1. CAN UNSAVED PEOPLE BE DISCIPLED?
Yes! In fact it wasn’t until well into Jesus’ ministry that the disciples themselves finally knew their leader was the creator of the universe in human form and not just a very special Jewish prophet (Matthew 16:13-17).
Millions of non-believers today are also interested in learning more about Jesus. Most of them might not be very interested in the Christian religion or Christian institutions, but nearly everyone has a respect for the man called Jesus. Most people might start by thinking he was a prophet as the disciples did, or a good man, or a great historical figure, or an amazing teacher. However, as we use scripture to gently introduce curious people to Jesus’ life, his power, his message and his teachings, then eventually they too might come to see him as he really is.
Here is an example: Some years ago a church planter in Indonesia started introducing Muslim people to the story of Jesus in a non-offensive way using the Discovery Bible Study (DBS) method. After a while it took off and a Discipleship Multiplication Movement (DMM) has been planted that now numbers over 130,000 simple churches. In fact the Discovery Bible Study (DBS) is this movement’s main tool of evangelism. A DBS works really well in a Muslim context as there is already a respect for the prophet Jesus, but they know little of his truly story.
As these interested non-believers slowly go through a DBS and learn more about Jesus, many will begin to shape their lives around what they read. This will often lead to a salvation that is built on a solid foundation of obedience. The new disciple will also know instantly how to replicate a DBS with their friends because they have already been doing one for a month or two, and the DBS system follows the same format every time.
For many people you first meet, simply challenging them to become followers of Jesus is too difficult. If you share the Gospel with them, or have prayed a blessing with them and there is no interest in following Jesus immediately, then the very next part of the conversation is to immediately ask the DBS question:
“Then would you like to do a few studies on the life of Jesus to find out who he is?”
This will give the curious person an opportunity to learn more about Jesus without an immediate expectation of commitment. A DBS allows them to explore the scriptures in a safe and non-threatening environment and using a non-threatening method. Discovery Bible Studies are currently being used by the Holy Spirit to bring hundreds of thousands of Muslims and other non-believers to a loving relationship with Jesus.
2. DBS AS A TOOL OF EVANGELISM
The entire idea behind this DBS method is that the Holy Spirit does the teaching for these first time listeners, NOT YOU!!! Your job is just to facilitate the meeting by asking lots of questions. You only ask questions, but you never give answers. This is the genius behind the system. The specific and well-thought-through DBS questions provoke deep thought and reflection, which is when God can speak into people’s hearts. Reflection is the very beginning of action. Action is the beginning of obedience. Obedience is at the heart of discipleship.
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, judgement and righteousness and to lead us into all truth (John 14:26, 16:7-11, 16:13). The DBS system is a very powerful tool for allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to people. The goal of the study is to get the group to think through the scripture passage discussed and move toward obedience concerning what they just read. After a few weeks their lives quite often begin to change for the better and they will want to know more. It is not about imparting your beliefs or theological knowledge as traditional church teaching does.
The other great thing about a DBS is that it follows the same format every time, so a new disciple can pick up the system and repeat it with others within a few weeks. No Bible college training is needed and no theological knowledge is needed. Anyone can do a DBS. It is a simple reproducible system that can enable disciples to produce more disciples rapidly.
The Discover app
An excellent app has now been developed for smart phones that uses the DBS system to disciple people and introduce them to the Bible. It is available in most Middle Eastern languages including Urdu. It goes through about 30 Discovery Bible Studies starting at Genesis and it includes the many specific commands of Christ that he asked us to obey. Below is the link to the web page that shows you what the app looks like. It is proving to be a valuable evangelistic tool in the hands of thousands of Christians across the Muslim world. (Tip: Don’t look it up on an app store. It is best to go to the website, then scroll down and download the app from there.)
3. HOW TO DO A DBS IN PAKISTAN
All across the Muslim world the DBS format works really well with non-believers. At the end of this lesson there are two lists of suggested passages to be used with un-believers. The first is for interested nominal Christians and the other for interested Muslims. A DBS with curious Muslims would usually start at Genesis in order to find out why Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden and therefore why we need a saviour. The Old Testament Genesis account of Adam is familiar to Muslims so you will be on common ground right from the start.
All of the passages below are specifically designed around Biblical stories and also Jesus’ commands. The first DBS lessons deliberately don’t focus on theological passages such as those found in Romans. Jesus himself told story after story so people could get a mental picture of a divine truth. That’s why we start with stories. Only as new disciples grow in obedience and maturity can you begin to introduce more complex teachings.
What if a DBS Stagnates?
If a DBS is not leading toward salvation after 7-10 weeks then you may be tempted to give up. However, keep going as long as there is some spiritual interest. Keep praying for a change in their heart. Many a DBS will peter out eventually and that’s OK. Remember, some seed falls on the rocky soil. However, at least some spiritual seed was sown into people’s hearts that God can bless later in their lives. Many other DBS groups will go on to form the basis of simple churches and perhaps even massive discipling movements that change entire villages and regions like they did in Indonesia. We sow and water, but God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
What about Stumbling Blocks?
If baptism or the Trinity become a roadblock, then move to another DBS topic and come back to it later. Concentrate on the simple things and on the life of Jesus.
Is a DBS the Only Way?
A DBS is not the only way to make disciples. It is just one starting point. The 12 million-strong Bhojpuri Discipleship Movement in North India have large meetings in those villages that have all become followers of Jesus, so they do not have a DBS as the core of their village discipleship system. They do use the DBS method, but it is not the core of larger village meetings. It is more for use inside homes, in smaller groups, and in the cities. The DBS system is perfect for city environments.
4. HOW A DBS IS DIFFERENT FROM A NORMAL BIBLE STUDY
It Reveals the Bible without Cultural Bias
All Christians bring their culture with them when teaching the Bible. The DBS system strips away all this cultural baggage because the facilitator does not do any teaching. The DBS allows the Holy Spirit to speak through the scriptures directly to the person’s heart without cultural contamination. We are not introducing people to us, our theology, our biases, our church or our religion. We are just introducing them to a piece of scripture, and because the Holy Spirit inhabits God’s word, he uses scripture to draw people to Christ. (John 6:45).
The DBS system also works well because it uses what we call inductive learning. This type of learning is often called bottom up learning. It is about discovering something for yourself instead of being told. It is the most powerful type of learning as it activates Holy Spirit led “ah-ha” moments of great insight, inspiration and self-discovery. Something discovered for yourself creates powerful internal motivation.
This is in contrast to most traditional Bible teaching which uses deductive learning. This means you are told what to believe via preaching or explaining, and then have to figure out how to apply that truth to a specific situation. Schools and the military are all about deductive learning.
The DBS system flips traditional deductive Bible teaching on its head and allows the Holy Spirit to get involved as the reader discovers truth instead of being told truth. Jesus asked over 400 recorded questions during his ministry and told many parables. This was all inductive training. The Sermon on the Mount was also partly deductive training.
Creating Community Accountability
If you start a DBS with more than one person then something else very special will happen. Small groups learning together are much more powerful agents of change than individuals learning on their own. Groups remember more that individuals. Group learn faster. Groups multiply faster. Groups protect each other. Groups hold each other accountable. Groups will also spot and create leaders quickly. All of these attributes are necessary and already present in the DBS system if a group eventually transitions into a simple church.
5. INTRODUCING THE DBS
Tips from Past Experience
- Stay strictly with the Bible passage. Don’t get side-tracked on issues. Don’t allow talk about politics, religion, or any off-topic subjects. Steer them back to the story if they get off track.
- Let your group talk 70%. You should talk a MAXIMUM of 30%. If you do all the talking the group will disintegrate quickly. They need to “own” the group.
- There are no right or wrong answers. Never correct people. Let the Holy Spirit work.
- Allow silence so they can think. In many cultures it is impolite to speak up, but you must encourage it.
- Never answer a question. If you do then they become dependent on you, not God or scripture.
- Questions can be answered by referring them to a scripture passage that, if they read it, it will answer their question. Then follow up afterward. This makes scripture the authority instead of you. Answer questions with “Look up such-and-such a scripture passage. What does it tell you?”
- Encourage repetition. The more times you go over the story before asking the questions, the better it will stick to their hearts. Almost 70% of the world’s people are actually oral learners so retelling the story is great.
- Don’t mention any other passage of the Bible during the study session unless they are asking a question.
- Don’t bring your Bible if possible. Print out the passage or look it up on a phone. If you bring a Bible you become the expert with a big religious book.
- Don’t spoil the conversation with your extra Bible knowledge. This makes the group dependent on you, not the scriptures.
- Don’t take much more than an hour or so to do the whole study. People are busy and attention spans short.
- If someone does not believe the scriptures are God’s word, then ask them to suspend their beliefs for a moment and assume for the sake of the DBS exercise that it was God’s word.
- Each additional person adds 10 minutes to the length of the study so it is best done in groups of six people or less.
- After about 5-6 DBS meetings a spiritual leader will begin to emerge. Start training them to become the new leader. Meet with them before and after the meeting to prepare and debrief.
- It only takes 4 to 5 meetings for the social and cultural DNA of the group to become locked in. Whatever you do in those first few meetings will become the group’s culture and will be hard to change afterwards.
- The DBS system is perfect for discipling children as well as adults.
- Most new groups will have lots of wild unscriptural beliefs at the beginning. That’s to be expected. They will begin to change and conform their thinking to scripture as time goes on. Sometimes a second passage needs to be introduced and the DBS changes direction to gently take care of these unscriptural beliefs.
- A DBS is excellent at training people in the priesthood of all believers; that there is no one between us and what God is telling us directly through his word and our heart.
6. USING DBS FOR EVANGELISM
The outline below is what you will actually do with the person or people when you are taking them through a DBS study. To become trained up in the DBS system then first start practicing it with other believers or some family members and practice it until you get the hang of it. There are three parts to a DBS:
- Looking back
- Looking up
- Looking forward
1. Part One: Looking Back
Part one assumes you have done a DBS already. If you are doing the first DBS with a new group then you should just skip this part and go straight to part two.
- What are your thankful for?
(This becomes the DNA of prayerful thanksgiving if they become a disciple)
- What are you stressed or worried about?
(This becomes the DNA of intercession if they become a disciple)
- Is there any way we can help out with those worries and stresses? Do you know anyone else in your community that needs help?
(This becomes the DNA of ministry to others if they become a disciple)
- How did you go with last week’s challenges to obedience, sharing and helping others?
(This creates a DNA of accountability if they become a disciple. Initially this accountability will surprise most of them but after a few weeks they will work hard at their promises of obedience)
2. Part Two: Looking Up
Read the Bible passage together as a group. Ask for a retelling of the passage from the group’s collective memory to make sure they all understand the story. Get the group to correct any mistakes or missing parts of the story. This creates the DNA of scripture as their only and ultimate spiritual authority.
- What does this passage tell you about God?
(This creates a DNA of seeing scripture pointing to God and not just a story they’ve read)
- What does this passage tell you about people?
(This creates a DNA of scripture pinpointing what we must do: sins to avoid, divine promises for us, examples for us to follow, a command to follow)
- If you believed this passage is from God what would you have to change in your life?
(This creates a DNA of repentance that is essential if they become a disciple)
3. Part Three: Looking Ahead
- Who are you going to share this passage with before the next meeting?
(This creates a DNA of evangelism. If they find someone who wants to learn more or join the group, then the one who shared should start a new group by duplicating everything they have been doing, but under the guidance of the original discipler. This also creates the DNA of leadership)
- How are you going to change to obey what challenged you today?
(This creates the DNA of obedience to scripture. It also creates the DNA of worship as actions of obedience (John 14:15-17))
- When and where would you like to meet next?
Pray and finish
7. DBS PASSAGES FOR INTERESTED NOMINAL CHRISTIANS
1) Hope for the Rejected: The Sinful Woman – Luke 7:36-50
2) Hope for the Non-Religious: Pharisee & Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-17
3) Hope Changes things: Zacchaeus – Luke 19:1-10
4) Hope Forgives: Unforgiving Servant – Matthew 18:21-35
5) Hope Through Death: Thieves on the Cross – Luke 22:66 – 23:25
6) Hope Rose from the Dead: Resurrection – Luke 24:1-20
7) Hope is Waiting for You: Prodigal Son – Luke 15:11-32
8. DBS PASSAGES FOR INTERESTED MUSLIMS
Genesis 1 The Creation Story: God Created the World
Genesis 2 The Creation Story: The Creation of Man
Genesis 3 The Fall: Disobedience of People
Genesis 6:1-9:17 The Fall: The Flood
Genesis 12:1-8, 15:1-6 Redemption: God’s Promise to Abram
Genesis 22:1-19 Redemption: Abraham offers Isaac as a Sacrifice
Exodus 12:1-28 Redemption: The Promise of Passover
Exodus 20:1-21 Redemption: The Ten Commandments
Leviticus 4:1-35 Redemption: The Sacrificial System
Isaiah 53 Redemption: Isaiah Foreshadows the Coming Promise
Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20 Redemption: The Birth of Jesus
Matthew 3; John 1:29-34 Redemption: Jesus is Baptized
Matthew 4:1-11 – Redemption: The Temptation of Christ
John 3:1-21 Redemption: Jesus and Nicodemus
John 4:1-26, 39-42 Redemption: Jesus and the Woman at the Well
Luke 5:17-26 Redemption: Jesus Forgives and Heals
Mark 4:35-41 Redemption: Jesus Calms the Storm
Mark 5:1-20 Redemption: Jesus Casts Out Evil Spirits
John 11:1-44 Redemption: Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead
Matthew 26:26-30 Redemption: The First Lord’s Supper
John 18:1-19:16 Redemption: Jesus is Betrayed and Condemned
Luke 23:32-56 Redemption: Jesus is Crucified
Luke 24:1-35 Redemption: Jesus Conquers Death
Luke 24:36-53 Redemption: Jesus Appears and Ascends
John 3:1-21 Redemption: We Have a Choice
Matthew 28:18-20 Commission: Make Disciples
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Commission: Be Ambassadors
Revelation 21:1-8 Finished: All things New
What are you waiting for? Get out there and start doing lots of DBS’s with friends so you are skilled up for the harvest!