Reintroducing the Question-and-Text Method

History of the Bible Reading Plan
(From the book, How to Give Bible Readings, first published by the General Conference Home Missionary Department)

"The conducting of the first Bible reading service came about in this way:  In 1882, while Elder S. N. Haskell was preaching at a camp-meeting held in California, a severe storm arose, and the clashing of the elements of nature made so much noise that it seemed the service would have to be discontinued. It was then that the Spirit of the Lord impressed his mind with another form of service, and he at once gathered a group around him in the center of the tent, and instead of continuing to preach to them, he gave out texts of Scripture to be read by different ones in response to questions which he asked. The truths presented in this manner made a deep impression on the minds of the people, and it was evident that the Lord wonderfully blessed the people in this way of studying the Bible.

"Mrs. E. G. White was in attendance at this camp-meeting, but was not present during this special service. The next day, however, her son, Elder W. C. White, told her of the Bible reading service which had been held during the storm, and she at once called for Elder Haskell and others, and told them that what had been done was in harmony with the light received from the Lord. Sister White stated that in vision she had seen hundreds and thousands of our people going from house to house with the Bible under their arms, teaching the people the truth in this way.

"This gave Elder Haskell a great inspiration, and he prepared two Bible readings, following the form of questions and answers  a question, and then a text of Scripture which would answer the question. One of these readings was on the coming of the Lord, and the other on the Sabbath truth. It is interesting to notice that 150 questions were asked in one of these Bible readings, showing that the plan began in a very comprehensive way; but the test of experience has demonstrated the necessity and value of using a very few well-selected texts at one time, rather than all the scriptures pertaining to the subject.

"As to the development of the plan, we quote from the personal experience of a pioneer worker in those days, the late Mrs. A. T. Robinson, who for many years was engaged in Bible work. Speaking of the time when Elder Haskell prepared the first two Bible readings, Mrs. Robinson writes:

" 'My husband and I were then hard at work in the city of Worcester, Mass., preparatory to holding a camp-meeting in the city later in the season. Elder Haskell sent us his two Bible readings, and told us what Sister White had said, and suggested that we give Bible readings to the people. Not understanding his plan very well, we began to prepare to give the readings he sent us, by committing the texts to memory. Later, my husband went to see Elder Haskell, to learn more about the plan. After the camp-meeting we were left in the city to follow up the interest, and we began to conduct Bible readings in the homes of the people. The Lord blessed these efforts, and soon quite a little company assembled for meetings each Sabbath at our home.

" 'In order to strengthen the plan of preparing and holding Bible readings the General Conference soon published a monthly magazine of twenty-four pages, called the Bible Reading Gazette. To those who would prepare and send to the publishers four Bible readings, the offer of a year's subscription to the Bible Reading Gazette was made. The plan was a success, and in a very short time more than 12,000 copies of the Gazette were being used by missionary workers. By the end of the first year, the demand had become so great that the twelve numbers were published as a bound volume, entitled Bible Readings. This book ushered in the bible reading era. It has since been enlarged and revised many times, and is now issued under the title Bible Readings for the Home Circle. Millions of copies of the book have been sold to the public.'

"Soon Bible training missions were established in different parts of the United States, and in this way a strong corp of workers, known as 'Bible workers,' both men and women, was developed, who gave their entire time to this branch of missionary work." How to Give Bible Readings, pp. 11-13.

Answering Questions with Bible Texts

"It was during the early '80's that the 'heaven-born' idea of teaching by means of Bible readings was first introduced into our work. The Lord then directed in this plan of using Bible texts to meet doctrinal inquiry." Louise C. Kleuser, The Bible Instructor in Personal and Public Evangelism, p. 56.

"A Bible reading is not a sermon. A Bible reading consists in the compilation of texts and their comparison one with another, whereas the usual sermon is an exposition of a single text, or at least a single idea. Bible instructors who listen to many sermons and lectures on doctrine must guard their teaching technique if the Bible reading is not to take on preaching and lecturing aspects. But there are many advantages of the Bible reading over the sermon or lecture. The former is not so complex, and is most suitable to the average individual's inquiry. The Bible reading confines itself to letting God's Word provide the answer to the problem under consideration. It also lends itself to the needs of smaller and larger study groups who are interested in personally investigating Bible truth. There is great power in the Bible reading with all its directness. It creates a wholesome type of expectancy on the part of the learner, stimulating in the study of present truth." Kleuser, p. 57.

"The question-form Bible study is still recognized as more practical than lecture-method presentation. Bible instructors would do well to develop skill in transforming constructed textual outlines into question-and-answer-type Bible readings." Kleuser, p. 361.

"The Bible should be the worker's constant companion for use in such emergencies, and for personal help,  never, however, saying, 'This text means' so and so; but from the reading of one text, turn to another which will clearly give the meaning, thus letting one text of Scripture explain another without personal interpretation or individual opinion. Herein lies the secret of the beauty and effectiveness of the Bible reading plan; for it permits the Bible itself to do the teaching in the hands of humble men and women, and is not dependent upon the professional Bible teacher." How to Give Bible Readings, pp. 62, 63.

"He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God." John 3:34.

"Therefore let thy words be few." Ecclesiastes 5:2.

"Instead of man's speculations, let the Word of God be preached." The Desire of Ages, p. 827.

"We sometimes have an idea, and to prove that idea we have to put it largely into our own words; that is, we do not have a plain 'Thus saith the Lord' for it. Let us omit such points." How to Give Bible Readings, p. 41.

"Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Proverbs 30:6.

Properly conducted Bible readings are never to become dry and lifeless:  "It is the planned lesson, not the canned lesson, the Bible instructor is to use! Though these sets of Bible lessons are for truth seekers generally, the teacher should at least adapt each lesson to the needs and capacity of the individual." Kleuser, p. 58.

Ellen White Comments on the "Bible Reading" Method

"There is need of a different kind of labor in our churches from what they have had. . . . Let families invite in their neighbors, and then let the minister hold Bible readings with them. . . . Those who have no aptitude for this kind of labor, should educate themselves, and come more into harmony with Christ's manner of working." The Home Missionary, November 1, 1890.

"I was glad that Bible-readings were introduced at the Nebraska camp-meeting, that those present might have some knowledge of this kind of labor; for if personal efforts in this direction are put forth in the spirit of Christ, they will be crowned with success." Review and Herald, December 18, 1883.

"The plan of holding Bible readings was a heaven-born idea. There are many, both men and women, who can engage in this branch of missionary labor. By this means the word of God has been given to thousands; and the workers are brought into personal contact with people of all nations and tongues. The Bible is brought into families, and its sacred truths come home to the conscience. Men are entreated to read, examine, and judge for themselves, and they must abide the responsibility of receiving or rejecting the divine enlightenment. God will not permit this precious work for him to go unrewarded. He will crown with success every humble effort made in His name." Gospel Workers, p. 192.

"Effectiveness of the Question Technique. My ministering brethren, do not think that the only work you can do, the only way you can labor for souls, is to give discourses. The best work you can do is to teach, to educate. Whenever you can find an opportunity to do so, sit down with some family, and let them ask questions. Then answer them patiently, humbly. Continue this work in connection with your more public efforts. Preach less, and educate more, by holding Bible readings." Welfare Ministry, p. 94.

"Take time to teach, to hold Bible readings. Get the points and texts fastened in the minds of the hearers. Let them ask questions, and answer them in the plainest, simplest manner possible, so that the mind can grasp the truths presented." Evangelism, p. 441.

"Especially should Bible readings be often held, and both believers and unbelievers should have an opportunity to ask questions upon points which they do not understand." Gospel Workers, p. 221.

"The work of explaining the Bible by the Bible itself is the work that should be done by all our ministers who are fully awake to the time in which we live." EGW Letter 376, 1906.

"We are to give them the word of God just as it is, with as few of our own explanations as possible." Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 29.

"Bible-readings are needed in the homes of the people. . . . Those who do this work must have a ready knowledge of the Scriptures. 'It is written' is to be their weapon of defense. . . . A 'Thus saith the Lord' will fall upon the ear with power." Gospel Workers, 1915 ed., p. 72.

"Through the Bible readings the truth has been brought out with clearness and power." Gospel Workers, p. 464.

"There are women who are especially adapted for the work of giving Bible readings, and they are very successful in presenting the Word of God in its simplicity to others. . . . This is a sacred work, and those engaged in it should receive encouragement." Evangelism, p. 469.

"There should be Bible-readings in place of some of the regular discourses." Review and Herald, November 27, 1883.

"A minister may enjoy sermonizing; for it is . . . comparatively easy; but . . . the harder part comes after he leaves the desk. . . . The interest awakened should be followed up by . . . holding Bible readings." Evangelism, p. 437, 438.

"Let them seek to win minds to investigate the truth, engaging in Bible readings when they can." Gospel Workers, p. 349.

"When canvassers discover those who are interestedly searching for truth, they should hold Bible readings with them. These Bible readings are just what the people need." (Australasian) Union Conference Record, July 1, 1902.

"It is very hard to get any hold of the people. The only way that we find to be successful is in holding Bible readings." Evangelism, p. 410.

"The opening of the Scriptures by means of Bible readings is an essential part of the work." Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 121.

"Every church should be a training school for Christian workers. Its members should be taught how to give Bible readings." The Ministry of Healing, p. 149.

"Among the members of our churches there should be more house-to-house labor in giving Bible readings." Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9, p. 127.

"They should enter heartily into the work of visiting and holding Bible readings." Evangelism, p. 338.

"Give them Bible readings, converse and pray with them, and plainly show the claims of the Lord upon them." Evangelism, p. 311.

"Let different ones take turns in leading the meetings, and in giving Bible-readings." Gospel Workers, 1915 ed., p. 197.

"Many will be called into the field to labor from house to house, giving Bible readings." Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9, p. 172.

"Many workers are to act their part, doing house-to-house work and giving Bible readings." Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9, p. 141.

"The great work of opening the Bible from house to house in Bible readings gives an added importance to the Sabbath school work." Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 83.

"We have planned to hold only three meetings for the public each week,  on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights,  and spend the rest of the time in visiting and giving Bible readings." Review and Herald, July 3, 1900.

“By holding Bible readings, our lay members could do much in their own neighborhoods. Filled with love for souls they could proclaim the message with such power that many would be converted. Two Bible workers were seated in a family. With the open Bible before them, they presented the Lord Jesus Christ as the sin-pardoning Saviour. Earnest prayer was offered to God, and hearts were softened and subdued by the influence of the Spirit of God. Their prayers were uttered with freshness and power. As the word of God was explained, I saw that a soft, radiant light illumined the Scriptures, and I said, softly: ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that My house may be filled.’ Luke 14:23. The precious light was communicated from neighbor to neighbor. Family altars which had been broken down were again erected, and many were converted.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9, pp. 35, 36

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