A Distinctive Evangelistic Bible Study Workbook
Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship seeks to train and resource believers in Jesus Christ to present the gospel in a way that people clearly understand it, sincerely embrace it, and firmly hold on to it. These are emphasized in Jesus’ parable of the sower/soils in Matthew 13:23, Mark 4:20, and Luke 8:15.
Early in the gospel-sharing process, it is important to know where an unbeliever is in his/her understanding of who God is and the provision He has made for our redemption through Jesus Christ. Peter knew He could begin a gospel presentation with “Jesus,” when preaching to Jews who already knew about God, the Biblical nature of mankind, and the promises of a coming Satan Conqueror. But Paul learned that when ministering to pagans who were Scriptural illiterates, he had to start his gospel presentations from the very beginning—establishing clarity regarding the true God.
In order to present the gospel so that unbelievers clearly understand it, we must realize that “worldview noise” often impedes clear understanding of the gospel message—it’s “noise” that we must understand and learn to penetrate with the proper gospel communication.
It was with these Biblical – theological – missiological understandings in mind that we created The Story of Hope: Discovering the Provision in God’s Plan. We wanted to provide a resource that would help Christ-followers share God’s story of hope effectively in a world of competing faiths and cultures. The Story of Hope is a distinctive evangelistic resource, for several reasons.
Distinctive: Having a quality or characteristic that makes something different and easily noticed.
“Now that you have a copy of The Story of Hope, go to your flipcharts as table groups, and make a list of the things that you ‘like’ about The Story of Hope.”
After nearly a full day of introducing participants to Good Soil’s missiological theology of evangelism and discipleship, we ask table groups in Good Soil seminars to make a quick list of initial impressions of their positive impressions of the 64-page Bible study workbook. We want to learn what distinctives in The Story of Hope stand out to them. Repeatedly, there have been four or five distinctives that appear on most every group’s list.
It’s Very “Visual” – We like the color and the images.
Unbelievers often evaluate Christian content based on initial impressions of quality. We, at Good Soil, never want poor quality to be an obstacle for the gospel. We want our resources, such as The Story of Hope, to attract people to Jesus, not repel them. So, color and overall quality are very important.
When we were looking for a Bible illustrator to create the Bible event-images for The Story of Hope, we asked – “Who is the best Bible illustrator available?” not, “Who is an OK illustrator that is inexpensive?” God blessed that faith-challenging decision in a few miraculous ways.
The Questions – They challenge participants to think.
“Read a verse; summarize what it means.” “Read a verse; fill in the blanks.” “Answer, yes or no.”
Most Bible study workbooks suffer from questions like these, questions that generally go nowhere. So, we designed questions in The Story of Hope to take the discussion somewhere—to more meaningful interaction with the truths in the texts. And, if you check out the FREE Leader’s Guide that accompanies the workbook, you will see that there is a lot of advice given there to help study leaders evoke follow-up discussion on many of the questions. The goal is to actively engage participants, mentally and vocally, in exploring Bible passages.
It's Chronological – We like the fact that it features the chronological BIG Story of the Bible.
The Story of Hope begins where the Bible begins—“In the beginning God….” And it ends where the Bible ends, with God restoring this earth and its heavens to the condition of paradise He originally provided for humankind.
The overall BIG Story (metanarrative) of the Bible provides the context that is essential for people clearly understanding Jesus, who HE is, why He came, what He did, and what’s in it for us. Otherwise, Jesus—to the Biblically illiterate in North America or around the world—is just another fictional Superhero. And to many who understand him that way, He is only thought of as a mythical character.
Biblical CONTEXT gives meaning to the essential CONTENT of the gospel, the person and work of Jesus Christ. As Bible study participants go through The Story of Hope, the Old Testament’s stories of creation, the fall, and God’s provision of substitutionary atonement provide the historical content that leads to “Aha!” moments when students hear that Jesus was the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
And, even Christian participants generally finish the study with a response like this: “I never knew that the Bible was unified around ONE BIG Story! Now, it all makes much better sense to me!”
The Maps – We love the Bible maps that show us where these events occurred!
When we first published The Story of Hope, some people were quick to advise us – “Put the maps in the back!” Here’s how the interaction typically went:
Put the maps in the back? Why? Everybody knows that maps go in the back of a book. Do you often look at the maps in the back of your Bible? No. Well, that’s one reason we put the maps in the front.
The maps help to emphasize that the Bible is a true story of real people, places, and events. And the events The Story of Hope study participants will be studying occurred in real earth-time and real earth-space, places that are still important in current events. So, we want to “walk them through the maps” before we begin to “walk” them into the Bible events of the study.
The God and Jesus Attributes – We like the focus on learning about God and Jesus.
At the bottom of each Old Testament two-page spread of Bible events there are 14 attributes of God stated, each preceded by an empty checkbox. We instruct participants to: “Put a mark beside each of the ways that God is portrayed in the events on these pages.” In the New Testament, the focus of the activity is on Jesus.
Even more important than learning facts about Bible events, is learning about God—who He is and His attributes of holiness, sovereignty, eternality, omniscience, omnipresence, love, etc. And the same is true with God’s Son Jesus in the New Testament. As students proceed through the study, their knowledge of God and Jesus Christ is increasing, and in many cases, being corrected and conformed to a Biblical view. That’s foundational for them to place genuine faith in Jesus as their Savior. Understanding a person’s character is essential to trust.
- Chronological Bible Teaching and Chronological Bible Storying
As the terms imply, Chronological Bible Teaching (CBT) is an activity where a teacher explains and elaborates on the meaning of Bible events, as they are presented in chronological order. Whereas, Chronological Bible Storying (CBS) is basically just presenting these events by telling them as stories. Dr. Tom Steffen, widely known as an expert on chronological methodologies has said that “The Story of Hope is designed to do both chronological Bible teaching and chronological Bible storying.” In our seminars, we teach you how to do both.
- The Chronological Bridge to Life (ChronoBridge)
After studying the Bible’s redemptive story, based on 40 Bible events presented chronologically, The Story of Hope adds another layer of clarity to the BIG Story. The Bible’s metanarrative is reviewed and re-summarized using eight key concepts, in the order they emerge throughout the Bible: God – Man – Sin – Death – Christ – Cross – Faith – Life. This ChronoBridge helps the study leader to clarify, personalize, and (appropriately) persuade unbelievers to respond in faith to God’s provision for salvation. A later article in this series will explain the Chronological Bridge to Life in more detail.
- Personal Faith Response The final page in the study is the Personal Faith Response page. Often in evangelistic Bible studies, unbelievers place their faith in Jesus for salvation before the study reaches the final page. But, even if that does happen, the Personal Faith Response page provides content to really “nail down” participants’ heart response to all they have learned through The Story of Hope. A later article will say much more about this page and the process of encouraging unbelievers to embrace what they have learned and understood about God’s story of hope.
The Story of Hope has been adapted for a variety of audiences and applications.
Previous articles in this series:
- Three Greek Verbs Define Good Soil
- Assessing Unbeliever’s Gospel Understanding
- Assessing Gospel Receptivity
- Initial Contact or Relational Evangelism—or Both?
- The Problem of Gospel Static
- One Gospel - Three Worldviews
- Worldview “Noisy” Neighborhoods
- How To Understand Worldviews: I’m an Onion – You’re an Onion
- How To Witness to A Non Believer: 3 Step Guide To Using Verbal & Non Verbal Communication
- Gospel Knowledge Deficiencies
- The Romans Road in “Post-Christian” North America?
- Gospel Tracts in “Post-Christian” North America?
- Evangelism that BEGINS with Jesus – Good or Not So Good?
- Explaining the Gospel – Where Did Jesus Begin?
- Change the Way We Do Evangelism in North America?
- Evangelism – For the Biblically Uninformed