Modern Bible studies often fall far short of studying the Bible

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.

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 Don Koenig founded 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.


38 thoughts on “Modern Bible studies often fall far short of studying the Bible

  1. amen! Bible studies should be called C.S. Lewis studies. And that’s the best case scenario. Worst case is studying the “Jesus Calling.”

    Peter says “make every effort to add to your faith goodness, and to goodness knowledge”

    Knowledge! Starting at sunday school young kids should learn rote knowledge about the bible. They shouldn’t get a single life application study question until they are in high school. Adults in bible studies have no knowledge about scripture. So when I quote scripture in a Bible study I’m considered mean spirited.

    I hate bible studies. People just sit in a circle pretending not to know the answer to questions. There is painfully long periods of silence as everyone rubs their chin periodically saying, “hhhm.” Because the obvious answer to what the bible is saying there is not good enough. no. they need to think of some new insight to scripture where it actually says something different than what it obviously says. And this hitherto unthought of interperation of a single paraphrased, out of context verse amazingly gives them a mandate to follow some specious trend of liberal big heartedness.

    Ill tell you the problem. Church leaders don’t want to hurt anyones feelings. they are people pleasers. and intuition tells them that to actually read the bible would scare people away. Jesus is counter intuitive. His words draw people near. Let’s be his messenger.

    “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful envoy brings healing.”

    – jimmy kinkade

  2. This may not be about Bible study Don, but while I work out I try to listen to Conservative or Christian programs on FPL. I started listening to a program, Sons of Liberty hosted by Bradlee Dean. Someone emailed him on the Rapture. Dean said the rapture is a myth promulgated by the church, primarily the televangelists who rather than owe up to their responsibilities standing up to abortion, lawful government, etc and just wish to escape. He said there is no mention of Rapture in the bible, gave several scriptures & said if the church were to be taken out and spared, why didn’t God spare Jesus? Why were the disciples not spared, but 11 martyred? I think this subject is a big divider of believers and have heard both sides claim they are right & given scripture. He also had a so called Dr on his show who was saying he had the true cures for many diseases. This was last week, and was strike one for the show. Today I think may be the last time I listen. I will just try another station until I can discern their message. As for bible studies, the read from a magazine or a the teachers op-Ed has been the norm for a long time, so I study myself and ask God for the answers myself.

  3. Robert,

    I wrote an article supporting the pre-trib Rapture.

    Those that say there is no scriptural justification for believing it are either biblical illiterates or they simply are liars.

    The true Church is to be taken out and spared because God did not spare Jesus, so there is no reason for those in Christ to go through the judgments of God… duh!

    There is no doubt that post toasties are gaining ground among the discontents that have made America of the 50’s there idol and religion. Now they think they have to defend “Happy Days” for God. It is not because of any understanding of scripture. They have some loony unscriptural idea that Christians are going to be given special powers to war against the Antichrist before Jesus comes.

    The biggest pushers of this view are hyper-charismatics that have some form of Dominion Theology. Many of them already think we are already in the tribulation and some think the Church has to bring in the tribulation on earth. They feed on prophecy date setters that itch their ears. They are now so caught up in hateful conspiracy theories that they believe insanities like there are 200,000 Russians or Chinese troops on our soil ready to round us up and kill us. The Russians cannot even protect the Olympic games from terrorists on their own soil. It really is silly, and one has to wonder what spirit motivates the obviously paranoid?

    One thing I know that feeds their paranoia is that almost all of them believe the prophecies of false prophets. That is the root of the lie, and it quite evident that there is no Christian spiritual discernment in them. They are obsessed only with twisted scriptures and ignore the rest.

    Frankly, I doubt if most of these people are even Christian. They just have some form of Christian identify but no Holy Spirit. Jesus is not behind the rebellion that exists in the minds of these people. They intend to overthrow what they perceive is evil with a greater evil.

    They might bring on a self fulfilling prophecy when the government has to round up these anarchists that resort to violence.

    However, we digress, this post is not about them. However, they gain followers in this country because of the general biblical illiteracy and the dumbed down Bible studies in our churches do not help.

  4. The wheat and the tares.

    I haven’t been to a ‘public’ Bible study for years so must take your descriptions as being the present norm. It fits well with the parable of the wheat and tares. The wheat finds its nutrient in the Word of God, the tares are sown by the god of this world and will find their nutrient in the things of his world.
    “Oh… what will the harvest be?” Sad thought.

  5. Don, thanks for the pre trib rapture link. I sure am thankful for you and your site. You leave no stone unturned and give clear evidence and proof of a pre trib rapture. Some things I understood already, but there were some scriptures that confused me but you have made it perfectly clear to me with scripture as proof. Thanks much Don.

  6. Don, You might be pleased to know that in a tiny Texas town in a tiny Texas church there is a genuine study of scripture going on.

    My brother is teaching a Sunday school class on Hebrews. In preparing his lessons he refers to the Matthew Henry commentary and one I’m not familiar with; McKee? Other than that we study from the Bible. My brother was also an elder at a previous church. I only recently returned to church going so I can’t say that this church of 25 even has elders.

    I can relate to what you said about the quarterly. A few years ago I went to a “Bible study” that used one. There was a 10 minute discussion on what makes a good employee. It’s even funnier if you know that most of the people in the study were retired. I didn’t go back.

  7. Hi Caitlin,

    That is good to hear. There are still some churches around that actually have Bible studies. I think you meant J. Vernon McGee. Both men you mentioned are good teachers, the main problem I have with those two Bible commentators is their eschatology but both men were formally trained in amillennial Presbyterian theology so that should be expected.

    Correction: Actually J. Vernon Mcgee was premillennial, my mistake.

  8. I have often wondered why no one talks about Christ Jesus at church. Apart from the Bible readings and perhaps in the sermon one never mentions Him. Everyone has prayer request, many have a special ministry in the church ( pantry, nursery, music) but no one seems to have the ministry of talking about Jesus as the main topic. Would people be bored with such conversation? We who claim to have Him in our heart certainly keep Him off our tongue at church. Perhaps we should have Him as the topic of most our conversations on a daily basis for starters.

  9. Hi Don,

    I am happy to say that my church is led by a very Bible-focused pastor who teaches nothing but the gospel. It’s a rather large church of about 3,000 people, which is unusual these days to find a Bible-centric church of that size. Can’t say that all people who attend are true believers, but there are many there, and our small group focus groups – at least the ones I have attended – are teaching the true gospel. I attend my pastor’s small group, and we often further dissect his sermons to gain full understanding. My father was a pastor for 60+ years and was devoted heavily to God’s Word and teaching it’s true meaning. I have attended many churches over the years as I’ve moved across the country, and most of them deliver feel good messages each Sunday at best. I’m glad to have found this church here in northern New Jersey right in the mouth of the beast!

  10. Oddly enough many modern day teachings are focused around Humanism, a philosophy in direct opposition to God. Making Humanism fit in the bible leads to as much confusion as the Greek philosophy that has been doctrine for hundreds of years.

    Then you have the Wednesday night bible studies that usually focus around what makes that particular denomination different from the rest. Those are always good studies to avoid.

  11. Hi Tim,

    Glad to hear you found such a Bible-centric Church in the heart of liberal America. Is it in a denomination or is it non denominational church? I know some conservative Presbyterians churches and some others have not bought into the magazine model. And of course the Calvary Chapels are uniquely Bible-centric.

  12. Hi Don, Your article makes me a little sad because of how true it is. I came to the Lord a couple years ago after 35 years of heavy alcoholism. I started taking God serious and I now know considerably more about the kingdom of Heaven and the teachings of Jesus Christ then people that have spent their entire lives in church, claiming to be christians. And the only thing I did was be willing to learn, and to put the time in, which I did and was handsomely rewarded for my efforts with understanding, which is far more precious then jewels.
    If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say how they wish they could read Revelation and understand, so with that being said, they don’t even try. One of the very first things it says is blessed is he who reads and he who hears the words of this prophecy. I’ll take that blessing, thank you very much. It’s a good one.
    It is not meant to be a mystery, it is meant to be understood by the common man. I guess the Bible study issue is this, it boils down to an individuals desire to learn and allow the Holy spirit to work through them.
    I wanted to comment on Robert’s post, Praise God. I recommend you read Don’s commentary on the book of Revelation, of course I recommend it everyone. Read and follow all the links Don provides and ask the Holy spirit to guide you and you will come out a changed man, read Rev 1:3. The first time I went through it, it took about a month, the second time, two weeks, now I read through it on my own and I think it is the most fantastic book ever written. The image’s of the Throne room and the new Jerusalem are mind blowing if you slow down and ponder what is being described. All I want in life is to be in the presence of the Lord. Jesus is the King of kings. I pray He finds me worthy of escape and I am able to stand before Him.
    I love your reply as to why Jesus wasn’t spared, The true Church is to be taken out and spared because God did not spare Jesus. Amen. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice.

  13. Hi Larry,

    I can identify with that. By the time I ever walked into a Protestant Church 35 years ago I had more understanding of the Bible than 99 percent of those that attended. That is because in the previous five years that I was a Christian I had read through the Bible many times and listened to many hundreds of hours of excellent teaching from those teaching on Christian radio and on tapes. I was amazed and how little Christians that grew up in churches knew but it is much worse today.

  14. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate the time you put in studying and preparing your posts. I read part of the link you gave in an earlier response. My beliefs would be referred to as progressive dispensationalist. I believe in a pre-trib rapture but not as strongly as I used too. That could be related to middle age and experiencing the decay going on in both the church and society.

    There are times I don’t agree with everything you write but I’m sure people do not agree with me all the time either. Your writing is encouraging and timely to me. It fills a gap that some of the literature I get does not meet. The denomination I am a part of is slowly falling apart.

    You may get tired in the battle at times, but I hope you find strength in the Lord and press on and continue to fight the good fight. May God bless you, and your family with His presence, His strength and His joy. Be courageous and faithful.

  15. Don,

    The church is non-denominational – the website is here if interested ( We have been attending here about seven years. There are a couple of other churches in this area that seem to be “on fire” with the gospel – Hawthorne Gospel Church in Hawthorne, NJ and Bethany Church (AOG) in Wyckoff, NJ. Both are very large and active churches that are Bible and Gospel based. New Jersey for the most part is heavy Catholic and Jewish, but there are a good many Christian churches sprinkled around.

  16. Many of them do study books. The ones I have been in are strictly Bible study. I’m not interested in other peoples interpretations. The Word is all that is necessary. Are you familiar the NIV Books of the Bible – a new version of the Bible with the text presented in their original format without version and chapter numbering?

  17. Hi Don [and everyone], I read the link you provided, Don. I didn’t know the Bible commentators Henry and McGee were trained in amillennial theology. My brother and I believe in a pre-trib rapture and a literal one thousand year millennial reign. We also reject Replacement Theology.

    Many years ago I attended a Reformed Presbyterian church, not knowing their eschatology. The people there were devoted believers, but I could never get past their belief in amillennialism. I wish I had had your link then to share with a friend of mine. It explains things scripturally that I didn’t have the knowledge then to explain.

    [Do you ever feel like your head is going to explode with all the information you have filed in it?]

  18. Caitlin,

    Keep in mind that most main line churches are still amillennial, Matthew Henry goes way back before Dispensational Theology he knew nothing about Israel coming back to the land.

    I was wrong about J. Vernon Mcgee, he was premillennial.

    Rocks in the head do not usually explode.

  19. Great article Don! I was musing about this very thing recently – I would even question the reason for going to church at all; even on Sunday. It’s become more of a social gathering than anything else.

    I would like to add that many of the church bible studies I’ve been to are made up of mostly new Christians (not yet Christians) who don’t have much if any bible knowledge at all. This could be a reason why the studies have become so watered down; then again, one could argue all the more reason to study the bible properly and in depth.


    BTW Don, when leaving a reply it asks for website. Which website are you referring to?


  20. Hi Wayne,

    I would say the main reason to attend a fellowship is for Christian fellowship and so that we can use our spiritual gifts to aid each other.

    The software asks for a website so that your avatar will link to a website that you have. If you do not have a website just leave it blank.

  21. I was privileged to be in a home church with very in depth Bible studies before that gentleman was moved to go to a standing organized church as an assistant pastor. Thanks in large part to Don, I finally found a small church here in town that does teach the whole gospel. they do have small focus groups but I can;t drive at night so…that;s out.But if I went and they were handing out a magazine or whatever I would be mad so maybe it;s for the best.( the preacher can;t be at every meeting!but the groups have to sign up, for a specific time period, and describe exactly what will be studied. so pretty good control)_I do find that if you bother to open the Bible, you will be led….in amazing ways. Studying the life of David and Solomon has been amazing.restudying the Gospels….Genesis…. and finally the prophets.Hope everyone here is having this amazing leading and teaching an not just me!

  22. Hello Don,

    Somewhere along the line individual “opinion” of what the word of God says trumped sound teaching. When that happens, the door is left open to book studies, because that is easier than studying the word of God.

    Instead of “dominion” theology, it’s “opinion” theology…

    Rod :)

  23. hey don, my anti virus keeps telling me that ur site is malacious (malware)site and other similar sites too. everytime i visit ur site my firewall stops a virus from coming in and also other religious sites. it seems to me that the government is trying to infect computers thorugh these end times sites so im not sure why ur site might be dangerious to my computer

  24. Jason,

    My site does not send out viruses. It is checked by software and if there was a hack or if it was reported as being malicious I would be notified. My source code is viewable. It is possible that some site that I link to got flagged (that does not mean they have a virus either) it just means that someone reported it as a malicious site. Christianity is viewed as malicious to many unbelievers. You might want to turn off that feature on your virus checker if you are going to sites that post anything controversial.

  25. Brian,

    You can report anything, but getting those in the malicious loop to believe that atheistic views are malicious is close to impossible. However, we digress from the post topic.

  26. Don, I found your site last night before retiring. I bookmarked it. I found Les Feldick’s Holy Scripture study on Direct TV about 2 years ago and then on youtube abt 6 months ago. Les makes studying Scripture captivating. I now spend several hours a day and notice that Scripture reveals itself so many times. I am so looking forward to my Glorified body and am appreciating the Sanctification process that Paul talks about but the concept eluded me for so many years.
    I’ll look foward to using your site to enrich my life. I’ll keep you in prayer. Shalom.


  27. Hi Don, So glad you wrote this article. Your articles continue to be some of my favorites on the internet. We host a Bible study in our home, taught by an elder/teacher. We dig deep, we pray, we memorize scripture verses together. No Christian pop culture books allowed. It is also an outreach ministry of our church. We invite folks often. We do get visitors, but they don’t often return because they are not being entertained. Also, people enjoy sitting together and pooling their ignorance. They don’t want to listen. Their attention spans are short. As for the Christian book stores. Best stay away. I only found one good one in my life, while on vacation in the Adirondacks at the Word of Life Camp. Christian book stores are so disappointing. And when I was a babe in Christ I filled my head with a lot of the twaddle found on those shelves and stunted my growth for a long time.

  28. I can’t tear my wife away from “Christian” books. It’s my opinion that “Christian” bookstores are among the most dangerous of all places.

    I finally got her to throw away “Jesus Calling”. She still thinks she needs a “devotional”. I told her all we need is the Bible. She still thinks Beth M. is great, but I question her advocating contemplative prayer.

  29. To Joe,

    Your wife is not alone. BM has trashed the cessationists that gave her a platform for a start. She is also linking arms with the RCC. However, she brings in heavy bucks. Her mentor is now James Robison.

  30. Thanks for the info. I didn’t know. We are looking for a Church, and a lot of the womens studies take Beth Moore stuff. At one Church every one of the three womens studies available were B studies. Some of her stuff is good, but she’s going down that slippery slope.

    I guess it’s no wonder that in the Garden of Eden Satan stated with deceiving the women…

    I have learned that trying to stick to the right thing is very lonely indeed. It seems like every Church just wants to be a community service organization. There’s nothing wrong with serving, but good works seem to be the main thing, and nobody wants to warn, or teach the truth on the hard stuff. Lots of the love part, and non of the other part. Teaching Gods love is important too, but if that’s all you do, you miss the other attributes of God.

    *Sigh* The way really is narrow, and few be that find it.

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