How to Prepare for a One-to-One Bible Reading Session (Part Two)

This is Part Two of an interview with Sean Martin on One-to-One Bible Reading. Read Part One or listen to the entire interview below.

Kevin: What are some of the books you read the most with different types of people?

Sean: With an unbeliever, I typically go to Mark’s gospel. It’s a way to meet Jesus as He walks off the pages of Scripture. It’s short, punchy, clear, and narrative with a lot of action. Unlike John’s gospel, there aren’t as many theological abstractions like the “I Am” statements that take a lot of time to explain. I find Mark a more straightforward and it gets to the heart quickly of who Jesus is, what He came to do, and what it means to walk with Him on the path of the cross. Mark, in my opinion, is the best book for an unbeliever.

For new believers, Colossians is my go-to book. It’s like a mini-Romans. It’s a gateway to the gospel and explains the gospel well. In the first chapter Paul reminds the Colossians of what the gospel is and the fruit it bears in faith, hope, and love. The latter half of the chapter makes clear who Jesus is and what He did on the cross, His supremacy as Lord, and the sufficiency of His sacrifice. The following chapters work out the implications of the gospel. What does it mean to put on the new life and leave the old behind? What does living out the gospel look like in married life? At the workplace? I find Colossians to be a foundational book. It’s straightforward and a great book for new believers.

With more mature believers, I work back and forth between the Old and New Testaments. I’ll ask, “What’s a book you’ve never read before that we should read together?” Some years ago a guy I was meeting with said, “I’ve never really read Isaiah.” We spend a whole summer working through Isaiah. (We did an overview—we didn’t go verse-by-verse for 66 chapters.) We had a terrific time.

Related Link: 12 Books of the Bible for One-to-One Reading

Kevin: How do you typically prepare for a one-to-one session? It’s probably different for you since you know these books well.

Sean: If you’re a pastor or someone in full-time ministry reading this, know that it’s important to not over-prepare for a one-to-one. If someone comes to meet with you, whether you’re aware of it or not, they will automatically look to you for the answers. “Sean, you’re a pastor, you just tell me.” (When I was young that was a great temptation because I was excited about the Scriptures.)

One thing I do to prepare is to tell the person I’m meeting with that this is a two-way street and we are both going to learn from one another. I make it clear that I am not teaching them what Colossians says, it is something we discover together. I make that clear.

Secondly, I mentioned the Swedish method, I give those questions to the person I’m reading with. I ask the same questions too. Over the years, I wouldn’t say I under prepare, but I just do the basics. I don’t pull out commentaries or my old sermons. I just look at Colossians afresh, ask those four questions, and come with a piece of paper and say, “Here are the things I thought of. What did you think of?” This is so the learning becomes mutual. This is very important. The tendency is to study up and show all you got. The purpose shouldn’t be that but to discover truth together.

If you’re a full-time ministry worker who learns not to come super prepared, I think it helps you develop the posture of a learner. We can learn things from brand new Christians. Sometimes new Christians ask me questions I’ve never thought of. I’ve thought, “Wow, that’s a really good question. I’m glad they asked it.” They make me think and work. You can always learn things from God’s people. Not over preparing is very, very important.

I want to share one more thing about preparation. A pitfall to avoid, especially as we grow in our relationship with our one-to-one, is that a friendship hopefully comes out of it, and the tendency is to want to chat and catch up all the time. I encourage people to be very disciplined. If I’m meeting someone for an hour, we have five minutes for catching up (unless they’ve just had a tragedy in their lives and it’s a shepherding moment). “What’s happening in your life? What did you think about the Cubs game? How’s work going? How was your holiday?”

Start with a quick catch up, time reading the text, prayer, forty-five minutes working through the text, and a couple of minutes sharing prayer requests, how can we pray the Scripture passage into our lives, how can we pray for our church and the world. One hour, we’re done.

Another pitfall to avoid deals with sharing your lives over time. You will be open and vulnerable with one another in this process about how God is stretching you or struggles that you’re having. The relational dynamics between men and women could lead you into areas that could be dangerous.  I always encourage men to meet with men and women to meet with women. Whether you’re single or married.

Part Three helps us see why one-to-one Bible reading is not inefficient and recommends a resource.


But Isn’t One-to-One Bible Reading Inefficient? (Part Three)

This is Part Three of an interview with Sean Martin on One-to-One Bible Reading. Listen to the entire interview below or read Part One or Part Two of the transcript.

Kevin: I think many would agree that one-to-one Bible reading is a great ministry idea, but feel their lives are too packed already with pressures of life and ministry. They might even say, “This isn’t an efficient use of time because I’m only meeting with one person. When I preach a sermon, I preach to the whole congregation.” What would you say to that person?

Sean: I would say a few things. First of all, may God keep us from the place where we think we are too busy to make disciples. All Christians are called to make disciples. That’s the command of the Lord Jesus—it’s not an option.

May God keep us from the place where we think we are too busy to make disciples.

One-to-ones are great because it is a simple way to make disciples. You meet with someone an hour a week. Meet them in the early morning if you need. I used to meet with a guy who was a very busy banker. We met every Friday morning at 6 am. It was hard for both of us to get up that early, but that was the only time we could carve out in the week for it, so we disciplined ourselves to do it. I remember many Fridays feeling sorry for myself when the alarm went off at 5:30 am to go to the one-to-one. I’d be thinking on the way “this is really early,” but every time once we got going, we said at the end “it was worth it.” It’s always worth it.

We’re never too busy to make disciples. The question you have to ask yourself in ministry if you are too busy is are you letting the urgent overtake the important. We can feel that emails are urgent or texts or meetings, and yes, we need to attend to those things. But what we’re primarily here to do is make disciples. That’s important. I want to make sure that the important overtakes the urgent in my schedule.

It’s like going to the gym. You might feel too busy at first, but you have to get yourself going. Once you go and have momentum and are seeing results, you want to make time for it.

As far as it being strategic because you’re only meeting with “one person”—you’re not meeting with one person. We should have a training mindset in ministry. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul says to Timothy, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2

This verse presents four generations: 1) the Apostle Paul 2) Timothy, his protégé 3) faithful men who are able to teach and 4) others.

Once you start meeting one-to-one with somebody, I lay out the 2 Timothy 2:2 vision from the start: “This one-to-one doesn’t stop with you. I’m going to start meeting one-to-one with you, we will do this about two to three months, and at that point we’re going to have a conversation together and I’m going to encourage you to find two people to meet with and read the Bible with.” And what happens is by the third month or so, people are beginning to see the benefit, they’re enjoying it, they’re seeing a change. I ask them to think about one or two people they can have a one-to-one with. That one person starts meeting with two, and I tell them to challenge the people they meet with. Before you know it, the one-to-one that you started has grown exponentially.

You could start a Bible reading movement in your church.

You could start a Bible reading movement in your church. You could start a Bible reading movement in your high school if you’re doing this. You could start a Bible reading movement in your community.

It’s never about just one person, if you bring the training mindset into it, you can have a Bible reading movement all over.

Kevin: One thing I’ve heard you mention Sean is that you Facetime or Skype with guys we train if scheduling or proximity are issues, technology can make it very easy.

Sean: Absolutely it does. Sometimes it can’t be face-to-face. There’s a young man in ministry in a Central Asia country who wants to talk regularly about certain issues. We read through Scriptures and talk through things regularly. FaceTime allows us to do that.

There’s also a young man who moved to Brazil recently who is going through rough lives in life and ministry and again, I just had a chat with him over Facebook Messenger Video. It’s not quite the same as face-to-face (we are physical beings) but still, if Facetime and Messenger Video are what you have, it is an effective way to shepherd people around the world. It’s terrific. I wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise—letters take a long time!

Kevin: Thanks for the encouragement, Sean. And I know you wanted to recommend a resource on One-to-One Bible reading.

Sean: I would recommend to anyone who is thinking about one-to-one Bible reading or wanting training to read One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm. It’s an absolutely superb book—I think it’s the best I’ve seen on the topic and I recommend it to everyone.

Other Featured Interviews:

When Preaching the Word is Costly

To us, preaching the Word is a no-brainer. To people like Pastor John from Kenya, it is a costly choice.

John used to be a “rhema” preacher—that is, one that ‘followed the Spirit’ in preaching—which really meant saying anything that came to his head at the moment. After studying 2 Timothy’s command to “preach the Word” during a TNT (Training National Trainers) workshop, John repented of his preaching approach and began to preach Word-saturated messages, beginning with Jonah.

Many left his church, and one woman even said, “Tell the pastor we’ve had enough of his Bible studies. Can he start preaching the way he used to?”

With this pressure from his church, would John keep preaching the Word?

When Doug Dunton (LRI’s Director of Africa) reconnected with John, he not only confirmed that he was still preaching the Word, but he also shared that his church was growing in ways he had never before seen.

“Where’s this growth coming from?” Doug asked.

“It’s not the same kind of growth, but it is growth of transformation and regeneration in people’s lives…We can see the difference of God’s Word in our lives. “Through new converts,” John said. “It’s not the same kind of growth, but it is growth of transformation and regeneration in people’s lives… We have a church membership now of people who are strongly founded on the Word. We can see the difference of God’s Word in our lives.  And we thank God for where He has taken us.”

John doesn’t want this incredible transformation to stop with him—he is equipping other Kenyan Pentecostal preachers in TNT principles to help them follow God’s command to “preach the word.”

Thanks to the prayers and support of partners like you, courageous men like John can faithfully shepherd their people with God’s Word.

With much gratitude in Christ,

Craig Parro

PS: Doug Dunton told me recently that some of the men we train have the opportunity and desire to pass on TNT principles in South Sudan, even though a civil war is decimating the country. We need to provide funds to cover their expenses for travel and lodging. Would you consider a special gift to help Sudanese pastors learn to preach God’s Word with God’s heart?

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