WITH the heavy responsibilities a pastor carries in his church, he often wonders how he can effectively present Christ to more people. There are so many demands on his time that methods should be used to reach as many eternity-bound souls as possible. So often we spend one, two, or more hours going to and giving a Bible study that will affect only one or two people. All of us agree that the value of personal ministry is immeasurable. However, the personal work of a minister can be multiplied through the group or class plan of Bible study. The Bible class can be conducted by ministers, professional men, church leaders, young people, and laymen of all walks of life.
There is an advantage to the group meeting. The purpose of the group situation is to get the interplay of discussion. Giving vent to their convictions has a tendency to be of value to people in following their faith in Christ.
The Bible class gives the pastor a place to bring his interests. Many people are not ready to attend the worship services of our church, but they will come to the Bible class. One pastor made a list of the husbands and the young people who were not committed to Christ and were not members of the church. There were more than sixty husbands who were not members of the church. In the four years this program was carried on, more than half of these men were baptized.
The pastor should talk success about the class. He must become enthusiastic about it. When we are enthusiastic about the Lord Jesus Christ, the members of the class will bring other members of their family. The Spirit of Prophecy says in Prophets and Kings, page 263: "In proportion to the enthusiasm and perseverance with which the work is carried forward will be the success given." When we are happy and enthusiastic Christians, young people will attend the Bible class.
Some ministers have used awards to in crease attendance. I did not feel that books or pamphlets that were used in my class for this purpose increased the attendance. However, some people have had success with the award system.
You need only a few people to begin the class. If it is interesting it will grow. Wives will bring their husbands. New converts will bring their loved ones and friends. Promote the Bible class in your visitation. The Bible class will give you a lot of visiting to do. Open your heart to the members of the class in their homes as well as in the class.
Where and When?
Many times the pastor asks, "Where should I conduct the class?" He can use the pastor's study in the church, or some other room in the church. One pastor in Southeastern had the availability of a doc tor's waiting room near the church, and this proved very satisfactory. A class away from the church may even be better at tended. If possible, we should be close enough to the sanctuary so the children of the interested people can attend Sabbath school divisions. This Sabbath morning plan sets a pattern of attendance for the adults and for their children. Most children thoroughly enjoy the Sabbath school divisions, and anything that we can do for the children will attract their parents. Be alert also to those children who are being brought to Sabbath school by parents who are returning home. These parents are good candidates for your Bible class. The Sabbath school division teachers can be en listed to help where this situation exists.
Many of our ministers begin their class at 9:30 A.M. when the Sabbath school is beginning their program. Others have their class at 10:00 A.M. when the Sabbath school classes convene. Several of us feel that we should take advantage of all the time possible for those who are hungry for the Word. By starting the class at 9:30 A.M., we can double the time of exposure to the Word of God.
Sabbath morning is ideal; however, many people who are willing to study can not attend on Sabbath morning. In this case have a class that meets on a weeknight. One physician in our conference conducts a Bible class during the week and is enjoying excellent results. One minister in our conference established Bible classes in the homes of several of the interested people. In turn, they invited their friends or other people who are studying the Go Tell Bible lessons. This pastor baptized one hundred that year with the home Bible classes. Many of our physicians will welcome the idea of inviting their patients to attend the pastor's Bible class that can meet an evening during the week. Youth have also conducted the classes with excel lent results, using their young friends to help in the Bible study.
The question arises, "How can we con duct the Bible class?" The members of the class should be made to feel free to ask questions or voice their own convictions. The class should open with prayer. It is the opinion of many ministers that we should train the group to kneel before the study of the Word. If we follow the plan of naming the books, chapters, and the verses of the Bible, we should offer help as needed in finding the references. To save time and hold attention it may be better simply to cite the page. We must captivate and hold the interest every moment during the class. Use a Bible that you can give to the members of the class so that they can turn to the page of the Bible where the verse is found. Do not call upon any member of the class to read a Bible verse if it might cause undue embarrassment.
Avoid telling anyone that the answer he has given to a question is not exactly right. Turn to another person and ask his opinion, rather than make someone feel he is grossly in error. Many times it is well to ask everyone to read together the passage that answers the question at hand.
Plan questions and illustrations in the program that develop confidence. There are a variety of lessons that can be used as Bible guides. A special quarterly is avail able from the Sabbath School Department for this purpose. Many pastors use very successfully their own study outlines. Others use the Bible Speaks, The Bible in the Hand, Twentieth Century, and many other fine sets of lessons. It is often necessary to spend several classes on the inspiration of the Bible, the authorship of the Word, and other points that are important to the average person who has little under standing of the Word. Some ministers give out the lessons in advance, a week early, so that they can be studied in the home. This will develop the plan of studying the Scriptures in the home, and they will be ready to stimulate the discussion on the following Sabbath.
The objective of the class is to study, to expose people of all walks of life to the Word of God. The class is uniquely different from the worship service. In the class we discuss and listen and answer questions. When people study the Word, the Spirit will give conviction. When they are led by the minister to follow Bible convictions they will have peace! When people are under conviction they will respond to an invitation to follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
The ministry of the Bible class will result in a good harvest of souls and consciousness of a rich fulfillment in our calling to the ministry. The experience of a properly conducted Bible class gives a pas tor a new dimension in his ministry, joy in his life, and salvation to many souls.