The answer is The Essential Jesus. But to be fair to our other resources, The Essential Jesus had a bit of an advantage, having been the printed resource for a major mission in Sydney in 2009. Plus, its low price and evangelistic/giveaway nature puts it almost in the tracts category.
The second-most-printed resource may surprise you: Just for Starters. Since 1998 we have printed and sold nearly 200,000 copies of this booklet. And that number only captures as far as our records go back. Just for Starters was first written by Phillip Jensen as the follow-up tool for the 1979 Billy Graham Crusade in Australia, so it actually pre-dates Matthias Media by nearly ten years. We don’t know how many were printed between 1979 and 1998, but it would be enough to push it to the #1 spot above The Essential Jesus!
So, over a period of four decades, Just for Starters has been the “go to” resource for helping ground new Christians in what the Bible teaches on seven fundamental topics.1
Although there is a version of the Bible studies for group use,2 Just for Starters itself is designed mainly for one-to-one use: a more mature Christian sits down with a new Christian (or sometimes a non-Christian who has indicated they want to become a Christian) and opens the Bible, so they can teach how to read it and get a firm grasp of the basics of the Christian gospel and key aspects of the Christian life. Generally speaking, those seven studies are done over the course of seven weekly one-to-one meetings.
In 1992, we worked out that it might be useful to give the new Christian a book to read that summarized and reinforced what they were learning from the weekly Bible studies. So, having done a short study on, for example, prayer, the new Christian could then read the letter/chapter on prayer in the book.
The book we published to meet this need was called Kicking Off, written by Al Stewart and Ed Vaughan. It took the form of a series of easy-to-read letters from an ‘older’ Christian to a new Christian.
Recently we decided that it was time to give the old Kicking Off a major refresh. We’ve given it a new title—Just Starting Out—a new cover, and we’ve simplified the content. It’s shorter, punchier, and ties in much better with Just for Starters.
So if you’re one of the many avid users of Just for Starters, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of Just Starting Out and make use of it next time you’re meeting up with a new Christian—or for that matter with anyone you think might need to go over the basics of the faith. If you’ve never used Just for Starters with someone, have a look around church and ask yourself: who might be helped by going over the basics with me?3
Alternatively, if for some reason you aren’t able to do Just for Starters with them (or they’re not willing), you might consider just giving them a copy of Just Starting Out. It will stand on its own as a helpful book for any Christian.
Hopefully, over the coming years Just for Starters will continue to be used by God to establish thousands more young Christians firmly in the faith. And we hope Just Starting Out will contribute greatly to that goal too.
Here’s Al Stewart, one of the co-authors, talking about Just Starting Out:
1. Saved by God, trusting in God, living God's Way, listening to God (the Bible), talking to God (prayer), meeting with God's family (church), and meeting the world (mission). The studies are referred to by many people as ‘the seven basic Bible studies’.
2. Back to Basics.
3. By the way, if the idea of meeting with someone one-to-one to do Just for Starters is a bit daunting, there’s also a simple teach-yourself-how-to-use-Just-for-Starters course called Preparing Just for Starters.