Why Read One-to-One?
Reading the Bible with others, one-to-one, is a vital part of pastoral ministry.
A young FIEC pastor invited a man who had started attending church to read John’s gospel with him one-to-one.
Ahead of the meeting, the man had read John 1 but when he arrived he declared: “It makes no sense.” The pastor gently suggested they pray, asking for the Holy Spirit’s help to guide them through it.
“No point,” came the reply. “Whoever wrote it should have added side-notes to explain what he was going on about!”
The pastor gently suggested once again that they prayed, asking God for the help of the Holy Spirit. They did. Then they read John 1 together and the pastor sought to walk the man through it.
God the Holy Spirit was at work. The lights came on. By the end of the study the man was unpacking to the pastor what John 1 teaches! As they closed, the pastor asked his new friend: “Do you still think the author should have included side notes?”
Earlier this year a retired FIEC pastor shared his first experience of reading the Bible one-to-one. His testimony was to realise that one-to-one Bible reading is something he should have done years ago.
Let me suggest five reasons why I think one-to-ones are a vital part of our pastoral ministry.
1. They reveal whether our confidence is in the sufficiency and power of God’s word.
We say we believe 2 Tim 3:15-17, but does our practice match our belief? Simply sitting down with someone with an open Bible and nothing else, declares our confidence in God’s word.
2. They take Jesus to people and bring people to Jesus.
The living Word makes himself known through the written word. I would have loved to be on the road to Emmaus as our risen Lord explained to the two disciples what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. But that is what our ascended Lord continues to do, by His Spirit, as the man in the testimony above discovered.
3. They keep pastors connected to people and how they think.
Pastors can easily become isolated from the way others are thinking. Nothing beats sitting down with someone and listening to their questions as they encounter the word of God.
4. They encourage and refresh us as we to see God at work through his word.
This isn't why we do them, but it is delightful blessing. Nothing causes greater joy than to see God at work.
5. They produce others who want to read the Bible with others.
Standing up and preaching about one-to-ones is unlikely to produce those who do ones-to-ones. Doing a one-to-one with someone may well lead to them doing a one-to-one with someone else, who then does it with someone else.
I’d encourage everyone involved in pastoral ministry to make time to read the Bible one-to-one with others. As you do, here are some brief, practical tips to help you along.
- Remember that no one-to-one is the same
- Don’t over prepare
- Trust the bare word of God
- Work your way through a book of the Bible with which you are familiar
- Keep it relatively short; better short and frequent than long and infrequent
- Go at the speed of the person you are meeting
- If the person is a believer, ask after the study, “how shall we pray for each other as a result of this study?”
Are you making time for one-to-ones?