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Discovery Bible Studies & The Most Important Parable

The Most Important Parable

They Will All Be Taught By God

‘It is written in the prophets: “They will all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard the father and learned from him comes to me’

That’s an intriguing passage of scripture! ‘They will all be taught by God.’

Imagine if you could actually be taught directly by God? Imagine if those you are discipling, or wanting to disciple, could all be taught directly by God and not just by you, your teaching, or the sermons of someone else!

What would be the impact of that?

How can that happen?

The above passage of scripture goes on to say that; Everyone who has heard the father and learned from him comes to me [Jesus].’ So if we can get people to a place of hearing directly from the Father, the promise is that they will come to Jesus!

That’s the beauty of the approach to scripture known as Discovery Bible Studies. The approach simply enables people to hear directly from the Father via the Word and Spirit. The Word is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword and able to divide soul from spirit. Let me say it again, The Word is Living! So if people can be brought to a place where they hear this living word and put His Word into practice…then they are hearing directly from the Father and will come to Jesus as a result!

But how does it work? Discovery Bible Studies are simply this: Read short passages of scripture then listen and ask questions…(I’ll go more into the practicalities of this later in this article)

The Most Important Parable

Before we go into the practicalities of hosting a Discovery Bible Group, I just want us to take a look at what Jesus describes as; The Most Important Parable

Some refer to this as The Parable of the Sower…although, as we shall see, it’s probably best referred to as The Parable of the Four Soils and Seed

Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables.” In other words, this parable is a principle parable that has keys to unlock all of Jesus’ other parables. If we don’t understand this parable we won’t understand any of them! Now that’s quite a statement. So it’s key that we do understand the meaning of this parable above all others. Let’s take a look…

The Parable of the Four Soils

The parable is found in Mark 4:1-20, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 and Luke 8:4-15

A farmer/sower went out to plant/scatter some seed. The Seed is defined as ‘The Word of God’. It is the word (living and active) – the seed – not a seed-substitute. ‘The Farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others’.

Are you taking God’s word to others? How are you taking God’s word to others?

Jesus then outlines the 4 Types of Soil the seed lands on:

Rocky Soil/footpath – represents people who – hear the message, but Satan snatches it away (goes in one ear and out the other so they haven’t really heard at all)

Shallow Soil – represents people who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But they don’t have deep roots. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word (they haven’t really understood the cost of discipleship or the message)

Thorny Soil – represents people who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, lure of wealth and desire for other things, so no fruit is produced (they are not committed to action- obedience to the word- but are distracted by other pursuits)

Good Soil – represents people who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of x30, x60 or even x100 times as much as had been planted

So you see that the whole parable is about how different groups of people (SOIL) respond to The Word (SEED)

It’s about how the heart of people responds to the word of God

Which Soil are you?

Which Soil are your disciples?

The Good Soil

Notice Jesus only defines one of the 4 soils as good? And how does he define good?

Jesus defines ‘Good Soil’ as people who reproduce – or multiplication (x30, x60, x100)

What are you doing with The SEED (The Word)?

Are you multiplying it? (Taking The Word you have received out to others?)

So by telling this parable…Jesus not only wants us to sow seed by taking God’s word to others, He also wants us to monitor response to see where the good soil is so we can invest more time in those disciples…

Turning the Soil

There are four ways we can ‘turn the soil’, so to speak. This will help us assess whether we are getting to good soil.

When reading the Bible together/taking God’s word to others, we can ask these 4 Basic Questions:

What does it say? – we get people to say back in their own words what they have heard from the scripture. That way we know they have actually heard The Word and it has not simply gone in one ear and out the other- (thus overcoming soil 1 tendencies)

What does it mean? – we get to hear people’s understanding of the passage. That way the seed has a chance to go below the surface and develop roots – (thus overcoming Soil 2 tendencies)

What do we need to do? – we get to the place of obedience as we are looking to create an environment of obedience-based disciple-making. We don’t want to be simply hearers of the word but doers also – (thus overcoming Soil 3 tendencies)

Who do we need to share this with? – we get to the place of multiplication by asking who else needs to hear this word. (thus getting to 4th Soil)

We need to include all 4 of these basic Discovery Bible Study questions. Most will focus on the first 2 questions to the detriment of the last two. But it’s the inclusion of the last two that leads to disciple multiplication (good soil)

Discovery Bible Studies

So we host Discovery Bible Studies by bringing together a group of potential disciples. These might be people who already identify as ‘Christians’ or they could be people who have never been to church and are not even ‘believers’ yet.

In these groups we simply read a short passage of scripture and ask The Four Basic Questions:

What does it say? (SAY)

What does it mean? (MEAN)

What are we going to do about it? (DO)

Who can we share this with? (SHARE)

The next time we meet, we report back all we have said and done from the previous time (and hear the exciting stories of what has resulted from people’s obedience to The Word and sharing with others!)

Short-Term Discipleship

So if the sower takes God’s Word to others…the questions is…where do you start?

What scriptures do you begin with?

We have found it helpful to start with Jesus and to start with the basics…so we’ve often started in the gospel stories…

There are two helpful packages of scripture we have used to begin with. One is called The Seven Stories of Hope and the other is called The Seven Signs of John

Seven Stories of Hope

The Seven Stories of Hope are…

  1. Luke 7:36-50
  2. Luke 18:9-14
  3. Luke 19:1-10
  4. Matthew 18:21-35
  5. Luke 23:26-43
  6. Luke 24:1-20
  7. Luke 15:11-32

You can read one story each time you meet for a Discovery Bible Group and ask the Four Basic Questions

QUESTIONS: What does it say? What does it mean? What are we going to do about it? Who can we share this with?

Seven Signs of John

In John 20:30-31, the apostle John writes that Jesus performed many miraculous signs…too many to be written in this book, but the ones written down were written so that people would come to believe in Jesus. There are seven of these miraculous signs written down in the book of John to bring people to faith. The Seven Signs of John are:

  1. John 2:1-12 Water into Wine
  2. John 4:46-54 Officials Son
  3. John 5:1-17 Pool of Bethesda
  4. John 6:1-14 Feeding 5000
  5. John 6:15-25 Walks on Water
  6. John 9:1-41 Man Born Blind
  7. John 11:1-45 Raising Lazarus

With this short-term package of scripture, you can ask these 4 questions to lead people to Jesus

  • What does it say about people?
  • What does it say about Jesus?
  • What does it say to you?
  • Who can you share this with?

Seven Commands of Christ

Both The Seven Stories of Hope and The Seven Signs of John are useful for helping bring people to Jesus. But once we see that people’s hunger for Jesus is increasing, what do we do then?

We train them to obey all the things Jesus commanded (see Matthew 28:18-20). However, there were many things Jesus taught us to obey, where do we start?

Missionaries involved in Disciple Multiplication Movements have boiled it down to 7 Commands of Christ that all new disciples put into practice immediately. We see this for example played out in Acts 2:36-47 and often throughout the Book of Acts

The Seven Commands of Christ or Seven Experiences that new disciples and disciple-makers put into practice are:

  • Repentance and Faith (Luke 19:1-10)
  • Baptism (Acts 16:11-16)
  • Receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:12-18)
  • Tell Others/Witness (John 4:1-43)
  • Pray (Acts 4:23-32)
  • Gather (Acts 2:41-47)
  • Go Make Disciples (Matthew 28:18-20 & Luke 10:1-20)

Again, we simply read a story and ask the basic questions

Long-Term Discipleship

After these short-term sets of seven, we move into long-term discipleship patterns. Remember though that that does not mean simply giving ‘deeper material’ or information for our disciples to know. It’s about seeing Christ formed in them (and us) through ongoing hearing and obeying and making more disciples!

We want disciples to become part of a Christ-centred community that incorporates Discovery Bible Studies and develops to include all the elements of biblical church (see Acts 2:36-47 for example)…

In these Jesus-centred microchurches or simple communities, we explore the IN, UP and OUT dimensions of life together in Christ whilst continuing to facilitate Discovery Bible Studies as part of the UP dimension of hearing and obeying together.

Long-term discipleship scriptures we might look at together include scriptures on:

How to be a disciple who makes disciples

How to gather as church including the ‘one anothers’

How do to develop leaders from the harvest

Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples

As I’ve written in previous articles, we are all called to be disciples and make disciples

This article has been written as a short guide with a set of tools to assist you as you be a disciple who makes disciples;

just as Jesus did and the apostle Paul did

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Peter J. Farmer

Peter J. Farmer is a church planter working with teams and networks to catalyze new forms of church that murmurate into movements...

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Lee Horsfall

    I think the Beauty of this is its simplicity.
    You don’t need a great depth of bible knowledge to be able to get disciples making disciples.

    Another really great outcome from this way of teaching is the way in which we are directly using scripture as a means of discipline. We also BEGIN the process of discipline by introducing new followers to the importance of hearing and doing the things Jesus has commanded us to do.

    Jesus said that those who are his mother and brothers are this who not only hear but obey the words of God.

    Taken together the last few studies act as a blueprint for planting churches!

    1. Martin Flanagan

      Hey again bro Lee, this is uncanny how we have never met, but obviously through other bros and sisters, such as the Men of value, whom I also as of yet have not been in their fellowship, and other fellowships, even your own flesh and blood family members, keeps crossing our paths. Bro Pete I have very briefly looked at your attached post and teaching, but not a Man of deep thinking, I want to give it more time and thought before giving my reply my brother. But I do have a deep love, joy and zeal for our farther, in his works and beautiful blessings in my life, in my relatively short walk with him, and coming to his saving grace. So I will find more quiet time to read and digest my bro, and please God, even with my simple knowledge of the bible and its teachings, find what the Lord brings to me from this word..

  2. Martin Flanagan

    That should have read. The Lord keeps crossing our paths ..

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