John* and his wife were church-planting in the Middle East, when they were challenged about sharing their faith. They had spent time in a hotel where they met a refugee couple. The two couples got on really well, but when they left, John and his wife felt challenged by the fact that they hadn’t shared gospel with them. John’s wife asked ‘What would you do differently next time?’ – and an idea was born!
During their time in the Middle East, they had come across a method of sharing the gospel called a ‘Discovery Bible Study’, in which you encourage the participants to answer four simple questions about a passage:
What does this story tell me about God?
What does this story tell me about myself?
How am I going to obey it?
Who am I going to tell?
‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could start them off on the Discovery Bible studies and we could give them something that they could carry on with, through the series of studies?’ said John. This led to the development of a website, with the studies in both English and Arabic. Not long after this, a church approached them to ask if they could help develop this further into an app, which could be easily given to people on a phone. The Discover Bible App is now available in 14 languages and has been used around the world to disciple non-believers, introducing them to faith.
Some of the beauty of the app lies in the fact it can be used in places where walking round with a hard copy of the Bible would be illegal. ‘We know of people who’ve used this in Afghanistan and Iraq,’ said John. ‘You can walk into a public place, have a conversation with someone and say “Hey, I’ve got this really interesting app on my phone”’. The app can be sent via bluetooth from one phone to another without needing the internet and is a great way to facilitate discussion about God’s Word.
‘Often you will find that non-Christians are engaging with the Word and they’re making discoveries; they’re choosing to obey things that God’s telling them before they’ve actually made a step of faith, because the story’s become so real to them,’ said John.
The key to this sort of Bible study is that the person ‘leading’ the study is intentional about not answering the questions – they are there simply to help the participant engage with the passage for themselves. In fact, if the study is being run for a group, it’s better to have someone other than the person who initiated it leading by the second or third session. ‘Being an expert, trying to answer their questions, kills that process before it really starts,’ explains John. But engaging with the Bible for themselves has brought people to faith. In fact, John described how, through the studies, people have come to faith and then gone on to disciple others – sometimes even passing the app to family members in different countries!
As they began to use the app in the Middle East, one of the questions John and his wife asked was ‘Is it possible that this kind of approach could work in the UK?’ After trialing it with groups of both Christians and non-Christians, they found it did – if people stuck to the guidelines of letting people discover God’s Word for themselves.
The app can be a great resource for working with people for whom Engalish is their second language – either as a way of helping them learn English through conversation, or by sharing the app with them and letting them discuss it in their own language. For people who would prefer a paper-based version of this resource, HOPE Together have recently partnered with BIblica and the Discover Bible App to produce a free printable Discover Bible booklet – you can download it here. There is also a 96-page printed version available in the HOPE shop – buy two one for a friend and read the Bible together.
‘As people ask the question “If this really God’s Word, what changes would I make in my life? Who would I tell?” it gives them an ability to understand the Word of God in a way that maybe they never even thought that they could do’ said John. What a simple but impactful resource to help us invite people to explore God’s Word across the globe!
*John’s real name cannot be shared for security reasons, to protect his work with the persecuted church.