Being Honest About Bible Class – Recognizing the Problem

I don’t read posts that are this long. I also don’t post things this long unless I think it is important enough to read. That being said, if you teach Bible class, are a minister, elder, deacon, or have any influence on your education program I hope you will take a few moments to read this post.

We decided it was broken. If you really boiled it all down Sunday morning Bible class had become a time when Christians got together to talk about things they already basically knew. Did good things come from that? Yes. Was God pleased by what we had done for so long? Yes. But was there something better than that we could engage in during that time? Yes. What I am about to say is not a condemnation of the way Bible class is done in a significant number of churches. Instead, it is a dream of what could be and is actually happening here in St. Petersburg. Over the last few months our Bible class has made a turn and it is revolutionizing the way we view Sunday morning Bible class for the better. It has changed from a place to rehash ideas to a launch pad to put into practice what scripture teaches us about living out our lives as Christians more fully.

We had lived under the assumption that Bible class always was and always will be a certain way. You come together for an hour to discuss a topic or a text and come back next week to do it again. We have done this thousands of times and are experts on how to do Bible class that way. What helped us recognize the problem was studying the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan helped us realize that often what we are doing as Christians doesn’t really take into account a biblical model of discipleship…lots of talk with little to no real life change. It wasn’t that Francis Chan was so engaging or smart. All he did was point us to some scriptures and say, “is this really what we are doing or not?” to which we quickly knew we were falling short in living out our faith in community with each other. Here was the big shocker to us as we evaluated what we had been doing – We cover things we already know but at the same time leave lacking those areas that scripture has clearly called us to be engaged in.

How did things get this way? Part of this has to do with our Restoration mentality. I don’t mean to pick a fight on this one or sidetrack the comments when I say what I am about to say. But I do think it is important to point out because it may be an “aha” moment for someone out there like it was for me. What we have done in the Restoration movement is to restore the teaching of New Testament Christianity pretty well (still lots of room for improvement but we have made a good go at it). Restoring New Testament doctrine is important but what was missed was restoring the life of the church to be more in line with the early church in terms of community, mission, and discipleship. What we ended up with were biblical teaching on how to worship and how to have the right doctrine but very little in the way of actually living out life like the early church did and being about the things God called them (and now us) to do.

If you are scratching your head at this point or are in total disagreement with everything I am saying take this test and see how you do:

  1. What % of the energy of the church is inward focused (fellowship, etc)?
  2. What % of the energy of the church is outward focused (evangelism, service, etc)?
  3. What % of the energy of the church is upward focused (worship)?
  4. When you add all three of those things together what % of your week’s time is taken up with these things?

I don’t know about you but I was not happy with the way I answered any of those questions. So we were faced with a choice, recognize the problem and do something to make, what God is clearly interested in, better or recognize the problem and be complacent about something that is clearly important to God. Only one of those choices is an acceptable way to move forward.

I am going to lay out what we have done since in some upcoming posts but first I think many of us need to be honest enough to admit ourselves to Bible class anonymous and start by saying, “My name is Matt and my Bible class has a problem.”

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

10 Responses to Being Honest About Bible Class – Recognizing the Problem

  1. Clint P. says:

    My name is Clint and my bible class has a problem.

    This is very interesting. Even though I am a regular attender/teacher, I find most bible classes extremely frustrating simply because I’m not sure that they really do much to change lives.

  2. Jason Patz says:

    Great article. We are reorganizing our Sunday morning Bible study classes right now and are working through some of the same things.

  3. Wil Duncan says:

    Matt, in reading your post here it just seems to me that it is an assumption to suggest that many are not doing the Lord’s will on a daily basis.We are to give each other the benefit of doubt and hold each other in high esteem because I believe that most people in our church are learning how to love God better than we had in our past.God is the righteous judge and he sees all that we do and don’t.Because he satisfied his anger against us through Christ death I have hope of life eternal and real love wants this for everyone.Many gospel preachers have said many of the same things that Chan said only they said it during their brief time on earth.Many haved lived and walked by faith long before we who are younger came along.By the way, when have you last heard a sermon on Hell?Chan says that lukewarm christians are going there,so it really does exist.We need balance in our teaching so that people know for certain what attitude determines which altitude and to be shown how to choose through actions, the higher calling.Agape Bro.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Will,

      I appreciate your comment. When I wrote this that was one of the reactions I thought might happen and that is why I opened with this thought. First, sounds like you guys got the book. I couldn’t remember if I had gotten a copy to you with Elijah being born and all. Glad to hear that it didn’t slip by me.

      “We decided it was broken. If you really boiled it all down Sunday morning Bible class had become a time when Christians got together to talk about things they already basically knew. Did good things come from that? Yes. Was God pleased by what we had done for so long? Yes. But was there something better than that we could engage in during that time? Yes. What I am about to say is not a condemnation of the way Bible class is done in a significant number of churches. Instead, it is a dream of what could be and is actually happening here in St. Petersburg.”

      The reason I wrote that is because I didn’t want anyone to hear me coming across saying that anyone else was wrong for doing class the way they do it. I was trying hard not to say, “it is an assumption to suggest that many are not doing the Lord’s will on a daily basis.” So I am sorry I didn’t communicate it any clearer than I did. I hold all of our members, classes, teachers, ministers, elders, deacons and all the rest in the highest esteem (as you know). This post is not here to say you can only please God if you change Bible class It is asking the question of whether or not there is a better way and whether our assumption that the way we have always done it is the most effective route. That is not a one is right and one is wrong dichotomy.

      Great point on finding balance in our preaching and teaching. I think you are right on track with that. That can be talked about more later in a more private way. Love you bro,

      Matt

      • Will Duncan says:

        Hi Matt,

        Thanks for responding.As was stated Sunday ,i will find my way to your humble abode to fellowship some more in the word.I am grateful for your mindset which I believe is an honest seeker as I am also.Have a restful night and let the family know we are always praying for you too.
        Agape, Will

  4. Jim Roberts says:

    Matt, I find the same struggles in our educational ministry . It seems that too often we have Bible class just for the sake of having a Bible class. And sadly, I don’t think many Christian Educators – myself included – expect “Kingdom Living” from those we teach; I mean we expect it, but do we REALLY expect it.
    We’ve changed our traditional Sunday School around here by combining all ages and creating an all-ages-interactive Bible class, but it isn’t seen as something worthwhile anymore; people have lost interest.
    I don’t know how to “move” people from studying the Bible – seemingly just for the sake of studying the Bible – to studying the Bible by living the Bible and doing it during “Bible Class Hour.”
    It’s like we HAVE to hold on to that hour and keep it sacred.
    Jim

  5. Pingback: AM I ABOUT MY FATHER’S BUSINESS? « Committed To Truth

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