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Posts Tagged ‘bible study’

     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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I realized recently that I’ve been a bit frozen in everything since I started really learning about the things getting into Christian churches and ministries (or things that had been getting in for a while).  I now am unsure of many ministries.  I used to listen to Focus on the Family on the radio every day, as well as Hank.  I used to listen to CCM frequently, but now I am frozen.  I cannot figure out where I am safe to listen.  Now that we’re in a new church, I still cannot relax.  We’re just still trying the church, and so it could go anyway.  No where am I comfortable any longer.  Reading scripture and prayer is riddled with thoughts about this whole mess.  I want to learn in my reading time, and I want to pray and feel confident as I had before.  I am full of questions, full of frustration, sometimes sadness.  I do not really feel confusion.  I just want to be sure I am where I’m supposed to be.  I don’t want to live by experience, I want to live as God would have me live in His way, in His word.  I realize I have faith in God, and because He’s given it to me, my faith is stronger even than when I started this whole thing.  However, my faith in men is really low.  That’s good in some ways, as men will fail.  However, we are meant to fellowship, we are meant to learn from others.  I do not believe this “lone ranger Christian” nonesense everyone is saying to keep people from going off for a period of time to test the spirits.  I believe that line is being used as a guilt trip, not giving people a chance to analyse things.  However, unless there is absolutely no church available, I believe it’s important to continue to meet in order to worship, fellowship, learn, and finally, serve.  People keep telling me there is no perfect church, true enough.  However, there is the perfect church for my family somewhere because God is in control.  The “universal church” is something I believe in.  There are people who are saved in grace and mercy by faith, who follow Christ and who are studying and learning about God.  There are people in the church who are following the Lord’s commands and are making disciples.  I believe this.  I just want to be a part of this church.  Maybe our old church is a part of this body, but has let doctrines seep in and yet is still okay.  Maybe.  Maybe where we fellowship now is part of the body, maybe.  I don’t know.  I just want to get my footing back.  However, I know I have not lost my place with God.  Nothing can snatch me from His hand.

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I am struggling right now with the seperation from the church we so loved.  Really, the church was our family, our community.  We do have friends and connections elsewhere, but I believe church is to be a place where you go for fellowship wtih other believers.  We have so many in our own family that are not believers and followers of Christ, that we felt a responsibility for witness to our own flesh and blood.  My husband’s father is now a follower and believer because of our influence (and he had a solid pastor who would have their church studying one book of the Bible week to week for months).  My step-mom has really been thinking about her faith and her commitment to Christ, and actually has people praying for my dad who is basically a deist.   My mother has never been in my life, but is in a position where I can begin a letter writing relationship with and can share more about Jesus.  I have written letters to an uncle in the past who had attempted suicide.  I very much am one who tries to “go” and share the gospel.  But our refreshment came in our church family.  We love the people and are saddened by the deviation from truth.

I have other things that have been pulled apart.  The realization that merging is everywhere is shocking.  I am a radio listener, love pastors and Christian talk.  I hear the terms popping up there.  I also am sick of many contemporary songs that are not clear on doctrine (singing to the “beautiful one I love” but who is this one?).  Everything I ate up thinking it was doing something positive, and maybe most of it was positive.  It’s just I feel I need to evaluate everything.  I had sources I trusted, and now some of those are gone.  It’s rather frustrating. 

I am learning more and more that I have been out of the Word of God too much.  I used to be one that read, wrote prayer requests down in a notebook, and prayed almost constantly.  Life has gotten in the way, and I have felt so “good” in church I was unaware how far I had let myself go.  I really need to be regular in study, and in prayer.  This is not so I am saved, but so I can grow again.  It’s like my lifeline has been pinched so I was withering a bit.  I need to study and learn.  God’s always been there, I’ve just let myself go further from Him.

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I cannot express how difficult it is to go to another church.  It feels like I’m disowning my own family, like I’m cutting myself off from them.  Given everything, if the pastors in our old church weren’t showing clear signs of being into contemplative prayer, of merging with the New Age, we’d still be there with the other problems we’re seeing.  I mean, if we were just using the P.E.A.C.E. plan as a model and it seemed the pastors were ignorant to the New Age only, it would be something we could work with.  Even better, if we were doing all the things like missions, serving the poor, concerned about orphans, and doing service projects in the community, that would be fine.  The church promotion and marketing can be a little much, but some of what our church was doing I don’t really see as wrong.  Sending out mailers, trying to attract the community to church, well, for me that seems logical if you are evangelical.  You want to get the world to come in and hear just in case you’re meant to plant a seed for the.  However, the message is tainted.  Just a dusting or arsenic, just enough to make the cake look like it has powdered sugar on it, in fact, it does have powdered sugar.  But it also has that little bit of poison.  I was sad today thinking of my church worshipping and the message being shared, and the pastors having an agenda to eventually teach the crowd how to pray in a contemplative way.  I am sad thinking about how lost our pastors are, how blind they are.   They can talk about god-consciousness just like New Age leaders.  They speak of silence, of Christ coursing through veins, of mission, of being “little christs.”  These things slip into their speech, and no one really hears it (I did, but I’d ask and many would say no and then I’d listen to sermons online later and it would be confirmed).  Today, people filled a church building (our old church), and people were missing the mark.  So we sat with strangers, my kids taught by strangers.  We heard the message, and I listened carefully to every word.  I watched as they prayed, did they have an agenda too?  Maybe, maybe they did, maybe they are doing God’s will or maybe not. 

I did share a bit of our story with the pastor, and he understood.  He knew that shift was going on all around our city.  Just a few weeks ago an older couple visited from our old church.  The pastor knew our church was merging.  He knew of other churches with this problem.  The offered to pray for us, they offered materials for free on the topic of the New Age merging with Christianity.  The pastor even had spoken with one of the many pastors from our church and gave him a book that was a good warning to show this shift.  Did this pastor read the book?  How did it impact him?  I don’t know. 

So we visit a new church, go to lunch.  The kids say it was cool, it was different.  The younger ones liked the new songs they learned, the older ones wished the music was better.  There were only 15 children 10 to toddler.  That is a change.  We are not done looking, but this church at least looks like one that has the gospel message clear.  They are studying the bible and read through the bible in their bible study groups each year.  This is good.  More churches, more people to meet.  I just wish our old church would change.  I’d rather be there.

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