Where Should I Begin in a Study?

I am so excited! A prospect has agreed to have a personal Bible study with me. We are supposed to meet for the study on Tuesday evening at a local coffee shop near where he lives. I cannot wait!

What if the above paragraph describes you? What do you have? You have an appointment. That usually is not easy to accomplish, so good for you! You have the seed — God’s word (Luke 8:11). You have the soil — your prospect’s heart. You have a seed-sower, too — you.

You also have a question that you need to address: With what topic(s) should you begin your study? There are a number of modern-day teaching tools available which eliminate your concerns about how to start a person-to-person study. They remove any anxiety because, if you use one of those tools, it already has established the beginning point.

For our purposes, though, let us suppose you are just going to use a Bible to teach your prospect. If you know the church your prospect attends practices “infant baptism,” should you start with that topic? No. If you know the person you will be teaching believes in speaking in tongues, should you begin with that topic? No. If your prospect worships idols or his ancestors, should you start with those topics? No.

Each prospect is unique. Prospects come from different cultures, different religious backgrounds, and various levels of Bible knowledge and understanding.

If a person does not believe in the Bible, speaking to him about the Lord’s Supper will not be fruitful. If a person does not believe in Jesus, telling him what He commands your prospect to do will be unhelpful.

With one prospect, you may need to begin with God’s existence and nature. That is the approach Paul took in Athens (Acts 17:24-31). With another prospect, you might begin with evidence that the Bible is the word of God. In a different case, you might want to begin by showing that Jesus is the Son of God, including His death, burial and resurrection.

If you feel comfortable with your prospect’s understanding and acceptance of the above matters (God, the Bible, and Jesus), I highly recommend that you teach him about a standard of authority in religion. That would involve pointing to the Christ’s authority and His message (Matthew 28:18-20).

You will be ready to move on to other topics only after your prospect recognizes and buys into the truth that, in order to please the Creator, we must follow the Bible (specifically, the new covenant), follow only the Bible, and follow the Bible in all matters.

Roger D. Campbell