Consistency has never been one of my strong points. “It is the bugbear of small minds”, I breezily say as I am caught out doing the very thing for which I have berated the kids not five minutes previously (take your pick from: eating high-spill-potential food in the good room, flicking between channels constantly on the TV, or leaving every light on in the house).
Inconsistency is profoundly human. We just can’t manage to be our better selves all the time, or to keep acting in accordance with our stated and even genuinely held beliefs. You might even say, as someone once did, that “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom 7:19).
This goes for Christian ministry too. We bravely fight for a truth of the Bible one minute and then act contrary to it the next. Scott Newling pointed this out very perceptively in his recent essay on public Bible reading (see Briefing #390). It is really very strange, not to mention unacceptable, that we Reformed-evangelicals, who love the Bible and regard sola scriptura as a precious distinctive, should end up running church meetings in which the Bible is hardly read.
Scott’s article got me thinking about other areas where what we say about the Bible is inconsistent with what we do with the Bible. In particular, why is it that the high place we give to the Bible in our church gatherings—particularly in the preaching of high quality, Bible-based sermons—does not translate to other theatres of ministry? For example, when we want to run a men’s ministry, why is it that our minds tend to run first towards men’s breakfasts, shed nights, accountability groups, and such things rather than towards getting men to open up the Bible with each other (in pairs, in threes, in small groups)? And we could ask similar questions about women’s ministry, seniors’ ministry, and youth ministry.
It almost seems like we trust the power of the Word to speak when it is explained from the pulpit, but we’re not so sure of its efficacy to change lives in other contexts. Is it possible (and desirable) for two ordinary believers to simply read the Bible together at the kitchen table, and thus have their lives transformed by the sword of the Spirit?
For many of us, the theoretical and theological answer to that question would be yes. But that answer is often not borne out in practice. And so we find pastoral staff who undertake very little one-to-one Bible reading with their people, and congregation members who’ve never even considered the idea.
When David Helm realized his inconsistency in this area, it was the genesis of what eventually turned out to be a new ministry resource from Matthias Media: One-to-One Bible Reading: a simple guide for every Christian.
David is a pastor in Chicago, and also serves as Executive Director of the Charles Simeon Trust, a US-based training organization that specializes in equipping preachers to prepare and deliver better expository sermons. In other words, David is a fervent believer in the power of preaching, and has devoted years of his life to promoting and improving preaching.
But he realized that he was neglecting the personal ministry of the Bible—not only in his own pastoral relationships, but also in the way he was training and equipping his congregation. He was not reading the Bible personally with congregation members, and (hardly surprisingly) they were following his lead and not reading it with each other either.
And so David made a start: reading the Bible one-to-one with non-Christian contacts, with new Christians, and with more established Christians to help them grow.
One-to-One Bible Reading sprang from his reflection on this experience, and his desire to train his congregation to do likewise. It is a wonderfully simple and encouraging little book that aims to inspire every Christian with the knowledge, skills and confidence to read the Bible one-to-one with someone else—whether with a non-Christian friend, a newish believer, a spouse, or a Christian friend.
The first half of the book gives the why and the basic how, including wise suggestions about how to ask someone to read with you, what expectations to set, and so on. The second half contains lots of practical ideas, frameworks, reading plans and suggestions for actually doing the Bible reading.
It’s a superb little resource, as effective and useful as it is non-threatening.
To hear David Helm talk more about the book and why he wrote it, visit www.matthiasmedia.com/one-to-one-bible-reading.