Review: One-to-One Bible Reading

  • Sumo

As indicated by the subtitle of the book (a simple guide for every Christian), this work is intended to guide any Christian into reading the Bible with another person. I think it achieves this aim very succesfully.

One-to-One Bible Reading is short: barely 100 (small-sized) pages. Even so, it’s divided into two broad sections and 11 chapters, with two appendices being required to push it over the 100 page mark. It’s an easy read!

The author, David Helm, rightly points out an obvious reality: there’s good reason to read the Bible one-to-one with all kinds of people. It’s good for those not-yet-Christian: God’s word can convert them. It’s good for newer Christians: God’s word can effect on-going transformation. It’s good for established Christians: God’s word equips them for further minsitry. And in all these possibible scenarios, one-to-one reading provides what so many people are crying out for – relationship.

After arguing briefly the benefits of regular one-to-one Bible reading, Helm provides a substantial amount of practical advice and tips. Chapter headings give a feel for the ‘users’ guide’ feel for much of the book: ‘How do I get started?’, ‘What will a typical meeting look like?’, ‘Preparation’, Help with reading different biblical genres’, etc.

It’s all great material, and I am sure it will be immensely helpful to anyone, but particularly those embarking on such Bible reading for the first time. Helm want to show how easy it is to pick up the Bible and read it with someone. How good it is – Christians are probably convinced already. But how easy it is? I suspect that perceived difficulty is a major reason more Christians don’t read the Bible together. Helm even provides two simple fameworks for Bible reading to show that we should not be scared off from starting.

I have two suggestions for improvement. One would make the book shorter, the other would make it longer.

Firstly, shorter. Appendix 2 is a series of pages ready to be copied and full of useful questions for the different types of biblical writing (The Gospels and Acts, Old Testament narrative, and so on). This material is reproduced from Chapter 10, ‘Help with reading different biblical genres’, with formatting added. I can’t see why chapter 10 was not itself formatted as ready-to-copy. It seemed a waste of space.

Secondly, longer. I would like to see an expansion of Chapter 2, ‘Why read one-to-one?’ Chapter 2 is, it appears, the theological and pastoral rationale for one-to-one reading. It checks if the reader is convinced of the value of such a ministry. I would like the chapter to probe a little more boldly. For example, we need to ask if we actually trust the power of God’s word to transform. Or do we, as modern Christians, behave in a way that suggests there are other ‘powers’ that equip God’s people for every good work?

These suggestions are quite minor. I hope you buy and use this book, and that it encourages plenty more people to read the Bible with a friend, who will then read the Bible with a friend, who will …

I received a free review copy of this book (though I had already bought one for myself). Since I had the book, I asked for an e-book – so was surprised to receive a copy in the mail. Maybe the e-book version was not yet released when I asked for a copy, but it now appears to be available. You can buy the physical book here (Australia, SE Asia, Pacific), or here (North & South America, Europe, Africa).