If you have been a Christian for a few decades and attended Bible studies, one thing that you should have noticed is that Bible studies are not what they used to be. There was a time when Bible studies were actually taught by elder teachers in the congregation. These teachers actually prepared their own well thought-out lessons that were based on knowledge of the Bible and their own understanding of the scriptures. Teaching was a ministry given through spiritually gifted men.
Quite often Bible studies were led by pastors or elder teachers that were formally trained in the Bible. Today, most “Bible studies” are led by facilitators that lead group discussion on passages suggested by expensive quarterly magazines. The magazine and the group are the real teachers in most Sunday school “Bible studies” today.
Many Bible Colleges and Seminaries no longer have curriculums that equip men to teach through the Bible. The students are trained in many things so that they can start a religious career or be a CEO of a church somewhere, but the word of God is a side issue and sometimes the courses offered just cast doubt on the infallibility and the sufficiency of God’s written word.
Smaller churches then hire whatever graduate that they can afford and biblical understanding probably is not the main reason for hiring the hireling. With this model of selecting “elder” teachers in Christian churches is there any wonder why pastors now jump ship every few years so they can advance up the corporate/church complex pay scale ladder? Is there any wonder why these pastors will not teach through the scriptures, but instead preach whatever comes into their mind that week as if their words came directly from God? Don’t dare tell them differently.
Elder teachers with in-depth knowledge and understanding of the Bible are hardly found leading Sunday school Bible studies in churches anymore. The congregation just appoints facilitators that lead discussions of lessons printed in quarterly magazines. Most pastors do not lead any Bible study at all on Sunday and neither will pastors attend any of the “Bible study” classes that are taking place. They obviously know that these Sunday school “Bible studies” will not teach them anything.
As I said twice before already, most Sunday School “Bible studies” are now led by facilitators that just lead a discussion on certain Bible passages presented by quarterly magazines. Then a group discussion on these passages follow. Group think and group consensus is the real unrecognized Bible teacher in the room. They ought to call these Sunday school classes “discussion groups” instead of Bible studies but traditions die hard.
Quite often there will be differences of opinion in these discussion groups and that can lead to disrespect toward those giving conflicting views and cause division. The most vocal people in the room invariably will express their views, but they are not always the ones that have the most wisdom and understanding of the Bible.
In Sunday School today the biblically illiterate have equal voice with elders that have understanding of the Bible. Class facilitators that are not well-studied in the Bible themselves are not equipped to discern truth from error to properly steer the discussions.
Where is this group think model for Bible study found anywhere in the Bible? It seems to me that Church elders taught the early Church. Elders were still teaching before our church leaders were brainwashed by the world into following after this postmodern group think model and teaching the Sunday schools in whole denominations via the writers of blessed publishing houses.
Who established the theological foundations of Christianity? Group consensus, or the learned elders that we call fathers of the Church? I have yet to see any worthwhile Christian theology evolve out of group think.
It seems to me that Sunday schools in our churches teach nothing that those that actually study the Bible for themselves don’t already know. I cringe when Christmas or Easter comes around because I know we will have two months of annually recycled material.
The magazines teach fluff to nominal Christians that do no independent study for themselves. They replace the Bible with a magazine and they replace the time once used for in-depth teaching with discussions coming mostly from Bible illiterates.
Frankly, Sunday school for those that actually study their Bible is only a social event. Lack of good teaching could be one reason why over half of the adults in the congregations skip Sunday school. Yet, the churches are taking names so you better not be missing a lot of Sunday school if you ever want to be a leader in your congregation.
Why should the views of the least knowledgeable baby or nominal Christian in the room be given equal time in the churches with the views of learned elders? God never ruled his people through democracy or group think. The history of Israel and the churches makes it clear that the consensus of the majority is often out of God’s will.
Most Christian small groups not taking place on Sunday morning are also called Bible studies but most of these do not study the Bible either. These “Bible studies” quite often study the latest popular “Christian” book.
Most best-selling “Christian” books are theories of men and women written for biblical illiterates looking for short cuts or techniques to bring about human self-improvement or some sort of “God-consciousness”. Some popular “Christian” books teach people how to tune into God’s still small voice by listening to the wind blowing between their own two ears. The most popular “Christian” books often lead people into twisted scriptures and error.
The top-selling books in the Christian bookstores are more read in these small group “Bible studies” than the Bible is and most of the people reading them do not have a clue that these books are full of heretical doctrine. If the book becomes a Christian best seller, it meets the requirements necessary for it to be recommended for the “Bible study”.
Studying the latest that comes out of the minds of people like Rick, Joyce, Jake, Max, Beth, and a hundred other famous Christian celebrities are book studies, they are not Bible studies. The Bible passages within these books often use loose translations, paraphrases, twisted scriptures and proof texting. The intent is to make it appear as if the Bible is agreeing with the author even if the actual words of the scripture or the correct context do not support the teaching.
Few teach through the Bible in context anymore. I hardly would call Sunday school magazine discussion groups, book studies, and “spiritual” motivational seminars “Bible studies” but most of these will still use that name. “Bible studies” in our postmodern generation is mostly about everything else than any serious study of the Bible. Just maybe it’s time for churches and home groups to get back to doing real Bible studies. If you’re gathering for a group “Bible study” you might even encourage them to actually have one.
Don Koenig founded www.thepropheticyears.com website in 1999 after almost thirty years of independent study on the Bible and learning from many astute teachers within Christendom. Don created his website to write about Bible prophecy, biblical discernment and his Christian worldviews. Don wrote a free Revelation commentary ebook in 2004 named "The Revelation of Jesus Christ Through The Ages". The World and Church and Bible Prophecy section of this website was started in 2007.