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Posts Tagged ‘bible study’

We’ve joined a lovely new small group at church.  I’ve written some concerns already.   I am now about to burn out.  They decided, since it’s new, to just be light.  One person, sometimes two give their “testimony.”  Then, we might discuss what we learned from the sermon.  Then we have prayer requests and prayer.  There’s food, there’s talk, and that’s fine and dandy.  They’ve been really supportive of us and have helped us already with some problems in our life…stepped up when our prayer requests were tough.  We’ve only been meeting since September, only every other week.   But  now, I’m about to go really crazy.  I do not really enjoy the long personal stories too much.  I mean, I like getting to know the people, but I am afraid we’ll NEVER get to the bible.   This is not what I want in a group.  I am so over becoming family in small group.  I believe if we get together FOR BIBLE STUDY, the fellowship will just happen organically.  I also believe, if we are accountable to a pastor or pastors for what is being taught, that is the BEST model.  I think we need to read the bible and if we discuss, it should not be about what we THINK the text means.  It should be led by someone who knows what they are doing and has some qualification (not a divinity degree…but some understanding of scriptures) to teach.  I came from a fluffy church, and there were some really intelligent people in our groups, but there were also some shallow people.  Some of the leadership involved just simple books with simple answers to the questions.  There were organized agendas (like get people involved in group service).  There were even whole church studies of books (like Purpose Driven Church and such).   I hated the simple stuff, and yearned for study.  We did get some study…and I’m experiencing this now.  I want study.  I don’t want us to change what the bible says or to share too much of our personal experiences.  I want to study the bible and learn about God.  Period.

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Switching from a Purpose Driven church with entertainment to a bible teaching church may have a few effects, one of which initially is boredom.  This may seem unholy and wrong to admit, but it has happened.  We felt it in our house.  A dry feeling.  But like eating healthy food for once as a normal way of life rather than just once in a while, old habits are hard to break.

Exercise and eating healthy will be difficult for someone coming from terrible habits.  We want to drift back to the soda, we want to taste the sugary sweet candy.  We want to have french fries and greasy hamburgers with lots of cheese.  Why?  We’re addicted.  What do bad eating and exercise habits get us?  Diabetes, heart problems, early death.  We become fat and unable to enjoy life.

This is what happened to us at the previous church.  We enjoyed a LOT of cool programs.  Our kids were entertained.  We felt we were growing in the faith.  Yes, we did grow, but looking back, the times we did grow were when we insisted to study the bible verse by verse in small group.  There were some messages by the pastors that carried truth, so we did learn from those.  However, much was social, much was wrong teaching.  We ignored the problems for a while.  It caught up to us.  We began to see the problems.

When we opened our ears and looked around, we heard the pastors preaching things that were not biblical.  Suddenly, the candy coating didn’t feel good anymore.  We realized the illness in our faith.  We were not being fed often enough.  Yes, there was service, we were served in many ways.  But the teaching was in error just as often as it was in truth.  We allowed the error to go on when we were blind to it, but once we saw it we realized we had to escape.

We eventually landed in a church where the bible is preached verse by verse.  We started out with some initial joy, because our worries about the former church were confirmed.  Still, we missed some of the trappings.  We missed the social time, many people were new to us.  We missed the upbeat music a great deal.  Still, the true spiritual food was making us feel better because our spiritual bodies were getting the right nutrition.  Now my children recognize the former church for what it is, and they do not want to go back to the candy.  We don’t either. 

Of course, we listen and are very careful, we do not want to believe the pastor without checking things out.  It’s kind of like reading the labels.  We want to know what’s going on at the church, what they are truly about.  Is the spiritual food healthy and true?  If it is, then we will see growth and not experience the physical illness.  The hard work put in (not works for salvation mind you, but the study of God’s word and prayer, the service to the body, and the support of those who go out and preach to others…or even maybe us going out some day when we’re prepared…these things are the hard things), will result in a healthy Christian perspective.  Staying on guard is important, reading for ourselves.  After all, it’s supposed to be our faith we’re working out right?  And as time goes on, what was previously boring is actually very exciting.  Scriptural study is not some mundane thing, it’s a wonderful joy to hear and read truth.

note:  If I am saying something wrong by winging it, PLEASE let me know here.  I know these are my human thoughts, not God’s words.

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Sometimes I get so discouraged.  What I thought was true turned out to be false.  Our former church was a place where I thought people were glorifying God.  I’m sure there are some people there who are true Christians, but the leadership is scary to me.  At least two of the pastors are not preaching Christ, the others go along with it.   The one who did speak up and worked to change things had been let go.  They want to be a spiritual formation/seeker friendly/and whatever the emergent thing is lite (not NOT emergent?).  They want what they are. 

I feel a bit helpless, and I guess I am.  I cannot save anyone myself, that’s God’s work.  He chooses whom He chooses.  I just hate seeing it happening, the sin of false teaching.

I have another problem, I have a new problem of trust.  I cannot feel completely like I can trust preachers.  I cannot trust church systems.  I want to be able to walk into a church and know they are okay, they are preaching truth.  I want to trust.  I feel some trust in the newer church (and we’ve been going for a year and 1/2 now).  However, I cannot commit to them in heart right now.  (I have seen a few things that are problems…not related to doctrine or teaching but on a side note…and it has to do more with safety than anything not teaching/preaching/faith).  I want to have a consistent place for my kids to go to worship.   I want to be involved.

What has happened to me is a coldness.  In our former church, it was all about community.  We had small groups, activities, we were busy.  We had adult conversation.  We socialized.  We did get frustrated, but we did enjoy being around the people.  In the newer church (to us) we aren’t yet feeling connected to the people.  It’s a good sermon, nice to see you, bye.  I want some family there if I’m going to stick.  We do have friends attending from the former church, but only a few we were close to.  I’m not young anymore, and I don’t like starting over.  I want long term friends.  I’m lonely.  Are we supposed to feel lonely in church? 

Part of it is our fault.  We don’t trust, we have busy lives with our kids.  We haven’t completely dug in to this church.  We’d just like to be invited over for a drink and cookies, some conversation, some connection.  People are friendly, but we aren’t their friends.

Our former church had the group thing down.  Small groups were an issue in that the bible study part was missing.  I think there is nothing wrong with socializing with your church friends and getting together into groups, but small group studies were how bad teaching was spread further.  Just getting together to socialize, well, that probably is actually a good thing.  Getting together to study a book that has nothing to do with the gospel but makes you think it does, now that is wrong.  We spent years trying to do bible study in these groups and were successful some of the time.  The church kept pulling us into this or that book though…manditory for the whole church.

I’m discouraged on several levels I guess.  I thought we would have feel more than superficial with friends at our newer church.  I am also discouraged looking at the churches around our area.  Many are into this seeker friendly/spiritual formation stuff.  I guess I kind of feel like I would if I were in Utah.  So many places preaching false doctrine.  So many “nice” people, but sooooo thirsty for companionship/fellowship and also for the true gospel to be preached.  At least I feel the preaching where we are is pretty good.  Eventually, we’ll get through the human stuff and make friends.  Right?

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I ran across a woman who went to another church in our area. She and her husband began to get uncomfortable with small group studies, and also with some of their church teachings. They thought, after their eyes were opened to the misuse of the bible in these studies and in teachings from the pulpit, that discussing it in small group would be a good idea. From what the woman said, they were not trying to cause division but were attempting to point out errors as they had great faith in their church leadership. They brought things up to the leadership, as well as continuing to share their fears with the group. They were shocked the day they were asked to leave their church.

She said that in their next church it was five years before they really could trust enough to serve. They had been shunned by many in their former church, many who had been good friends before the issues were brought up. Some later did apologize to them, and some have left over time.

We had a different experience in that we did not share our issues with many people. We did tell some things to a few friends, and we’ve known a very small number who have left. We do feel though, had we been open to our small group or to more of the leadership we would eventually have been asked to be quiet or leave.

Being shunned hurts. When a person begins to understand how leadership teaches from men’s work rather than from the bible, or uses many methods rather than relying on God’s word and the Holy Spirit, it’s a hard thing to decide what to do. Do you share with others? Will you find someone who understands what your are saying? Will you be accused of being divisive? Will you be asked to leave?

I believe it’s of utmost importance that each person who encounters poor or bad teaching pray first. Spend time thinking how to handle things. Then, don’t worry about the consequences to you so much as what will your voice in this accomplish? Is it about getting even? If it’s about you and your pride, you really have to pause. If it’s about trying to restore people to truth and good doctrine, and you are hoping to help others in the long run, then move forward in wisdom. There are times for open mouths, and times for closed mouths.

We weren’t perfect as we proceeded, but we did try very hard to do the right thing. Looking back, I can see areas we could have improved upon BUT in the long run, I believe we did the right thing overall.

I feel for this woman I met who has gone through such pain in her former church. I pray for other men and women out there just trying to point out the errors and do the right thing.

It happens to pastors too.  This article is a great resource. 

http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/nazarene-pastor-fired-for-fighting-emergent-ideology/

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Our new church has worked out well so far.  Our family, having come from a “missional” and “transformational” church with a pastor who is angry when challenged has needed to heal.  We’ve really enjoyed coming to church just to hear the bible preached.  The church we attend preaches straight through on most every Sunday.  We’ve needed this.  No pressure to join a small group every week, no projects and slick presentations.  No recycling of themes just in case we’re too dumb to get the message.  It’s all about the bible, all about study. 

There recently was a reminder that we cannot just be hearers only though, but doers, and there are churches being planted.  There are missionaries to support.  Most of all, there are needs in the body, and that seems to be the biggest way service is done.  Prayer is very important too, with prayers in service several times, several times a week we get a prayer/praise email with real messages from the body.  This little church takes prayer very seriously.

Verse by verse, it’s a theme that goes beyond the pulpit.  We’re still in John, it’s been over a year, and we’re not halfway through yet in the weekly services.  In bible study we’re going through Revelation.  The pastor teaching this has been doing it for weeks and we’re still on the very first verses.  It’s refreshing, some may think it’s boring, but to me it’s great to get all the background.  We don’t attend on Sunday night, it is a service for the body.  They get together for a lesson in proverbs.  Next they divide into groups such as teens, a bible club for the younger children, and something for the adults.  I know special choirs practice also on Sunday night.  I also know something goes on Wednesday night, we haven’t investigated.  There are also small groups meeting everywhere.  There is also a class in the week called the “bible institute” and I believe it’s a very in depth class in the bible but also possibly including church history.  I’m a bit fuzzy though it’s brought up every once in a while. 

This church is also a place for Deaf people.  There is an interpreter for everything in the service, actually there are several.  They trade off, and will interpret every word spoken from the pulpit.  If needed in a bible study, they are there too.  If a song is played with no words, the words of the song are still up on the screen in front or a bible passage is printed. 

I believe some time our next step needs to be getting into more in this church.  We have avoided small group.  Part of this is because our schedule is busy, however, it’s always been busy before and at our former churches (since we began as married people) we’ve always been in a small group.  However, I recall the important thing to me was not the fellowship alone, but bible study.  I do think that was a need in the churches I attended before.  I did need the fellowship and friendships before, but small group was where I tried my hardest to push bible study.  I know now I did this because I needed to be fed somewhere, I wasn’t getting it from the pulpit like I should (not that missional/transformational churches don’t ever preach from the bible, they do and you can get SOME food there…but not nearly what I needed to grow).  The church we attend now has a pulpit rich in “spiritual food.”  Rich.  So, I believe small group can actually be more of a social time, a time to be in fellowship, to serve one another and be served.  We probably should seek this out next fall, and arrange our lives for it.  We should find a group that includes kids, our kids need to get to know others in the church.  I have a sneaky feeling though, that small group in this church is not like what I’ve experienced since we got a few friends together years ago and went verse by verse through John every week on our own.  One was a seminary student, and we just really studied the bible…evangelized to friends we brougth with us who weren’t Christians, and enjoyed one another.  No book themes, no marketing, no projects, just study.

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Well, this morning my husband has to work.  This means I alone get the kids ready for church.  My 6 year old, after we were about to get shoes on and go out the door, is telling me she’s ill and has taken out “the big bowl.”  So now, all my fancy dressed children are stuck at home with me.  We’re officially missing church.  However, I am sad.  In the early stages of switching churches, we might miss for illness, or even sleep in by accident and force ourselves to go.  We were still raw from our break with the former church, and church itself was a chore no matter how great the church.

We still do not feel relationally “plugged in” as most church lingo calls it these days.  We see people, they’re friendly, they pray.  The people we knew before we came to this church are connected and we can get in depth with them easily in converstation, but we’re not “in” yet.  Despite this, there’s enough there that missing is sad to me.  I really enjoy the messages/study from scripture.  The pastors really teach even more than preach in my opinion.  The people are friendly and though we’re not settled in, I know it will happen.  They serve and have offered though we’ve not taken them up on it yet.  It will take time, but they are surely going to become family.

So today marks an interesting moment, it’s not the social aspect drawing me…but it’s the fact that this church focuses on revealing Christ through the bible.   Every time someone stands to add membership, they say the same thing with different words.  They say this church teaches from the bible.   Most of the time they say they had been to other churches, but THIS church is different in that the pastors teach with an expository style, they do not get wrapped up in the popular but in the scriptural.  The second thing always expressed is the kindness of the people.  This is evident.  If my husband and I stand in membership, we’ll likely express the same thing.

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The best way to prepare and protect my children from wolves in the church is to do what I need to anyway.  I should be helping them seek Christ.  I should be giving them and understanding and respect for God’s word.  So, what can I do?  No matter what church I attend, or how great the teaching is for children, my husband and I can teach them at home.   It is actually required of us as parents to train them up in the way they should go.

For us, though we’ve been less than consistent, it means reading scripture to them and discussing it or explaining it as we go along.  It means praying with them daily.  It means setting up times in their day to study the bible on their own.  It means using teachable moments to turn their focus on Christ and what is acceptable behavior.  It means asking forgiveness when we’ve wronged them, and modeling grace to them.  It means disciplining but also giving mercy when they really deserve the heat at times.  It means being the kind of parents God wants us to be. 

If there is false teaching in the church, a good sign you’re doing what you are supposed to with your children would be them telling you before you get to point it out to them.  That didn’t happen in our case, but once we did begin to ask what was going on that they were uncomfortable with in church, they were able to give very amazing answers.  They mentioned the use of entertainment rather than teaching, the lack of depth when the bible story time was given, the behavior of preacher’s kids (funny, this one is a long time issue anyway), the mention of things irregular in prayer etc.  Once we started attending a church with expository teaching, our kids were able to say they actually learned more in the last 9 months there than they had at the other church for seven years.  They could point to the hymns, scripture reading in Sunday school, and the inclusion of children in the regular service as examples of why they knew more.  They also stated that sermons in the former church provided memories of the illustrations, jokes, and stories, but they couldn’t seem to remember the biblical messages.  For example, a pastor spoke about transformation in the “Red Zone.”  He did quote scripture, but what my kids recall was that he spoke of touchdowns in the end zone.  This is years later.  They cannot recall anything biblical about that.  Now they know they are reading in John and can recall the events recorded and the reasons they are important.  Big change. 

Best way to protect my children, teach them the bible.  Plain and simple.

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     I remember a time when I would get together with people and study the bible. I recall doing this in college.  We did have social Navigator meetings, but we also were taught how to do bible studies with others.  We even were encouraged to read our bible daily.  They called it a quiet time.  We were to study the bible, and dig into the word.  Often there would be a workbook with questions for a guide, but it really was about looking at the text.  I had one of these yearly while in college, if I recall right.  I even led one, though I felt very ill prepared.  Still, we did study the bible, and did go through it.  When a challenging person I met in the dorms would say, “you have to be baptised in my church to be saved” I could often dig with the group for verses to counter this person.  We could prepare for our daily lives, and could be encouraged by the scriptures.

When I got married, we were friends with a seminary student.  We got our own little bible study together.  We studied John for a year, and it was a great time.  We brought in a few other young people, and a few were unsaved.  It was a great time of fellowship, and a great time of digging into the bible.  We continued to study with this couple and a few others until we moved away from each other across the country.

When we lived in Seattle, we attended a bible study group.  I don’t recall it being called “small group” but bible study.  We did find it a bit frustrating because we’d go through a guide book and often it would be very simplistic.  However, we did stick to the text.  We socialized, we supported each other in illness, job loss and in gain, miscarriage, one woman had a drug addicted spouse, in new babies, and in moves (many of us moved and helped each other).  We did study and talk about the bible, we never focused on a book that had bible verses in it, but instead did studies on books of the bible.  We might also do a topical study but it was all pointing back to a block of scripture.

We moved back to Kansas and found a church with the word “bible” in it’s name.  We got involved in a small group.  I still called them bible studies, because that’s what I thought of when we would get together with a group of people with pens and bibles.  We began with the simple books on books of the bible or a topic, all focused in studying the bible and what it said.  However, after a few years, we began to do topical study and it wasn’t really about the bible.  We’d study things like marriage, our personal gift inventory, finances, or how to witness effectively.  We’d take personality quizes, financial inventories, study our love languages, or our spiritual gifts.  We’d discuss these findings outloud in the group.  It was very self focused, and yet it was also a time when we’d reveal personal things in a group.  We’d have projects during the week which took time.

Always, my husband and I would fight for studying a book in the bible.  We felt so good one year because we were able to get into the book of Acts.  We kept trying to get back to that kind of thing.  It was so wonderful to just dig, to  hear scripture read aloud every week.  It was a growing time. 

Small group for us was really mostly about the friendship.  We did have great relationships, and I believe our friends in those groups were mostly Christians who really desired to study God’s word and fellowship in Christian brotherhood.  We wanted to pray for one another, that was always a point that showed really what the groups were about for the people in them, the prayer support.  That’s where the caring came in.  People also did things to help each other in times of need.  There was nothing wrong with this, in fact it was one wonderful aspect of the groups that made up for all the books we went through.

The group would often get together and decide what we were studying.  This is how we ended up eventually pushing for bible study in the actual bible.  It became the desire of the leaders of our group (we eventually became leaders…with another couple).  We wanted to get into the meat.  However, there was always a pull to books like “The Five Love Languages.”  I was even one who suggested we do Max Lucado studies, partly because I felt these books got you into the text. 

One thing kept happening that was annoying to us personally, and I believe maybe others in the group though I cannot be sure.  The church would, at least once a year, have a series.  Usually it was a Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, or some other book.  It was not biblically focused although it did contain bible verses.  This series would run along side sermons.  I believe once there was no book, but the pastors had a topical study with their own studyguide for the group (though I believe this wasn’t manditory).  The manditory church wide study also involved a DVD…easy to pop in, easy to run right through. 

The group would meet, go through the DVD, discuss it, have a prayer and snack time.  These were very simplistic, and annoying.  I never objected outright, I found though we made comments at times during the DVD to keep ourselves entertained because we were bored.  One time my husband lead this and did feel some sense of accomplishment, he’d not lead the group alone before.  We did still get annoyed with the book and DVD though, it just was not very deep in biblical information.  It was more poor entertainment than anything.  The most entertainment we got actually, was making fun of the DVD in subtle ways. We usually also spiced up these times with personal testimonies and other activities rather than just plugging along in the book and DVD.

I recall getting less and less satisfaction from small group.  Not from our friends, but from the bible study part.  There were people in the group also who said they really desired to study in a book of the bible rather than in these men’s books.  We recalled our time studying Acts, and the comment was that it was a great year. 

So, what happened?  I believe churches in this trend of church wide study of books by men, and even topical study books, are in a cycle of immaturity.  These  churches have leaders who want to reach the seeker, and are refusing to even call themselves Christians but want to be Christ followers instead.  They’ve substituted men’s wisdom (which is foolishness) for God’s word.  They’ve substituted a focus on the living Savior for a focus within the man. 

It’s all about five steps, or if that gets old, about finding the mystery.  I almost feel these churches actually run in some sort of cycle.  First they entertain you, then they talk about how entertainment shouldn’t be what we’re about.  You feel guilty because you realize you’ve been entertained, and you agree, more should be happening.  So you are told you need to find your spiritual gift, and another small group theme begins.  Later you’re told it’s easy to become selfish or self foucsed in sermons, that we focus too much on busy life and on ourselves, then you’re challeneged to find your purpose, and another church wide study begins on Purpose Driven or whatever.  Then you go along happy for a while, and you’re told you need to reach out to your neighbor, and Hybels study comes along when you learn how to witness.

The next step in the cycle is discussing the youth, and how we’re missing them.  We’re also studying too much.  Youth like action, boom…you’re out picking up trash in a park or painting a school yard in service.  Eventually, you begin working on going deeper in your relationship.  You need to get closer to God, so we’ll discuss spiritual disciplines.  There you go, you’re deep.

Far, far away is the church life you had to begin with.  Sunday school with bible study, or some midweek bible study is impossible.  No longer offered at church.  Sure, you might get your group to go along with studying a book of the bible, but likely not for long.  People hear how good so and so’s book is, and they suggest it.  If you become the leader, which is encouraged, you need to let the group decide what to study until the church leadership decided to invade with an all church study.

Where did bible study go?

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We read the bible in our house, and my hope is to go straight through the New Testament first.  At some point we’ll likely do a split plan, reading a bit of both each day. 

I really am wanting to figure out a way to teach church history correctly past Acts, and have been given some suggestions for curriculum.  I would like my older children to read biographies, essays, and sermons of solid church leaders from the past.  I do know our church has some sort of systematic teaching…they mentioned it from the pulpit recently.  I think it’s getting to be time we have some interviews with pastors to figure out what exactly they do, and how they assist us as parents in the training of our children.

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I am so sad that my children will struggle to find a healthy church.  I know that we are struggling ourselves, and now I think it will be nearly impossible for our kids when they grow up.  I also feel so sad for them that my husband and I were not trained in theology and Biblical knowledge growing up.  My parents were not Chrsitians, I lived with different family members and then finally settled in with my father and step mom.  I went to whatever church I could get to, mostly on my own.  My husband’s parents are Christians now, but growing up were functionally not so.  He was allowed to stay home from church with his father.  He doesn’t have skills at all in teaching, and so really doesn’t teach much to his children.  Several times I had hoped he would have a night where he taught bible study time, or maybe he’d find a way to challenge the kids by teaching.  Truth is, we’re both doing more for our kids than we got.  However, I think this is not enough.  I do read to my kids often from the Bible directly, have encouraged them to read it on their own.  My oldest has read through the entire Bible I believe twice (he’s 12) from cover to cover.  I bribed him 25c a book.  My 10 year old has read straight through many books of the Bible, and even my 8 year old got to Leviticus on an attempt to read the Bible straight through.  We encourage scripture memory, and take the kids to Awana for now (until something better comes along).  We pray before putting the kids to bed as a family, each one says their own prayer.  We try to model prayer for them, and we pray at meal time.  They know why we left our former church, and the older ones understand it’s doctrine. 

With what we do, I still fear we’re missing the mark with our kids.  We need to teach more.  We also need to figure out who to challenge them to read.  What pastors and authors are not just pop Christian feel good types but actually will help keep my kids on the right path with a focus on Christ?  I need to study up!

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