In today’s Western church, Discovery Bible Study is one of many options for studying God’s Word. Yet increasing numbers of missionaries serving unreached peoples are using Discovery Bible Studies. What exactly is the Discovery Bible Study method? Why is it so effective in reaching and discipling the unreached?

A Common Cultural Identity

First, I am facilitating a DBS among four Chinese graduate students. This is ideal: a small group of friends or family who share the same first language and cultural identity. With a common language and worldview, Bible discussions can be specific to the DBS participants. When studying the Bible in their first language, they can understand and relate to it on a much deeper level. In an English-only setting, I might spend the majority of our study explaining new words and ideas. When the Bible is read in Chinese — or any other first language — it comes alive! 

God made designed our first language to pierce our hearts in a way a second or third language cannot. This is a beautiful gift of cultural identity from the Lord used in powerful ways through the Discovery Bible Study method. It is amazing that Jesus speaks to every individual on planet earth in the language that they best understand with their heart!

Facilitating vs. Teaching

A point to note is that I am simply facilitating the DBS, not leading or teaching it. This minor change in terms actually makes a world of difference. As a facilitator, I put myself in the same position as my Chinese friends: a learner who looks to the Bible as the authority given to us by God.

As we learn the Discovery Bible Study method, we see again and again that the text is the teacher — not us. There are many reasons to choose a hands-off approach. But one is that this makes the Bible the ultimate authority and source of truth from the beginning. My students do not recognize the work of the Holy Spirit yet. But I see Spirit-dependency cultivated as I step aside.

A second reason for facilitating, rather than teaching, is the simple, reproducible nature. After only two weeks of facilitating, I pass off the role to one of my Chinese students. Although I continue to meet with them for DBS, the method we follow is so simple that she can easily facilitate our study with or without me present.

Discovery Bible Study and Reproducibility

Reproducibility is key to DBS. Many of the international students and diaspora peoples we work among this year will eventually return to their homeland. The simplicity of DBS equips new believers to follow this method in their country to those who might otherwise never have the opportunity to hear the Gospel or read God’s written Word.

As with other elements of church-planting movements, the Holy Spirit is using the Discovery Bible Study method in very intentional ways. Next week I will share more specifics about the format of DBS and how I already see the Lord using His Word to draw my students’ hearts to His beautiful Son.


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