Book Review; One-to-One Bible Reading

David Helm’s “One-to-One Bible Reading: a simple guide for every Christian” is one of those books that seems to pop up absolutely everywhere, and thus carries with it a certain expectation. It lived up to it’s reputation. Helm’s book is by no means groundbreaking, revolutionary or abstract; it refers particularly to two well-established conventions in bible reading (The Swedish Method and COMA), and builds up a largely practical guide tackling the issues of what one-to-one bible reading is, what it looks like in practice, what the benefits are, and how to get started.
The book focuses mainly on 3 broad categories of people with whom the reader may want to engage biblically; the interested/open Non-Christian, the new Christian, and the mature Christian (specifically one who is looking to serve). These are broad categories, and the examples given seem a little stereotypical and simple to start with. One one hand, this is certainly effective in highlighting that oftentimes, individual specifics have a much greater influence on things such as what an individual meeting will look like, rather than the need to undergo a one-to-one bible-based ministry.
The writing style is extremely clear; no theological jargon, basic syntax. At times this can be hard to connect with; it seems like there is a bit of distance between author and reader, but the simple style, short (and punchy) sentences and straightforward, unassuming tone are things that work greatly in its favour.
One of the things that stands out is that the book never isolates the bible reading to something you are merely doing FOR someone else. The collaborative nature is emphasised; “one-to-one reading partnership,” “the perfect idea for you and ….,” and the particularly helpful comment“Your reading partner will not be challenged or helped if you talk at them rather than with them,” are examples of this. There is always a danger of focusing only on what THEY can get out of it, but as soon as you start setting an agenda for what the other person must learn or how they should grown, you are trying to take things away from God, and failing to acknowledge that the Spirit is speaking to you through the same passage. The focus on the shared nature of one-to-one reading ensures that this trap is much harder to fall into.
The theological basis for bible reading as a pair is considered, and all through are snippets both of biblical reference, and example from the author’s own experience. These examples are helpful in encouraging the reader, and making the theory (already very practical in its orientation) applicable to real-life scenarios.
I found that by the end of the book I was significantly more comfortable with the idea of prayerfully going about the process of engaging with someone (for mutual benefit!); prior to that the idea had seemed like a good idea, but something I would not really connect with. There is no denying that this book is all about a concept that is simple at its heart, and which has that very simplicity as its main strength.
The second half of the book is even more practical than the first, and both this section of the book and the index at the end provide definitive, clear methods for conducting a meeting, questions to think about and ways to prepare.
Helm’s book is not beyond a High-School audience, yet remains immensely relevant to any Christian at any stage of life or faith. As Helm says, every Christian is called not only to learn God’s word, but also to share the gospel; this book codifies an essentially basic way to combine the two, and is very successful in removing the apprehension that many may have about reading the bible outside of corporate worship or private/home spheres.
Highly recommended.
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