I recently reached out to a young man, and although he speaks English fairly fluently, he cannot read and write very well. He was orphaned as a young child, and spent his school years working to support his brothers/sisters. This has made studying the Bible with him very difficult, especially since he is quite self-conscious of his lack of education. Any tips on studying the Bible when somebody cannot read/write or understand most words in the Bible?

Interesting situation. Several things come to mind:

1. Be like the Philip, telling him the Good News (Acts 8). Remember that most of the early Christians were illiterate. And even if they could read, texts where in short supply. All evangelism was verbal.

2. A study series can be a useful tool, but don't think that this is the only way to bring someone to Christ. Think outside the box. Early Christianity taught spiritual truths with credal statements, art and music. It doesn't necessarily matter if he completes a prescribed series, only that he makes Jesus Lord.

3. Be very patient. Adjust your expectations. God's standards aren't lowered, but the normal how and how long it takes to get there may change.

4. Make sure he feels that you are coming alongside him in his disadvantage, not preaching down to him from a position of advantage. This is what Jesus did for us in the Incarnation. Please note, this has nothing to do with your intent, but how he perceives your actions. It can be easy to subconsciously treat someone with a learning disadvantage like a child of comparable intelligence. Obviously, he is not a child and needs to feel respected as a competent adult.

5., Initially focus him on imitating Christ, not gaining knowledge. You need to model Christ for him. Paul told the Corinthian Church to follow his example as he follows the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) This should be the basis for all our evangelistic efforts, not just this special case.

Let us know how it goes.

IBTM Research Team