By Don Koenig
I am a Christian first and have been a member of several different denominations. I joined with the Southern Baptists because I have no major problems with their theology and because they had the best church in the area where I was located at that time.
While looking for a new church in my many relocations, I have noticed more recently that most Baptist churches and some in other denominations as well, no longer really study the Bible in Sunday school. They study quarterly magazines that have a lot of fluff and these magazines pick and choose scriptures (sometimes out of their context) to make some life application.
The largest Christian Protestant denomination is the Southern Baptists but they now largely study magazines in Sunday school that are written by their publishing house named "Lifeway". 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 where 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 Lifeway. This publishing house in Nashville can correctly teach everyone in the whole Southern Baptist denomination on Sunday (just trust them).
One of 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 by the Nashville team.
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 context using the grammatical historical common sense hermeneutic. 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 told me 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 Sunday school Bible study should be broken down into very small classes? 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 Christian fellowship the best place for this is in your homes. The most vibrant churches have home fellowships.)
Why is it that pastors and elders that were given formal training on the Bible do not want to make any effort to teach God's word to the congregation? Just let Nashville do it using local magazine facilitators rather than using local people that are well trained in the Bible with God given wisdom and understanding.
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 that you can trust to teach the Bible correctly? Perhaps it is because over the years the church you lead 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 all you will have is Lifeway facilitators. I should say something about the study of books that have replaced Bible studies at other times but I think most of you must have already got my point?
If you are a pastor or in leadership, I hope you will take a look at where this is all heading. I hope you will not support 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 who are just fed up with what is happening. We want leaders that will teach through the Bible. We want churches that 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 using good hermeneutics.
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 they can't understand it so they have to package the truths to make it all dumbed down applications for living that is relevant to the average postmodern post Christian 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. For quite some time they even forbade the common lay people to even read the Bible. It appears the Protestants have now also created a publishing house priesthood to teach us God's word. What will be next? Sunday school videos from Nashville or canned sermons from Saddleback? I have news. That is already happening! Many pastors in modern and postmodern churches just do not seriously study the Bible anymore. They use Bible verses out of context to get their own agenda or message across (they proof text from many translations and paraphrases to try to find something that sounds relevant).
Change is possible if people in the churches speak up and demand it.
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