Six Tips for Reading the Bible With Friends Who Don’t Believe It

Reading through the Bible together can be an effective way to reach friends who are not Christians. But you’ll want to approach the study in a different way than you would with Christians. These six tips from a missionary are a great starting point for conversation as you read.

One of the most effective ways to reach friends with the truth of the gospel is to read and talk about the Bible with them. Doing so allows them to discover truth for themselves. And after all, “. . . the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

This is a practice veteran Navigator missionary Jim Petersen has used for years to help people come to grips with who Jesus really is.

Here are six tips he offers to get things started

  1. Set the atmosphere. Choose a comfortable, normal meeting place, like a home or an office. Songs, prayers, and religious language don’t fit here. If you decide to meet in a home, rotate between homes.
  2. Small is beautiful. Participants can number from two to 12 at the most. If it gets bigger than that, true discussion becomes difficult.
  3. Timing. Don’t be late and don’t go over time. Stop talking before people stop listening. The schedule should be predictable so that people can plan accordingly.
  4. Stick with the Bible even if people are unfamiliar with it. Explain that there are two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Explain that the big numbers are chapters and the little numbers are verses. Don’t assume that people have any prior knowledge of it.
  5. Subject Matter. There are several good options as starting points, such as the meaning of work, child rearing, or whatever constitutes an open nerve for your friends. But all roads eventually lead to the single question: Who is Jesus? Help people get a fresh look at Him. When they do, they will embrace Him.
  6. Prepare for a session with questions that help probe the text. Keep sessions interactive. Encourage people to read ahead, but don’t expect much preparation on their part. Create an environment in which questions can flourish. Everyone will be wondering, “Is it safe to ask my real questions around here?” Make sure it is.

Adapted from Reading the Bible with Friends Who Don’t Believe It by Jim Petersen.