How Outreach Bible Studies can plant churches
"I always considered myself to be religious. I even read the Bible occasionally. But I feared death. I had sins that I thought might not be forgiven. I thank the Lord every day for the Outreach Bible Study in our home! Through this, I and my whole family have put our faith in Christ alone for our salvation!"Boy Mendoza, Mandaluyong City.
In cultures that are religious, where there is interest in the Bible, and where people are relational and hospitable, OBSes (Outreach Bible Studies) are an ideal method to use in church planting. Other cultures are more secular and prefer privacy. OBSes will probably be less effective in cultures like these.
It's not surprising that millions of Filipinos have found Christ in OBSes. This is a very powerful tool! That's why OBSes are the heart of this model of church planting. Because this is so, it's crucial that we have solid OBSes.
Thousands of Christian workers have opened OBSes. But we want to do more than just open more OBSes. We want to open OBSes to plant churches. Many have attempted to plant a church, but failed, even though they used OBSes. Bakit kaya? In this chapter we'll see the characteristics of OBSes that are needed to effectively plant churches.
Select good OBS materials
The materials you choose can make a big difference. This is an important decision. Here are some key things to look for.
1. Focus on evangelism
The majority of the Bible study materials in our Christian bookstores focus on Christian living or doctrine. These have their place. But in Outreach Bible Studies, with non-Christians, we need materials which focus on salvation. Also, the Gospel must be very clear so it can be accurately understood. Many have prayed a prayer to "receive Christ" who have not yet sincerely trusted Christ as Savior. Good materials can help minimize this.
You may also have some people in your OBSes who have already received Christ, but never got involved in a church. They never grew in their faith. They also need materials that teach the Gospel to strengthen their faith in Christ.
2. Gospel repetition
In the most effective OBSes, the Gospel is clearly presented several times in different ways. Each lesson covers a different aspect of the Gospel. Most people need to hear the Gospel several times before they really understand and genuinely respond.
3. Easy to use
Find simple materials! This is crucial! To reach many people we need to open lots of OBSes. To open more OBSes we need more OBS leaders. If we use simple OBS materials we can mobilize many more OBS leaders. Using simple materials means more people will be saved! Some materials have great content, but only highly qualified leaders are able to use them. This will limit the fruitfulness of your church plant. Avoid materials like this. Finding OBS materials that are easy to use is one of the most valuable steps you can take in planting your church.
4. Discovery learning
Choose materials that lead people to discover truths from the Bible for themselves. Learning through discovery is far better than just being told through lecture.
Communications expert Charles Kraft says:
The most impactful kind of learning comes to us via discovery. Jesus specialized in leading His hearers to discovery. This is why His answers were so often in the form of questions.1
Materials that are merely outlines or lecture guides are far less effective than materials that lead students to discover truths from the Bible for themselves.
If your OBS materials are inexpensive, lack of funds will not hinder continued aggressive outreach. If materials are expensive, outreach may stop if you run out of funds.
Some possible materials
Here are a few possible OBS materials you may want to try. Not all of these meet all of the characteristics we looked at kanina.
Written in the Philippines, these very excellent materials are available at The Bible League outlets, nationwide, in English and Tagalog. The cost is very minimal.
2. Train and
This series of small training booklets provides comprehensive training for church planters. All booklets are very practical, including assignments. Planters learn while on the job. Included is a set of simple OBS lessons. The booklets were written in Honduras and are very relevant to our Philippines context. These are available in English, Cebuano and Tagalog through Philippine Challenge.
3. SOW(School of Workers)
4. Building on Firm Foundations(Also sometimes known as the Chronological Bible Lessons)
Many churches have developed their own materials. You can get permission to use these. You also may want to write your own.
6. Inductive Bible study
You can conduct OBSes straight from the Bible.
Inductive Outreach Bible Studies
In inductive OBSes contacts discover Bible truths for themselves, straight from the Bible. You can lead OBSes like this by using one simple question. Those at the OBS answer this one question. As they do, they make their own discoveries. Many different truths about salvation are discovered. The Gospel is always emphasized. Different aspects of salvation are covered at each OBS. You will spend almost nothing on materials.
This is my favorite method. I especially like it because it's simple and can be used to mobilize many leaders. It's especially effective among those who already trust the Bible as the true Word of God. With this method, you will never run out of lessons. Your materials will never be out of stock. Your leaders will really mature as they prepare lessons straight from the Bible. Hundreds of churches have been planted throughout the Philippines using this method.
Because this has been so fruitful, we have produced a book explaining this method. It's entitled Anyone Can Lead: Guidelines for Leading Outreach Bible Studies, published by OMF Lit. This is an ideal companion to this book. It gives plenty of sample OBSes and tells you everything you need to know to effectively prepare and lead OBSes in this way. Even if you choose to use other OBS materials, there are many suggestions in this book that might help you in your church planting.
A very effective format for leading OBSes is the 4Ws format, popularized by Ralph Neighbour.2 This is working well in the Philippines.3
Pick a few simple worship songs that you will use in all your OBSes. It's important to sing the same songs at all OBSes, regardless of who the leader is. By doing this, when you bring all the OBSes together to form a joint fellowship, they will all know the same songs that you can use to worship together.
As your contacts begin to mature you can also teach them to worship through prayer.
Think about how you will worship in the joint worship service with all the OBSes together. Use this worship time in your OBSes to prepare your contacts for that joint worship.
Word stands for the Word of God the Bible. Here is where you will use the Bible study materials you selected.
Ask each one if they have any personal needs, then pray for those needs. Be sure to pray for everyone who attends, even if they don't express their needs.
Our contacts need to understand that God wants to reach their neighbors, too. Ask each contact if they have any neighbors, relatives or friends whom they could invite to the OBS. Pray that the Lord would bring them. Keep praying for this at every OBS.
Keys to planting a church through OBSes
1. Start lots of OBSes!
Remember, you should have a minimum total of at least 30 good contacts in all your OBSes. This is a minimum. The more the better!
We've seen earlier that some church planters make the mistake of trying to plant a church through just one OBS. For rapid church planting that gets a church off to a strong start multiple OBSes are much better. Ten OBSes are ten times better than one, 'di ba?
2. Keep OBSes close together
When making contacts, we've seen that we need to find many contacts in a concentrated area. Now, as you open OBSes, continue to keep the OBSes concentrated in this area. This is essential if you want to gather all of the OBSes together to form a church. If your OBSes are scattered all over your town, it will probably be impossible to gather them together.
Look at the OBS schedules of Oscar Outreach and Carlos Church Planter on p. 208.
Who is more likely to gather his OBSes together to form a church?
3. Inform everyone how long the OBS will last
Most OBSes will meet once per week. Some can meet more often. This is good, if it's convenient with everyone's schedule.
At the first OBS, inform everyone how long the OBS will last. We suggest two months. This will help your contacts to know that the OBS will not go on forever. It might also encourage them to attend more regularly, while they have the opportunity. This will be long enough to cover many different aspects of salvation. Most will understand and trust Christ in this time.
After two months you can make a transition. For those who are interested, you can offer another Bible study for two more months. Instead of studying salvation you can study the basics of Christian growth. With this transition the Outreach Bible Studies become Nurture Bible Studies. This is what will happen with most of the OBSes. We will cover Nurture Bible Studies in Step 7.
You may have one or two OBSes that have been unfruitful. Siguro nagtatago ang mga contacts sa iyo. When you get to their house for the OBS, laging wala sila. With some, it will be clear that they are not interested after all. Meron ding mga ganito, 'di ba? When you reach the end of two months, this will give you a chance to end these OBSes. Rather than prolonging an unfruitful OBS you can conclude it. Look for fresh contacts and open new OBSes. See your contacts list and choose your hottest prospects.
One of the biggest mistakes a church planter can make is to allow unfruitful OBSes to go on and on. When you tell everyone at the first meeting that the OBS will last for two months it's easy to end unfruitful OBSes. If there is no clear time frame this becomes very awkward. Because of the awkwardness, binabale-wala ito ng karamihan ng church planters. In these cases unfruitful OBSes usually drag on and on, then eventually die off with no lasting fruit. Sayang ang pamasahe at oras. At merong mga ibang naghihintay!
4. Teach your contacts to read the Bible
It's good that your contacts will be studying the Bible in the OBS. It will be even better to also help them to begin personal daily Bible reading. Help them get a New Testament. Suggest to them where to begin reading. Give them some simple advice that you have found helpful in your own personal Bible reading. Getting your OBS contacts started in reading the Bible is one of the greatest things you could possibly do for them!
5. Teach your contacts to pray
Teach your contacts to pray out loud in the group OBS. Also, teach them to pray daily, while alone with God.
We all know that Bible reading and prayer are essential to spiritual growth. Contacts who are growing spiritually will naturally come into the new church. Contacts who do not grow spiritually will probably not take part. Don't leave your contacts' spiritual growth to chance. Tutukan ito!
6. Develop a good relationship
Work hard at developing a good relationship with your OBS contacts. Spend time visiting with them before and after the OBS. Phone them. Stop by for a short visit in between OBSes. Find out when their birthday is. Remember it when it comes.
Find out what interests them. Talk about this with them. Don't just always talk about the Bible. You can gain credibility and influence if you know something about the things they know about.
7. Give visitors extra special attention
When you have visitors, it's important to help them catch up on what the others have already studied in the OBS. To do this ask someone to review the highlights. Ask those who have received Christ to share a short testimony. This fulfills a double purpose. It teaches the visitors the way of salvation and reinforces the new believers' faith.
Before they leave, be sure to give them a good tract.
It's also good to visit them. This is an opportunity to help them catch up even more.
Another good option is to open a new OBS in their home. There, you can start right from the beginning. You will also have a great chance to reach the others in their family. If you have an apprentice OBS leader who is ready, this could be her chance to have her own OBS.
8. Train apprentice OBS leaders
Use every OBS for a double purpose. Lead contacts to Christ and train apprentice OBS leaders nang sabay.Make sure you have at least one apprentice in every OBS. This will greatly increase your fruit-bearing capacity by multiplying laborers. Here's where you put into practice what we studied in Step 2 about training apprentice-leaders.
As you apply all of this, you can look forward with great hope to seeing many come to know Christ. But this is just the beginning. These new believers need to grow strong in their faith. How can we help them? We'll look at this in Step 7.
Action planning and discussion
1. Which of these qualities of OBS materials might be easy to overlook? If overlooked, what might be the result?
Focus on evangelism
Easy to use
2. What are some of the things you like about Inductive OBSes, from what you know so far?
3. What are some of the advantages of starting multiple OBSes?
4. Why do you think some church planters open OBSes scattered in many places rather than concentrate in one area?
5. What time frame will you use for your OBSes?
6. How will you help your OBS contacts to get their own Bibles?
7. Some keys to planting a church through OBSes are:
Start lots of OBSes
Keep OBSes close together
Inform everyone how long the OBS will last
Teach your contacts to read the Bible
Teach your contacts to pray
Develop a good relationship
Give visitors extra special attention
Train apprentice OBS leaders
Of all of these actions, which might be easy to overlook? If overlooked, what might be the result?
The main thing to do now
qChoose your OBS materials.
qStart OBSes with a total of at least 30 people. The more the better!
The Missionary Training Service is a UK Registered Charity (No. 1073046)
and a Company limited by Guarantee (No. 3554515).