“Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching.”—1 TIM. 4:16.
SONG 77 Light in a Darkened World
1. How do we know that the disciple-making work is a lifesaving work?
THE disciple-making work is a lifesaving work! How do we know? When Jesus gave the command that is recorded at Matthew 28:19, 20, he said: “Go, . . . make disciples . . . , baptizing them.” What do we know about the importance of baptism? It is a requirement for those seeking salvation. The baptism candidate must have faith that salvation is possible only because Jesus died a sacrificial death and was resurrected. That is why the apostle Peter told fellow Christians: “Baptism [is] now saving you . . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 3:21) So when a new disciple gets baptized, he puts himself in line for salvation.
2. What does 2 Timothy 4:1, 2 impress on us as teachers?
2 To make disciples, we need to develop the “art of teaching.” (Read 2 Timothy 4:1, 2.) Why? Because Jesus commanded us: “Go, . . . make disciples . . . , teaching them.” The apostle Paul said to “persevere” in that work, “for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” For good reason, then, Paul said: “Pay constant attention to . . . your teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:16) Since teaching is linked to disciple-making, we want our teaching to be the best.
3. In this article, what will we consider about conducting Bible studies?
3 We are regularly teaching millions of people the truths found in the Bible. But as noted in the preceding article, we want to know how we can help more of them to become baptized disciples of Jesus Christ. In this article, we will consider five additional things that every teacher needs to do to help a student progress to baptism.
LET THE BIBLE DO THE TEACHING
4. Why must a teacher exercise self-control when conducting a Bible study? (See also footnote.)
4 We love what we teach from God’s Word. So we may be tempted to talk at length about what we love. However, whether conducting the Watchtower Study, the Congregation Bible Study, or a home Bible study, the conductor should not do too much talking. In order to let the Bible do the teaching, the teacher has to exercise self-control and not try to explain everything he knows about a certain Bible passage or subject.b (John 16:12) Compare the Bible knowledge that you had at the time of your baptism with what you have now. Likely back then, you understood just the primary doctrines. (Heb. 6:1) It has taken you years to learn what you know today, so do not try to teach a new student everything all at once.
5. (a) In harmony with 1 Thessalonians 2:13, what do we want our student to understand from his study? (b) How can we encourage a student to talk about the things he is learning?
5 We want our student to understand that what he is learning comes from God’s inspired Word. (Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13.) How can we do that? Encourage the student to talk about the things he is learning. Instead of always explaining Bible texts to the student, ask him to explain some of them to you. Help the student to see how God’s Word applies to him personally. Ask leading and viewpoint questions that draw him out—what he thinks and feels about the scriptures he reads. (Luke 10:25-28) For example, ask him: “How has this scripture helped you to see one of Jehovah’s qualities?” “How can you benefit from this Bible truth?” “How do you feel about what you just learned?” (Prov. 20:5) What matters most is, not how much a student knows, but how much he loves and applies what he knows.
6. Why might it be good to take an experienced teacher with us on a Bible study?
6 When conducting a Bible study, do you ever take with you publishers who are experienced teachers? If you do, you can ask them for their observations about the way you conduct the study and how well you do in letting the Bible do the teaching. You must be humble if you are to improve your teaching skills. (Compare Acts 18:24-26.) Afterward, ask the experienced publisher if he thinks that the student is grasping the truth. You could also ask the same publisher to conduct the study for you if you will be away for one or more weeks. That will keep the study regular and will emphasize to the student the importance of his study. Never feel that this is “your” study and that no one else can conduct it. After all, you want what is best for the student so that he can make consistent progress in learning the truth.
TEACH WITH ENTHUSIASM AND CONVICTION
7. What will help a student to get excited about what he is learning?
7 A student needs to see your enthusiasm and to hear your conviction about the truths that are found in the Bible. (1 Thess. 1:5) Then he will be more likely to get excited about what he is learning. If appropriate, tell him how living by Bible principles has helped you personally. Then he will come to realize that the Bible contains practical guidance that can benefit him too.
8. What can you do to supplement the Bible study, and why would you do so?
8 During the Bible study, tell your student about real-life examples of those who faced challenges similar to his and overcame them. You could bring along on the study someone from the congregation whose example might benefit the student. Or you can find touching experiences on jw.org in the series “The Bible Changes Lives.”c Such articles and videos will help your student to see how wise it is to apply Bible principles in his life.
9. How can you encourage a student to share what he is learning with his family and friends?
9 If the student is married, is the spouse also studying? If not, invite the mate to join in the study. Encourage your student to share what he is learning with his family and friends. (John 1:40-45) How? You might simply ask: “How would you explain this truth to your family?” or “What scripture would you use to prove this to a friend?” In this way, you will be training the student to be a teacher. Then when he qualifies, he can begin sharing in the ministry as an unbaptized publisher. You could ask the student if he knows anyone else who would like to study the Bible. If he does, contact the person right away and offer to study with him. Show him the video What Happens at a Bible Study?d
ENCOURAGE THE STUDENT TO MAKE FRIENDS IN THE CONGREGATION
10. As described at 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8, how can a teacher imitate Paul’s example?
10 Teachers must show genuine, personal interest in their students. View them as your future spiritual brothers or sisters. (Read 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8.) It is not easy for them to give up friends in the world and to make all the necessary changes to serve Jehovah. We need to help them find true friends in the congregation. Be a friend to your student by spending time with him not only during the Bible study but also on other occasions. A phone call, a text message, or a short visit in between studies shows that you really care about him.
11. What do we want our students to find in the congregation, and why?
11 It has been said: “It takes a village to raise a child.” We could say: “It takes a congregation to make a disciple.” That is why effective Bible teachers introduce their students to others in the congregation who can have a good influence on them. The students can then enjoy associating with God’s people, who can give them spiritual and emotional support. We want each student to feel that he belongs in the congregation and is part of our spiritual family. We want him to be drawn to our warm and loving Christian brotherhood. Then it will be easier for him to stop having close association with people who do not help him to love Jehovah. (Prov. 13:20) If his former associates reject him, he will know that he can find true friends in Jehovah’s organization.—Mark 10:29, 30; 1 Pet. 4:4.
EMPHASIZE THE GOAL OF DEDICATION AND BAPTISM
12. Why should we talk about Christian dedication and baptism with our student?
12 Talk openly about Christian dedication and baptism. After all, our goal in conducting a Bible study is to help a person become a baptized disciple. Within a few months of having a regular Bible study and especially after beginning to attend meetings, the student should understand that the purpose of the Bible study is to help him to start serving Jehovah as one of His Witnesses.
13. What steps does a student take as he progresses to baptism?
13 Step-by-step, a sincere Bible student can reach the goal of baptism! First, the student comes to know and love Jehovah and put faith in Him. (John 3:16; 17:3) The student then forms a relationship with Jehovah and begins to bond with the congregation. (Heb. 10:24, 25; Jas. 4:8) Eventually, the student rejects bad practices and repents of his sins. (Acts 3:19) Meanwhile, his faith impels him to share the truth with others. (2 Cor. 4:13) Then he dedicates himself to Jehovah and symbolizes his dedication by getting baptized. (1 Pet. 3:21; 4:2) And what a joyous day that is for everyone! As the student takes each step toward his goal, be generous with sincere commendation and encourage him to continue his progress in the right direction.
PERIODICALLY EVALUATE THE STUDENT’S PROGRESS
14. How can a teacher evaluate a student’s progress?
14 We need to be patient when helping a student progress to dedication and baptism. But at some point, we need to find out if he has the desire to serve Jehovah God. Do you see signs that the student is trying to obey Jesus’ commandments? Or does he only want to learn facts from the Bible?
15. What signs of progress must a teacher look for in a student?
15 Regularly analyze the progress that the student is making. For example, does he express his feelings for Jehovah? Does he pray to Jehovah? (Ps. 116:1, 2) Does he enjoy reading the Bible? (Ps. 119:97) Is he attending the meetings regularly? (Ps. 22:22) Has he made any needed changes in his lifestyle? (Ps. 119:112) Has he started sharing what he is learning with his family and friends? (Ps. 9:1) Most important, does he want to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (Ps. 40:8) If the student is not making progress in any of these areas, tactfully try to find out why and then discuss the matter with him kindly but frankly.e
16. What might indicate that a Bible study should be discontinued?
16 Periodically evaluate whether you should continue studying with someone. Ask yourself: ‘Does the student fail to prepare for the study? Does he lack interest in attending meetings? Does he still have bad habits? Is he still a member of a false religion?’ If the answer is yes, continuing to study with him would be like trying to give swimming lessons to someone who does not want to get wet! If the student does not truly appreciate what he is learning and is not willing to make changes, why continue studying with him?
17. According to 1 Timothy 4:16, what must all Bible teachers do?
17 We take seriously our responsibility to make disciples, and we want to help our Bible students progress to baptism. That is why we will let the Bible do the teaching and we will teach with enthusiasm and conviction. We will encourage the student to make friends in the congregation. And we will emphasize the goal of dedication and baptism, periodically evaluating the student’s progress. (See the box “What Teachers Need to Do to Lead Students to Baptism.”) We rejoice that we can share in this lifesaving work! May we be determined to do our best to conduct progressive Bible studies that lead to baptism.
SONG 79 Teach Them to Stand Firm
a When we conduct Bible studies, we have the privilege of helping people learn how Jehovah wants them to begin thinking, feeling, and acting. This article will further explain how we can improve in our teaching skills.
b See the article “Avoid These Pitfalls When Conducting a Bible Study” in the September 2016 issue of the Life and Ministry Meeting Workbook.
c Go to ABOUT US > EXPERIENCES.
d In JW Library®, go to MEDIA > OUR MEETINGS AND MINISTRY > TOOLS FOR THE MINISTRY.
f PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Sometime after the Bible study, the experienced sister helps the one who conducted it to see how not to do so much of the talking during the study.
g PICTURE DESCRIPTION: During the study, the student learns how to be a better wife. Later, she shares with her husband what she has learned.
h PICTURE DESCRIPTION: The student and her husband enjoy association at the home of one of the friends she met at the Kingdom Hall.