4. Understanding Discipleship Bible Studies


Yes! In fact it wasn’t until well into Jesus’ ministry that the disciples themselves finally knew their leader was the God Messiah and not just a prophet (Matthew 16:13-17).

Yes again! Millions of non-believers are interested in learning more about Jesus. They might start by thinking he was just a prophet. However, as we gently introduce them to him, his power and his teachings, then eventually the penny could drop for them too. English speakers reading this now can find hundreds of English language podcast interviews with DMM leaders who do exactly this by starting a Discovery Bible Study (DBS) with interested people who are not yet followers of Jesus. Here is the link to the website. Here are two examples:

A foreign discipler put a notice up on a Czech Republic university notice board asking if anyone was interested in finding out more about Jesus in a series of Bible studies and 18 students responded!

A Church planting movement in Indonesia has over 130,000 simple churches and is discipling unsaved people by using Discovery Bible Studies (DBS) as their main tool of evangelism. They find it works really well in a Muslim context.

As interested people learn more about Jesus and obey what they have just learned, they 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 believer will also know instantly how to replicate a DBS with their friends because they have already been doing one. A DBS follows the same format every time.

For many people you first meet, simply asking them to become followers of Jesus up front is a huge ask. If you share Jesus 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 without immediate commitment, but also begin the process of discipleship that might lead to salvation.


First Thoughts

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. This is the “magic” behind the system. It provokes deep thought and reflection, which is then challenged to action and obedience. Obedience is 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 doing this very thing. Never forget the goal is to get them to think through the issue discussed and lean toward obedience of what they just learned. After a few weeks their lives will then begin to change for the better and they will want to know more. It is not about imparting knowledge like the Western church does.

The other brilliant thing about a DBS is that it follows the same format every time, so a new disciple can pick up the system and do it with others within a few weeks. No Bible college training is needed, just a simple reproducible system that can enable disciples to produce more disciples rapidly.

How to do a DBS with Muslims

In a Muslim context these Discovery Bible Studies work really well, but would begin slightly different to the list below. Their DBS would usually start at Genesis to find out why Adam and Eve actually fell, were kicked out of the garden and why we need a saviour. This is because Islam has a poor understanding of sin and judgement. Do not start in the New Testament. It is unfamiliar to Muslims, but the Old Testament is familiar and you will be on common ground.

Many ex-Muslim followers of Jesus actually start with the Qur’an itself to show their friends how Jesus is elevated above Muhammad (Surah 3:42-55 ) in their own book.  This really gets them curious. Then the discipler will transfer their friend to the Bible to further illuminate who Jesus really is using the DBS method. We will learn a lot more about this in the lesson on the CAMEL later on in this series.

Start with stories, not theology

The first series of DBS lessons should be specifically designed around stories, not 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 believers grow in obedience and maturity can you begin to introduce more complex teachings via a DBS.

If a DBS is not leading toward salvation after 7-10 weeks then you may be tempted to give up. However, hang in there 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 a lot of seed was sown into their heart that God can bless later in their lives. Some DBS groups will go on to form the basis of massive discipling movements that change entire villages and regions. We sow and water, but God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).

What about Baptism?

If baptism is a roadblock, as it is in Hindu and Muslim cultures, then move to another DBS topic and come back to it later. Never baptise someone until they have counted the cost, which could be huge.

A DBS is not the be-all and end-all of discipleship. It is just a starting point. In the lessons from the introduction to this DMM seminar there is the summary story of the 12 million strong Bhojpuri movement in North India. In that summary you will see they have large meetings in the villages because so many have become believers, so they do not have a DBS as the core of their 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. Another thought; a DBS is great for countries where you cannot meet openly.


The DBS system uses what we call inductive learning. This type of learning is often called bottom up learning. It is about discovering something for yourself. It is the most powerful type of learning as it activates Holy Spirit led “ah-ha” moments of insight and inspiration. Science is all about inductive learning.

This is in contrast to most traditional Bible learning which is deductive. This means you are told what to believe and then apply that to a specific situation. Schools and the military are all about deductive learning.

The DBS system flips traditional Bible teaching on its head and allows the Holy Spirit to get involved as the readers discover truth instead of being told truth. Jesus asked over 400 recorded questions during his ministry and told many parables. This was all inductive training. However, the sermon on the mount was deductive training.


Below is a list of Bible studies often used by movement leaders around the world to help non-believers learn about Jesus before making a decision as to whether they want to follow him. It is very effective with Muslim people. If no decisions have been made after this series of stories, but there is still some spiritual interest, then continue the studies with other stories you think are relevant to your particular group.

For the English online link to the DBS program outline below, click here.

For the English online link to the seven Bible studies, click here.


Stick strictly to the Bible stories, don’t get side-tracked

Let your group talk 70% and you talk a maximum of 30%.

Let the Holy Spirit work, rather than looking for right answers.

Allow silence so they can think. In many cultures it is impolite to speak up, but you must encourage it.

Encourage repetition. The more times you go over the story, the better it will stick in their hearts. Almost 70% of the world are oral learners.

Don’t talk about politics, religion, or off-topic subjects. Steer them back to the story if they get off track.

Don’t dominate the conversation with your extra Bible knowledge.

Don’t take much more than an hour to do the whole thing. People are busy and attention spans short.

The Seven Stories of Hope:

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


This outline below is what you will actually do with the person or people you are doing the DBS with. Start with other believers and practice until you get the hang of it. The first part, Looking Back, assumes you have done a DBS already. If it is the first DBS with a group then go straight to part two.

1. Looking Back:

Care: Give them a chance to briefly share how they are doing in their lives & listen.

Accountability questions:

Grow: Ask how they obeyed Jesus last week

Go: Ask who they shared the story with last week

2. Looking Up:

Use one of the stories listed above to…

Tell the story from memory to the group. If you have memorised it then when they become leaders they will do the same. This overcomes the issue of functional or complete illiteracy as a barrier to discipleship

Retell the story together, each helping the others to get it right as a group..

Read the story together from the Bible so they really know it is in there.

Final practice: pair up and practice telling the story together so it is locked in.

Discuss the story together using these questions:

  1. What do we learn about God/Jesus?
  2. What do we learn from the people in this story? Use “S.P.E.C.” to discuss from the passage if there is a Sin to avoid? A Promise to claim? An Example to follow? A Command to obey?
  3. How does this story challenge you personally?

3. Looking Ahead:

Set Grow & Go Goals to be checked next week:

Grow: From the story is Jesus asking you to obey something?

Go: Who is someone that you think needs to hear this story?

Pray and finish


First Third (20-30 minutes): Looking back

The trainer encourages people to talk about their week and their needs and asks the Go and Grow questions. This is a bonding time.

Second Third (20-30 minutes): Looking up

Story: The sinful woman: Luke 7:36-50

Pray a short prayer, or ask someone to pray for The Holy Spirit to teach us.

Trainer tells the story from memory if they can, from scripture otherwise.

Everyone retells the story to each other in their own words.

Then the story is read from scripture.

Ask 2-3 willing volunteers to retell the story to everyone.

The discussion

Now go through the four questions

1. What does the story say about God?

What does this story tell us about Jesus?

2. What does the story tell you about people?

What does this story say about the sinful woman?

What does this story say about Simon the Pharisee (Jewish religious scholar)?

What does this story say about the other guests?

3. What are the SPEC issues?

What are the sins to avoid in this story?

What are the promises to claim in this story?

What are the examples to follow in this story?

What are the commands to obey in this story?

Who do you identify with in this story? Why?

4. How does this story challenge?

How does the story grab you, challenge you or convict you?

Final Third (20-30 minutes): Looking forward

Grow: Share personally what you will all do or change this week because of this story.

Go: Then asks participants who they can share this story with this week.

Pray for them to succeed at what they said they would do (and all other needs).


Note: For Bible studies numbering 2-7, ask the  following questions at the beginning:

Grow: How did you live out last week’s story?

Go: Who did you retell last week’s story to?


Jesus told us to teach people to obey his commands. Below is a list of those very 9 commands so you can do a DBS series with a brand new believer.

Command Command Story
1. Turn and believe Mark 1:15 The sinful woman: Luke 7:36-50
2. Be Baptised Matthew 28:19 Phillip and the Ethiopian: Acts 8:26-29
3. Pray Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus’ prayer: Matthew 6:5-15
4. Make disciples Matthew 28:19-20 The Samaritan woman: John 4:4-42
5. Persevere John 15:18-19 The persecuted church: Acts 5:27-42
6. Love Matthew 22:37-39 The good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37
7. Lords Supper Luke 22:19-20 Jesus last supper: Luke 22:7-20
8.  Giving Luke 6:38 The generous widow: Mark 12:41-44
9. Gather and meet Hebrews 10:24-25 The first church: Acts 2:41-47


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!