Evangelistic Bible studies like GIGs (Groups Investigating God) embody the heart of evangelism: They are relational, trust in the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit, and focus on the person of Christ. They provide a platform to invite your friends to take a closer look at Jesus, to share how Christ's power is transforming your life, to deepen your relationships with your friends, and to encourage your friends to take the next step on their spiritual journey toward Christ.
A GIG flows from your relationships. It is not merely an outreach activity or an end in itself, but simply one step on the spiritual journey you invite your friends to take with you.
As you prayerfully respond to God's call to start a four- or six-week GIG with your friend, consider the following steps:
1. Build intentional relationships
As you reflect on whom to invite, take an inventory of your relationships. Who are the people you hang out with on a daily basis in class, the lab, your dorm, the gym, at work, etc.? Start with those you enjoy spending time with and those who enjoy spending time with you.
Pray that the Lord would give you a special connection with several of these people you meet every day. Allow him to turn your heart toward those who are different from you. Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone. Some of the most spiritually open people may be unlike you: folks of different ethnicity, nationality, political view, or major. Don't rule out "unlikely" candidates. In my final year of high school, the senior yearbook editors listed "political activist/terrorist" as the most suitable future career for me; yet within the same year, a friend challenged me to read the Bible, and the Lord called me to himself.
Think of ways to deepen your relationship by sharing activities you both enjoy. Ask a friend or two to watch a movie, have lunch or dinner, or shoot hoops. Study together. Volunteer together. Ask for help with a project or to troubleshoot a computer problem.
While these authentic, mutual relationships grow, be intentional. Let people know that you are a Christian. Think of ways and pray for opportunities to share how Christ is at work in your life. What difference does he make in your life as you cope with stress, relational problems, and financial pressures? Listen as they share their struggles; offer to pray for their situation.
Pray that God would give you discernment about those people in your sphere of influence who are spiritually open. Again, his answer may surprise you.
Enlist others to pray for you and your friends. Share your desire to start a GIG with your small group, church, family, and/or Christian friends. Who knows, they may not only pray, but join you and invite their friends. Co-leading a GIG has the added benefit of modeling Christian community, providing on-site prayer and discussion support, and quite frankly is just a lot of fun. So, pray that God would provide another person who shares your vision and passion to reach out to your community in this way.
3. Invite your friends
As you share your lives together, it won't stay a secret for long that you are "into Jesus." Don't hesitate to share with your friends why you go to church, fellowship, and/or Bible study, and what you are learning. Express to your friends how much you enjoy hanging out with them and ask them if they would like to take a look at this Jesus who is such an important part of your life.
You could say something along these lines: "You know that I am big on Jesus and reading the Bible. I would love to share this part of my life with you. Would you be interested in meeting for four weeks to take a look at Jesus by reading and discussing passages from the Bible?" or "I'm inviting a few people to an informal discussion about the person of Jesus. We will read and discuss select Bible passages; your point of view would add a lot to the discussion. Would you like to join us?" Then hold your breath, pray, and trust God for the answer.
Their answer may not only be motivated by their spiritual interest, but also by their friendship with you, as in Sergeij's case: "I am not sure if you are interested in spiritual things," I said, "but I would like to invite you to a four-week study about the life and person of Jesus. I hope you can join us." Sergeij responded, "You are right. I am not really interested in spiritual things, but I want to join you in your group." Sergeij not only attended the GIG, but became a regular at our other group meetings.
If they say "no," tell them that you would have really enjoyed having them be a part of the discussion, but you understand that now may not be the best time; this will keep the door open to ask them again at a later time. Though it may feel like a personal rejection, it's simply a sign that they are not yet at a point of spiritual curiosity. Continue the friendship and continue to pray.
If they say "yes," agree on a time and place and ask if they can think of others who may want to join. You may be surprised by how many people are open to make a four-week commitment to study the Bible. In our work with international students, we are always amazed that more people sign up for GIGs than for Conversational English Groups.
For more on how to invite friends to join your GIG, read How to Find a Friend for Your GIG by Next Friday.
4. Prep for the meeting
You have survived the scariest part of doing a GIG: Inviting people. The rest is BIG fun.
It doesn't really matter where you meet (a dorm room, a coffee shop, the park) as long as the setting allows you to be comfortable, focus, and freely share and pray.
Pray for and have others pray for the meeting. Choose a text. Pray over, study, and become familiar with the text. But most of all, ask the Lord to apply the text to your life. Anticipate questions or points that will be hard to understand, and provide some basic context for the passage, but don't overdo it. This is not a seminary class. Focus on the person of Christ in the passage and think of questions that will help your friends encounter Jesus rather than accumulate theological knowledge.
The narratives in the gospels are an ideal starting point because they focus on Christ and how he relates to others. Check out the Come and See GIG featuring 5 studies in the gospel of John. If you meet with an international student, you may want to use the I-GIG, a four-study discussion guide in Luke and Mark. There are other studies available on a variety of passages and topics in the GIG section.
Provide Bibles for the participants or print out the passage online. Printed passages allow people to write in the margin and also avoid any confusion that may stem from trying to navigate the Bible.
5. Facilitate the discussion
Your job as leader is to guide people in discovering what the text says about Jesus and provide opportunities to respond to him. You do not have to have all the answers--the authority rests with the text. Relax, ask questions, listen, don't preach, and let God surprise you.
Read the passage together and take time to study the text. Ask people to note things they find interesting, puzzling, or bothersome. If you meet with an international student, you should discuss unknown vocabulary, which includes some of the basic Christian terms like "sin," "disciple," "Christ," etc.
The following questions (which will probably remind you of your English Lit classes) will help draw out the central points of the passage:
- What is the setting?
- Who are the characters?
- What is happening in the story?
You can also ask participants to summarize the passage in a creative way, such as writing a newspaper article, an interview with one of the characters, or a first-person account of the story.
Focus the attention on Jesus and his interactions with people in the passage. Ask what people observe about Jesus' actions, motives, and attitudes. Pray that the Holy Spirit would grant supernatural insights and expect God to open the hearts of the participants and give them insights into the text.
Create an atmosphere of openness and interaction. Encourage everyone to participate. Don't be too concerned about agreeing with every comment or answering every question that is brought up. Listen to their opinions and thank them for their observations: "That's interesting, I've never looked at the passage from that angle." Then refocus the discussion on the text. If someone has a question that stumps you, thank her for the thoughtful question and invite her to discuss the answer one-on-one after you've researched the issue. You are learners together.
6. Relate it to life
In your weekly discussions, allow sufficient time for application. Share how the passage has become real in your life. Be authentic and vulnerable. This will help participants make practical responses, not just intellectual discoveries. For example, if you discuss the wedding at Cana in John 2, share how Jesus has met you at a point of shame or need in your life. Keep examples brief and current. Let people see that you are still growing in your relationship with Jesus.
Develop an atmosphere of response, i.e., create opportunities for people to respond to the text. Ask people to identify with one of the character's actions and attitudes in the story. For example, in John 2, the wedding at Cana, ask if your friends identify at all with Mary who turns to Jesus for help, the couple who is unaware of their need and Jesus' intervention, the master of the feast who offers an alternate explanation for the origin of the wine, or the disciples who believed in Jesus.
This will help your friends apply and process the text, and it will make responding to Jesus' person and claims a natural process. Their responses will also give you insight into how they are progressing on their spiritual journey.
Another way to make room for spiritual application and growth is to share prayer requests and to pray for your friends. They may not be used to speaking to God out loud in an informal manner, but most will be happy if you lead the prayer and thus model that a relationship with the living God includes intimate communication.
7. Stay in touch between sessions
What happens in between meetings is as important as the study itself because the study is just one aspect of your relationship. Meet one-on-one with participants, especially if the study has more than two people, to continue to nurture the friendship and also provide an opportunity to debrief the study. Enjoy your times together and ask lots of questions about what's going on in their lives, what they are doing, and what they think about the study and Jesus. Take time to listen to their questions and thoughts. They may have things they'd rather discuss in private with you instead of in the group.
If you have prayed for your friend during the Bible study, ask him what has happened as a result of that prayer. This is a powerful way for seekers to experience God's care and power. A few months back, a seeker from China shared that her husband was applying for his residency and asked the Bible study group to pray that he would get his number-one placement choice. He did, and his wife announced to the group and her husband that it was God who had worked on his behalf.
8. Finish strong
Throughout the GIG, you have been praying and discerning where your friend is on his spiritual journey. As mentioned above, asking questions that stimulate spiritual reflection and response is a great way to gauge your friend's progress.
As you come to the final meeting of your GIG, invite your friends to continue your spiritual journey together. If your friend is open to continue studying the Bible, suggest starting another four-week series, meeting one-on-one for Bible study, or attending a fellowship small group. If your friend indicates that she'd rather not continue with Bible study, assure her that you really enjoyed your times together and continue to meet on a social basis, praying for further opportunities to share your life and faith.
If you sense that your friend may be open to take the next step in following Jesus, ask if you can share a summary of the central message of the Bible with him. There are many helpful tools to share the gospel; the Big Story Gospel Presentation is just one. Familiarize yourself with tools like theses and take time to practice them with one of your prayer partners or a Christian friend.
When sharing the gospel, pray that the Lord would touch your friend's heart. If she is not yet ready to surrender to Christ, thank her for letting you explain the gospel and for allowing you to share your beliefs with her. If your friend is ready to follow Christ, lead her in a prayer of repentance, welcome her into Christ's family, discuss next steps for spiritual growth, and celebrate.
It is my prayer for you and your friends that the Lord would transform your lives as you encounter the Lord in and through the Bible together. May you venture out with His blessing and call: "I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:17b-18 TNIV