Unbelievers in Bible Study?|
Q. Should unbelievers be invited to home bible-studies? We would like to invite a secular college student to attend our small group. He is a bright, inquisitive person. But, a few of our members are against having someone regularly attend who isn't sure there is a God and who doesn't use the Bible as their authority. They worry this could drag the rest of us down.
We don't see anything wrong with having an unbeliever visit a home study group. But, to invite a person to attend regularly who does not share your values could be disruptive or time consuming to other members. You might want to talk with each member of your group one-to-one first.
For example, we have observed situations where people in unbelief use the study group as a "therapy" session. They don't really know any better.
But, since they don't consider reading, studying or using the Bible as a legitimate foundation to their thought life or living standards, there is not much left for them in a group situation where people use the Scriptures for our authority in all we do. How can an unbeliever relate to that?
Another common situation is when an unbeliever uses the group format to "vent" hostilities toward other believers. This, too, is disruptive and annoying to those who wish to study God's Word in an atmosphere pleasing to the Lord.
In the two examples above, it might be better to invite unbelievers to attend a local church or to join seminars or study groups designed to answer questions from skeptics. Invite them to conferences or retreats that are appropriate to their learning needs.
The apostle Paul warns that we "not be bound together with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14). In verse 17 Paul quotes Isaiah 52:11 when he states:
"Therefore, COME OUT
FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE
SEPARATE," says the Lord.
"AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS
And I will welcome you.
"And I will be a father to
And you shall be sons
And daughters to Me,"
Says the Lord Almighty."
(2 Corinthians 6:17-18)
(Please note above that whenever New Testament writers quote from the Septuagint Greek translation the words are in capital letters).
Charles Ryrie suggests that this passage involves warnings not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers in alliances or partnerships in marriage, business, and other venues. It also means to be separated from false teachers who trouble the church. Generally, this is an effective way to keep "peace" in one's relationships.
Underground House Churches
In many other countries new Christians are watched and observed for months or even several years before any are invited into home fellowships. The very survival of group members depend upon carefully screening members.
This is because there is always the risk that a "plant" could infiltrate a group and turn them over to the authorities. In that case, membership screening is a valuable survival tactic. They would not even consider inviting an unbeliever to a home study fellowship.
Renewing Our Minds
A home bible study is where we learn how to not be "conformed to the world" (Ro. 12:2). It is where we are transformed by the "renewing of your mind."
How do we "renew" our minds?
We study the Bible and allow ourselves to be conformed into the likeness of Christ (Ro. 8:29). The Holy Spirit works with us and in us to accomplish this sanctification process. He teaches us what we need to know:
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (John 14:26, NASB).
In order to accomplish this alliance with the Holy Spirit in us, we must "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God"… (Ro. 12:1). We do this by making Scripture a part of our hearts and minds:
"Your word I have
treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against
In other words, believers study the Bible and memorize verses because it changes their lives. In a sense we "eat" the Word until it becomes part of our DNA make-up. We swallow it, digest it, and allow it to become an integral part of our physical and mental fabric.
Jesus said, "…if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst" (Matthew 18:19-20, NASB).
This is a powerful, awesome thing! Christians may actually exist in "parallel worlds" when they meet together to pray or study. When believers meet together they exist in this current world. Yet, they also have the Lord of the Universe among them. How awesome is that?
A Unique Standard
Christians believe the following with all of their hearts and minds:
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NASB).
How can the unbeliever relate to such a standard?
Not Exclusive - But Discriminating
Therefore, we would suggest church services, teaching seminars, and perhaps online ministries as a better environment where skeptics can ask sincere questions and challenge the belief system of Christians.
We need to be sensitive to their true needs. It isn't that we are "exclusive" of unbelievers. It is a question of finding appropriate learning situations where they can freely ask and study the things they need at this time in their lives. It is a question of being discriminating - not exclusive of others.