I do a lot of mentoring and training on top of my primary responsibility of developing church planting strategies for cities, nations, and people groups. There are two terms I use that consistently get confused; perhaps, because I do not make a strong enough distinction between the two. The two terms are Three Column Bible Study (AKA Three Part Bible Study) and the Discovery Bible Study.
Three Column Bible Study
The Three Column Bible Study is a simple inductive Bible study that has been used by many over the years. I have modified it for my purposes, but the basic structure is the same.
In Column One we copy the Scripture passage from our Bibles. There are several reasons for doing so.
1. We reread the passage seven or more times as we copy it. This helps with comprehension.
2. It gives us a place to mark up Scripture rather than writing in our Bibles. Important, if you are working with peoples who view writing in the Bible as disrespectful of Scripture.
3. If we use a journal for our Bible studies, this is the first step in developing a personal Biblical Theology.
4. This establishes the DNA that the source of all teaching is Scripture.
In Column Two we restate the Scripture in our own words. Many people find this hard to do. I often think of trying to explain the passage to my grandchildren. What is the simple, straight forward meaning of the passage and how can I say it as simply as possible? Reasons for doing this include:
1. I really don’t understand a passage until I can simply and clearly explain it to others. Column Two helps me think through this in advance.
2. By rewriting the Scripture in my own words, I prepare myself to share it with others.
3. This establishes the DNA that Scripture is understandable by everyone, and that it should be shared with others in our own words as well as directly from the Bible.
In Column Three we express how we will obey the Scripture. Some of you may be thinking that not all Scripture is in command form, but this does not change the fact that we are to know and learn from Scripture. With non-Christians and new Christians we guide them to specific passages that are clear and direct. Reasons for the Third Column include:
1. Establishes the DNA that Scripture is to be obeyed, not just known.
2. Allows for accountability statements that can be used by accountability groups or partners.
With more mature Christians we encourage the use of the S.P.E.C.K. in the third column
S. Does this passage reveal a Sin to be confessed?
P. Is there a Pray, Praise, or Promise in the passage?
E. Does this passage contain an Example to be followed or avoided?
C. Does this passage have a Command to be obeyed?
K. Does this passage contain Knowledge God wants us to have?
The DNA for Column Three is summed up in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (NIV)
Discovery Bible Study
The Discovery Bible Study is a meeting in which non-Believers are introduced to God, and new Believers are introduced to obedience, through the simple Three Column Bible Study. The Three Column Bible Study is just one part of the meeting, however, and each part of the meeting establishes DNA or core values for the potential new church. Following is a list of the elements of the Discovery Bible Study and the (DNA) element(s) each part establishes.
Group Interaction – Leads to Prayer, Ministry, and Worship
What are you thankful for this week? (Leads to Prayer)
What needs do you or others have? (Leads to Intercession)
How can we help meet the needs expressed? (Leads to Ministry)
With whom did you share last week’s lesson? (Leads to Evangelism)
How did you apply what you learned last week? (Leads to Obedience)
Just read or listen to the focal verses (Don’t explain or teach, Allow Discovery. Leads to Worship.)
For pre-believers you will start with Creation and work through the Bible to Christ, focusing on the attributes of God
For new believers you will start with commands of Christ
Focus is on the Scripture, not human opinion
How would you restate this in your own words? (Leads to Understanding the Scripture and establishing the Priesthood of the Believer)
If they significantly misstate anything important – ask where did the scripture say that…? Your hope is for the group to start asking these questions as you go further in the process. (Establishes Group Self-correction and Accountability)
What does this teach us about God? (Leads to Knowing God and Worship)
If this is true, how would we have to obey? (Leads to Obedience and the worship of God with our lives)
With whom do you plan to share what you just learned? (Leads to Replication/Evangelism)
Discovery Bible Study Meeting Plan
Opening (This become prayer/worship time)
What are you thankful for this week? (Prayer)
What needs do you or others have? (Intercession)
How can we help meet the needs expressed? (Ministry)
Review of last lesson
What did we learn last week? (Accountability)
Did last week’s lesson cause any changes in behavior or thoughts? (Expectation of Change)
Reports about sharing during the week (Evangelism and Accountability)
Plans for sharing in the coming week (Establishes expectations for sharing and evangelism)
Plans for meeting the needs expressed in the coming week (Establishes expectations for ministry)
It is very important that you start your groups with the basic DNA to become a church. If you don’t, you will have difficulties in the future helping new groups to become church.