Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Review: One to One Bible Reading

This is a short book, but a very useful book on something very simple, yet revolutionary. David Helm is the pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Chicago, and he has done the church a great service in writing and releasing this book.

In the first chapter, we are introduced to some people you might know. Pen portraits tell you of a non-Christian, a new Christian and a long-time Christian. The question is, how to help each of them develop and continue in discipleship. 'For generations we have been conditioned to think of spiritual growth mainly in terms of events, programs and classes.' Helm argues, convincingly, that we miss out on the personal relationship when we push for programs, and a better approach is for one to one bible reading.

The next few chapters explore the why, the who, and the how, with lots of helpful hints and good theology being worked out in practice. Some of the benefits of this approach include salvation, sanctification and training (reaching the particular needs of the three types of people introduced at the beginning), but the thing that struck home as I read was his fourth benefit, that of relationship:

'People are hungry for relationships of substance. The language of friendship has become a verb. We 'friend' mere acquaintances with the click of a button. Reading the Bible one-to-one offers the appeal of developing true friendships, relationships of greater familiarity and substance.' (p. 15).

There are plenty of good ideas on how to get started, how to invite people to get involved ('both the simplest and probably the hardest'), and what a sample meeting might look like. Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is in the variety and quality of the resources offered. There are sections on how to approach a passage (the Swedish method and the COMA method), as well as question especially geared towards the different biblical genres, and an eight week journey through Mark's gospel.

As Helm admits and acknowledges, this book is a complementary volume to Marshall and Payne's 'The Trellis and the Vine', and so may be useful for pastors seeking to think further about the mechanics of one-to-one Bible study, or to release members of the congregation to start doing it for themselves.

Included within the book is a positive testimony of a man who came to faith through a regular one-to-one Bible reading, and I can certainly testify to the value of the enterprise, seeing wonderful growth in one older man especially with whom I meet.

All in all, I loved this book, for its simplicity, its clarity, and the gentle push to get on and do it. However there were a couple of questions I was left with. Firstly, who the book is aimed at - all Christians (as the subtitle declares), or particularly pastors? If it is for all Christians, the question remains as to how such ministry would fit into the church's overall ministry, and how it would be coordinated.

My other concern was in relation to coping when things don't turn out so well - the book is rightly positive about the benefits and blessings that can come from one-to-one Bible reading, but what if things don't work out? Perhaps it would have been useful to include something on troubleshooting, or a reassurance that things may not always be so positive!

One to One Bible Reading is available from the Good Book Company, as is The Trellis and the Vine, who kindly supplied me with a review copy.

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