "What?" "Who?" "What are the common opinions about this subject?" "What are the common objections?" "What is my responsibility?" etc.
3. Prepare you main steps, headings, or divisions.
4. Avoid rambling or disconnectedness. Strive for a logical sequence or order of arrangement, so that your study grows naturally and persuasively, like a plant: "First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn is the ear." The above mentioned questions will help greatly in achieving this logical development.
5. Avoid using too many texts. Three or four plain, pertinent texts under each heading are usually sufficient.
6. Avoid long Bible studies. About 45 minutes is sufficient for the average Bible study,
7. Plan an introduction and conclusion. Think out some novel, interesting or timely introduction. The reading of the newspaper, or close observation of the happenings of daily life can often provide this. A summary of the main points provides a good conclusion. Be sure to ask, "Is it all clear?" Make personal application of the truth explained and, when appropriate, make a direct appeal. Example of a personal application: At close of Bible study, ask, "Why do you think God has given us a chance to hear these things, Mrs. Brown?" Example of a direct appeal: After a full presentation of studies on the Sabbath truth, say: "Well, Bill, I suppose the day is not far distant when you will be keeping your first Sabbath! ... Am I right?"
8. Master your subject thoroughly. If possible, do this in such a way that your notes can be discarded.
9. Make every Bible study Christ centered. Help your prospects to see the face of Christ in every doctrine and prophecy (see Evangelism, pp 142,163,164,169, 170,184-193,223,232,248, 264,298,299,300,350, 484-486).
1. Be guarded and prudent in you preliminary conversation. Let your conduct show that you have come to study God's Word, not just for a social visit.
2. Commence and close with a brief, simple, sincere prayer.
3. Avoid formality, and sustain interest by employing novelty, variety, surprise features, suspense. Do not let your prospects know all that is coming next. "Satisfy curiosity and you kill interest."
4. The wise use of visual aids, music (recorded or live), tape-recorded talks, film strips or slides, can add stimulus and variety to your visits.
5. In manner and deportment be as friendly, human, and approachable as possible. Be relaxed and natural. Avoid stiffness, starchiness, or austerity. Never underestimate the value of a chuckle. It relaxes tension; it disarms prejudice; it dispels hostility; it wins trust.
6. Adopt conversational rather than lecturing manner. Talk with, not at your prospects. Act as a friend, not a superior.
7. Let the Bible speak. Make it a settled practice to offer the Bible's answer to questions asked. Keep the Bible central in your whole program of indoctrination.
8. Encourage your prospects to participate by taking their turn at reading texts from the Bible; by asking questions and entering into discussion, and, as you gain their confidence, by learning to offer short prayers for themselves.
9. After the study, do not linger. Avoid exerting an influence that may detract from your message. Aim always to leave the message paramount in your prospects' minds.
Guidance on Selection and Order of Bible Study Topics
Ellen G. White, Evangelism
1. Speak first on points of doctrine on which you can agree. Give "milk" before "strong meat" to babes! 164, 200.
2. Win prospect's confidence before presenting unfamiliar, advanced, or testing truth. 164,165 (see also pp 246,485).
3. Best plan is to present subjects that arouse the conscience; that teach practical godliness . . . i.e., How to come to Jesus. How to pray. How to receive the assurance of sins forgiven. How to take hold of God's help. 226
4. The very first and most important thing is to melt and subdue the soul by presenting our Lord Jesus Christ as the Sin-bearer. 264
5. Do not feel it your duty to present the Sabbath question immediately you meet people. Tell them this is not your burden now. Reserve the Sabbath truth till they have surrendered heart and mind and will to God. 228, 442
6. Do not present the Law of God as a test until prospects have been warmed, melted and subdued with the presentation of Christ, and have given themselves to the Lord. 230, 231
7. If the heart of the unbeliever is not softened, to try to impress him is "like striking upon cold iron." 247
8. There is always perfect safety in talking of the hope of eternal life. And when the heart is melted and subdued, the enquiry will be: "What must I do to be saved?" 248, 272 (see also pp 125, 126, 142, 143 163).
Frank Breaden writes from Melody Park, Australia.