A year ago, I had an assistant Bible study leader. Then he moved to another state. Now I have a new assistant, whom I expect to leave our group soon and start another one. Then I’ll be back on my own, bearing the full load of small group leadership once again. But I’ll pray and look for another assistant to help shoulder the labor and develop the skills.
Bible study is not glamorous. Training apprentices, one at a time, is even less so. We plod our way through it, week in and week out. Sometimes we see clear fruit; sometimes we don’t. But this mustard seed will grow to become the largest of all garden plants. And this leaven will penetrate the entire lump. The promises of Christ ensure it will be so.
Be Fruitful and Multiply
Having created man and woman in his image, God expected them to mass produce this image in the earth (Gen 1:28). After he undid everything and started over, he clarified that nothing really had changed (Gen 9:1). Not long after, as my friend Brian Seay put it, “God said ‘go,’ and we said ‘no'” (Gen 11:4). But who can stop the Lord? Let no men assemble whom God has called to disperse (Gen 11:9).
And so Abram’s people were to bless all nations (Gen 12:3). God’s people were always to be a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6), so the prophets longed for the day when God would collect his scattered people (Zech 8:7-8) and draw in citizens from every nation on earth (Zech 8:20-23). This house would be a house of prayer for all peoples (Is 56:7).
When Jesus arrives to fulfill what was written, we see the same goals at work. The lingo shifts from “being fruitful” to “making disciples,” but the mission stays the same. God wants to fill the earth with image-bearers. And now they can see and smell and touch that image in the person of Christ. His people become like him and move out from Jerusalem to help more people become like him. And when outsiders don’t know what else to call them, they coin the term “little Christs”—Christians (Acts 11:26).
But notice how God works among his people. He adds to their number so they can multiply his influence. His people gather so they can disperse. They draw people in so they can send people out. This community has always been a growing community. Sometimes you see it; sometimes you don’t. But the growth will happen one disciple at a time.
See the Unseen Glory
As I wrote, training apprentices will not be glamorous. But that can’t stop it from being glorious. I’ve done it one at a time over the years. And I can’t take all the credit, as most apprentices have multiple trainers. I’m never—by God’s grace—the sole influence in someone’s life.
But that guy who moved to another state? His wife already leads the women’s ministry at their new church. Together, they’re teaching more people to study the Bible for themselves.
And I could tell you of others. There’s one in Japan, working with missionaries and church leaders to put the Scriptures into the hands of the people. There’s another one in Texas, who just emailed me to say that his church asked him to teach more people good Bible study skills. I know some women who have infiltrated the leadership of a popular women’s conference, because they shine like stars when it comes to faithful handling of the word.
It’s worth it to teach people OIA Bible study. And it’s worth it to teach people how to teach people OIA Bible study in small groups. May the Lord strengthen us by his grace to press on.