By Don Koenig
I am a Christian first and was a Southern Baptist only because I have had no major problem with their theology and think they have the best church in the area (I have since moved and presently do not attend a church in that denomination)
When I looked for a church in my previous area, I visited quite a few Baptist churches and have noticed in all the Baptist churches that I visited that they no longer really study the Bible on Sunday mornings. They study quarterly magazines that have a lot of fluff and these magazines pick and choose scriptures (sometimes out of their context) to make whatever application they wish the entire denomination to apply to their lives.
The largest Christian Protestant denomination is the Southern Baptist Church but they now largely study magazines on Sunday that are written by an offshoot called "Lifeway" out of Nashville. The articles in the magazines that Southern Baptist churches are using often are written by women but most of the Southern Baptist churches in the area I was located would never even consider allowing a women to teach men in a Sunday school class. (What is wrong with this picture?)
The Southern Baptists mostly now quote from their own modern bible translation in these magazines. I guess everyone can just leave their King James, New King James, New American Standard, and New International Version Bibles at home and just come to church each Sunday with only their magazines (some do just that) and be taught Bible studies by the same women and men who wrote the Bible version that the magazines quote from. They can correctly teach everyone from this Bible version few know anything about (just trust them).
If that is not enough, the most popular magazine they use gives daily readings to replace daily reading of the Bible at home. Now everyone does not even have to open the Bible at all anymore. All they need to do is open the magazine for the study of the day that was chosen just for them.
There are several versions of these magazines. The best version I have seen says it is a book by book study of the Bible but when you read it you find out that they skip many verses and they try to make most of it to be some application for living today rather than really studying the passage in complete context of the passage and often ignoring its historical or prophetic application. I am about fed up with this dumbing down of Christianity! I think it is time for Bible churches to get back to studying the Bible.
I know some of you pastors and deacons have said that you use the magazines because you have no one in your church who knows the Bible well enough to teach it. Does that also include you? What scripture says that the Church should be taught by those who are not gifted to teach just so you can break studies down into very small groups? What scripture says the best gifted teacher or teachers should not teach the entire church? What scripture says that Sunday school classes must be broken down into age categories? Obviously there is no instruction to do this in the Bible. So why is it that almost all Southern Baptists do it? (If you want small groups for fellowship the best place for this is in your homes. The most vibrant churches have home fellowships.) Why is it that some pastors and elders went to formal training on the Bible but they do not want to make the effort to teach any understanding that they learned?
Many pastors do not want any of their Sunday school teachers to throw a curve ball so they let the Nashville team do all the pitching. Why is it that you have no people you can trust to teach the Bible correctly? Perhaps it is because over the years your church has been teaching quarterly magazines rather then teaching the Bible in Sunday school. If you continue to teach magazines instead of the Bible in your church you never will have qualified Bible study teachers in your church. I should say something about the study of books that have replaced Bible studies and services on Wednesdays but I think most of you must have already got my point?
If you are a Baptist pastor or in leadership, I hope you will take a look at where your churches are being led and I hope you will not allow your church to continue on this path to Bible illiteracy! If you are a teacher that still believes in real Bible studies that teach through the Bible in proper context you are desperately needed. There are many people like myself who are just fed up. We want some churches that teach through the Bible and who are not buying into the Laodicean prepackaged weekly feedings! You do not even have to be a Baptist to qualify - just have sound biblical theology. I assure you there are many people who will find your ministry if you really teach through the Bible.
We Protestants get on the Catholics for paying more attention to their "Catechism" and tradition than the Bible yet many of the Protestant denominations are reading opinions by writers of denominational magazines and books instead of the Bible. It seems the leadership in these denominations think that Christians will not read the Bible or understand it so they have to package the truths to make it all applications for living that is relevant to the average post modern dumbed down American.
How is this different from what the Catholic Church did? They claimed that only the educated priests could properly understand the things written in scripture and that the educated priests needed to interpret the scripture for the common people. They even forbade the common lay people to read the Bible on their own for a long period of time. It appears the Protestants have now also created a priesthood to teach us God's word. What will be next? Sunday school videos from Nashville or canned sermons from Saddleback? That is already happening! Now pastors do not even have to study the Bible for their sermons any more.
Change is possible if people in the churches speak up and demand it.
P.S. The Church and Sunday school I used to attend started a real Bible study on the book of Romans by a very highly qualified teacher that is seminary trained but after it was announced to the church the attendance of the class actually declined. Maybe the truth is that most members in our American Christianity lite churches can no longer eat real food anymore. Maybe for our Western churches to survive, the leaders must continue to hand out pre-packaged feedings or the majority that attend who are into Churchianity rather than Christianity will not attend?
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