Bible Study: Not Just a Women’s Issue
It linked to this article by a woman who leads women’s Bible Studies, and who every year gets feedback saying things like:
I’ve been in church for years, but no one has taught me to study my Bible until now.
Church leaders, I fear we have made a costly and erroneous assumption about those we lead. I fear that in our enthusiasm to teach about finances, gender roles, healthy relationships, purity, culture wars, and even theology we have neglected to build foundational understanding of the Scriptures among our people. We have assumed that the time they spend in personal interaction with their Bible is accumulating for them a basic firsthand knowledge of what it says, what it means, and how it should change them. Or perhaps we have assumed that kind of knowledge isn’t really that important.
So we continue to tell people this is what you should believe about marriage and this is what you need to know about doctrine and this is what your idolatry looks like. But because we never train them in the Scriptures, they have no framework to attach these exhortations to beyond their church membership or their pastor’s personality or their group leader’s opinion. More importantly, they have no plumb line to measure these exhortations against. It never occurs to them to disagree with what they are being taught because they cannot distinguish between our interpretation of Scripture and Scripture itself, having little to no firsthand knowledge of what it says.
But here’s the thing - despite what the tweet said, this isn’t just a women’s issue.
In many churches these days it seems we’ve all-but eradicated Bible Study, for men and women. The mid-week small groups are arranged such that almost anyone can lead them (raising up new leaders and relieving the burden on the official ‘leadership team’), and groups are given questions which focus more on how to apply what they heard on Sunday to their daily lives than on how to examine the Scriptures to see whether what was taught was actually consistent with what the writers meant.
In the kind of church that desires to grow through drawing new people into faith, rather than attracting church-hoppers, it is vital that we - that you, church leaders - start giving people the tools to pick up their Bibles and do more than just cast their eyes across the pages. Help us learn. And help us learn how to learn. Please.
Otherwise, as the article continues:
When we offer topical help—even if the topic is doctrine—without first offering Bible literacy, we attempt to furnish a house we have neglected to construct. As a friend and seminarian said to me this week, “There is a reason that seminaries offer hermeneutics before systematic theology.” He is right. But it would seem many who have enjoyed the rare privilege of seminary have forgotten to pass on this basic principle to the churches they now lead.
We must teach the Bible. Please hear me. We must teach the Bible, and we must do so in such a way that those sitting under our teaching learn to feed themselves rather than rely solely on us to feed them. We cannot assume that our people know the first thing about where to start or how to proceed. It is not sufficient to send them a link to a reading plan or a study method. It is our job to give them good tools and to model how to use them. There is a reason many love ‘Jesus Calling’ more than they love the Gospel of John. If we equip them with the greater thing, they will lose their desire for the lesser thing.
Please, don’t leave the teaching of Bible study skills to a few faithful women (particularly the kind who call their groups “Flower Mound Women’s Bible Study” *shudder*!). Or, to correct the tweet I originally saw:
“It’s amazing how many people in our churches have never been taught to study their Bibles. This must end.”