Is the Church Losing the Art of Bible Study?
They say real men have a remarkable sense of direction; a compass hardwired into their hardware (somewhere) (at least men say they do). This is why we never need to ask for directions; not because we’re embarrassed or anything, no: we’re just waiting for our internal global positioning system to fire up, that’s all.
But, if that’s the case, men (and ladies who [perhaps rightly]* think they’re better map readers than their men folk – you know who you are) how is it that so many men have allowed themselves to be emasculated (ladies, please insert your own word of choice here) by the Sat Nav?
We have become so dependent on these devices to do our thinking for us that we religiously follow them wherever they decide to take us. Even if that means driving along 20ft of railway line or taking a 146 mile detour (I kid you not).
Personally, and at risk of undermining my manhood, I don’t think I can drive without one anymore, that’s how dependent on it I’ve become. How about you?
This observation serves to highlight an important danger facing the Church today: Sat Nav Christianity. With so much quality preaching available on demand online, and from all over the world, many of Jesus’ followers I fear, are allowing these great men to do much of their Bible study for them.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for feeding on a healthy diet of sermons (especially those preached at your local church) but the danger is one of dependency; overreliance on the man in the pulpit to do the heavy lifting of Bible study for you, and neglecting to get immersed in the Word for yourself.
It’s a particular concern because, unlike maths students, a lot preachers today (but certainly not all) don’t show you very much of their working (how they reached the conclusions they’ve drawn from a particular passage). A bit like seasoned magicians, some preachers don’t show you how the trick is done, so you can’t easily perform it yourself.
This has led to many Christians being ill-equipped and unable to dig deep into God’s Word, not knowing their conjunctions from their chiasms, or the importance of the literary and historical context, and how best to find it out. At least, that’s the position I found myself in, several years after crossing the line of faith, whilst attending by all accounts a good, respectable church (before [although I certainly don’t claim to be an expert] reading Dig Deeper, How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth and Grasping God’s Word).
The gift of teaching was given to equip the saints, to build them and thereby the church up (Ephesians 4:11-12). Surely this must include, in the context of preaching (perhaps the main forum through which people typically interact with Scripture) some insights that will help believers develop their own Bible study skills (for their private [daily] devotional study times).
As someone once said, “truth discovered is often more powerful than truth taught.”
At our church we’re seeking to address this concern not just in our preaching but also through our small groups (Life Groups).
We’ve written a new series of studies – Authentic (see upcoming posts) – to try to help us all dig deeper into the Word (with double spaced Scripture passages for leaders to mark up, references to particular Bible study tools [e.g. repetition, linking words, chiasms] questions and helpful resources [e.g. excerpts from Bible dictionaries], etc.).
We long for people’s time in God’s word to ever-increasingly become an “all you can eat buffet” rather than “McQuick-and-not-very-satisfying nibble” (Linda Marshall).
As a church committed to Biblical Truth and Making Disciples, we’re not satisfied giving fish to people, so that they’re fed for a day or even a week but desire to teach others to fish, so that they’re fed for a lifetime.
What can you do to stop the Church from losing the art of Bible study?
[And (yes) I do have an obsession with brackets.]
[*And (yes) this blog post was edited by a woman who happens to be very good at map reading, thank-you-very-much.]