How to Reach the World with a New Style of Bible Study

Discovery Bible Study is a great tool that helps participants from many backgrounds learn about and respond to who God is.

  • by Elliott Dodge

The key to living out 2 Timothy 2:2 is transferability.

If the church’s goal is to, as Paul said, “entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also,” we need a tool that can easily be passed from one spiritual generation to the next. Discovery Bible Study may be that tool.

Discovery Bible Study, or DBS, is a study method that relies on the Bible itself, rather than the leader, to do the heavy lifting of discipleship. On the surface, DBS is simply reading a Bible passage and responding with a series of questions. Going deeper, DBS is a blueprint for house churches, teaching people to apply and share what they learn from the Bible. As participants read and react to the Bible, they are introduced to key factors of the Christian life, like prayer and sanctification.

Nuts and Bolts

DBS is a method of Bible study that works well in almost any context, but is especially well suited for small groups of people interested in studying the Bible, but who may not be Christians.

Here is what a standard DBS meeting looks like:

  1. Connect and Review
    Participants meet and talk with each other about their week. This includes questions like “What are you thankful for this week?” and “What difficulties have you faced this week?”, both of which teach participants about prayer. Everyone learns to share their highs and lows in community.
    During this section, participants also talk about who they shared last week’s lesson with and how they lived their life differently because of it.
  2. Read the Passage
    The group reads the passage once together, using the same Bible translation. Then one person reads it again while everyone else’s Bible is closed, followed by another person explaining the passage in their own words.
  3. Discover God’s Word
    Everyone has an opportunity to discuss how they feel about the passage and why it made them feel that way.
    After that, the group talks about what the passage tells them about God, people, and their relationship with Him. It’s important that answers come straight from the text, not from outside sources.
  4. Obey God’s Word
    This is the defining feature of DBS. Participants are asked, “If this passage is true, how does it change your view of God? Yourself? Other people?” They each come up with a concrete action that they can take in the next week in the form of an “I will …” statement. They also each think of someone they can share the passage with.


Why It Works

DBS is an effective study method for Christians and non-Christians alike. It is centered on God’s Word, without secondary sources. It keeps the focus on God, rather than the rabbit trails that can plague Bible studies. Most importantly, it’s so simple that anyone, including a non-believer who wants to learn about God with other non-Christian friends, can facilitate a group easily. Indeed, that’s built into the DNA.

When using the Discovery method, there are no leaders or students. One person facilitates discussion, but not from a position of authority. All are seeking God in the Bible together. Because one does not need to have any special training to lead this four-part session, one of the main goals of DBS is for those in the group to splinter off and form new groups based on those they are already interacting with in their daily life. Indeed, Cru staff members and volunteers are seeing that happen in universities across the country.

Thomas and Madelynn are two students involved with Bridges International™ (Cru’s ministry to international students) at the University of Texas at Austin, who desire to see students from all over the world know Jesus. They have been co-leading a DBS group for a few months now, made mostly of non-Christians from Asia and the Middle East. One student recently left for London to continue his studies, but he hopes to find or start another group when he arrives. Meanwhile, an Asian student in the study has offered to host the group, even though he has not yet come to know Jesus.  

While these students are not yet Christians, Kerby Goff (a Bridges staff member) sees the group as the beginning of many stories of faith. He and many other Bridges staff members believe that transformation comes naturally when people are empowered to read and consider God’s Word for themselves.

Next Steps

Are you ready to start your own Discovery Bible Study with your friends or neighbors? Here are a few resources to help you.

  • Bridges International has created a handy guide to DBS, including a Scripture list to follow.
  • World Missions & Evangelism has a page all about DBS with plenty of resources for personal and group use.
  • David and Paul Watson’s book Contagious Disciple Making details both the mentality behind DBS and how to use it effectively.