There is a clarion call today for the lay members of the church to arise and do the work so long neglected by them. This call must be emphasized by the workers, and the church members led to feel the need of entering this important work. The first duty, then, of the Bible worker would be to instruct those who wish to engage in this work of giving Bible readings. Elder S. N. Haskell used to make the statement, "It is better to keep ten men at work than to do the work of ten men." If we could, as Bible workers, get ten members to give studies, would it not be worth the time expended to train and instruct them? How are we to proceed with this training and instruction?
Discretion should be used in selecting such members as are qualified to teach and who have the personality necessary to gain entrance to homes and create an interest.
After making this selection, a time should be appointed for regular instruction. Some part of that time should be devoted to counseling the members of the class to be very tactful on entering the homes of those who are becoming interested in the truth. Paul said this to his younger associates:
"O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith." 1 Tim. 6:20, 21.
"Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain." Titus 3:9.
As Paul felt that it was timely to warn Timothy, the inexperienced worker, what to avoid, how much more necessary it is today that we, as Bible workers, should instruct the inexperienced workers!
Some Guiding Principles
As workers, we are confronted many times with premature questions which, if we were to answer, would result in loss of interest on the part of the reader. Jesus recognized this when He said: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." John 16:12. Thus, when the reader asks questions which the Bible worker feels he is not yet ready to accept, it will take wisdom and tact to avoid answering and to direct his thoughts to a subject for which he is ready. It is highly important to emphasize this point to the lay members who are to take up this work.
It must be remembered that in giving a study the teacher is confining the reader to a definite line of thought. Many times there will come into the fertile mind of a reader a question on another point of doctrine, and he will desire to have it answered. The question is all right, but it has no connection whatever with the line of thought that is being given. Here again, the teacher should not allow the continuity of thought to be broken, and should either state that the question will be answered at the close of the study, or at some future date if it is of such a nature as to require the time of a whole study. This will act as a stimulus to the reader, and as is generally the case, he will look forward with eager expectation to the time when that subject will be dealt with.
Some are inclined to be quite affable. The teacher must be guarded not to permit any topic of conversation to be introduced which is foreign to the study, particularly at the close. It is very essential to leave the reader with the impressions that have been made in the study of the topic presented. This point should also be stressed to the class.
It is quite important to have a definite time to begin the study, and likewise a definite time to close. Only on very rare occasions should the study be allowed to continue over the appointed time.
The instructor should emphasize the importance of prayer, both before and after the study. There are some homes where it is really necessary to make some explanation as to why we pray. In cases of this kind we give them the reason as to why we should kneel before the Lord. The Bible is different from any ordinary book, for its Author is divine, and it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, whom God has promised to send as our Teacher, to direct us in the study of His word. Therefore it is necessary on our part to invoke this heavenly Teacher to be with us as we open the sacred pages of the Bible.
"The plan of salvation is a science." Therefore the same method of study should be followed as that given to the study of any other science. Naturally, we would have to begin with the A B C before the reader could comprehend the X Y Z. For instance, no one would think of giving the Sabbath question or the mark of the beast among the early subjects.
As a rule, inexperienced Bible teachers find it quite difficult to make logical connections between texts; and also to lay emphasis upon that portion of the text which deals specifically with the point they are making, as many times a text may deal with three or four different points. It is really an art in itself to lay stress upon that particular point which will clarify the subject under consideration, and at the same time keep the reader's mind so occupied that he will not notice other thoughts that may be introduced by the text.
The lay teacher should be led to consider each subject as a great chain, and each verse on the subject as a link; and the compilation of these verses or texts should complete the chain. After the subject is announced, the mind of the reader can be stimulated by the teacher's putting the leading thought of the next text in the form of a question; and then turning to the text and reading it, laying special emphasis on the answer to the question. This can be attained by the teacher's familiarizing herself with the texts of the subject which she is to present. Nothing kills the interest more than for a teacher to flounder about as if she did not know just what thought the next text would convey.
The instructor of the class should first make out her outline on a blackboard, with the leading thought opposite each text; then the lay member should make a copy of the outline, after which the instructor should go over the study with the inexperienced worker as if she were giving it to a new reader. Then, in turn, she should require each pupil to give the same study to someone else in her presence. By doing this, she can ascertain the deficiency in the lay member's presentation of the subject, and also can prompt her and thus help her on the weak points.
During the instruction, a portion of the time should be devoted to drilling the new worker on how to answer the most common questions with which she may be confronted when out in the field.
It is quite essential for the instructor to give her class the opportunity of seeing how she conducts a Bible study in the home of an interested person. I would advise that the pupils be given this opportunity by going with her on such occasions. While I would not deem it /- advisable to take the entire class at one time, the Bible worker could take one or two members of the class each day until all have had an opportunity to observe her method of exordium, procedure, and conclusion.