He must become greater; I must become less (John 3:30)
I recently was on a committee to examine seminary grads seeking ordination Preparation for Ordination exam. I saw several seminary graduates unable to answer simple Sunday school questions. I had high school students in the inner city that would blow them away (in Bible knowledge). So many pastors are attending seminary, but then are leaving ill prepared to teach His most precious Word. (Now, you should be hiding under the bed!) I knew one pastor who lived in mortal fear of teaching the Bible! He felt that he was a fraud; his sermons came from a magazine or the internet and he concentrated on counseling (at which he was good). It took a lot of arm-twisting to get him to learn the Bible. He was embarrassed that people would find him out. Now, the pastors overseas whom we are reaching have the same problem with the lack of Bible knowledge. But, their reason is that they do not have seminaries or those great resources that we have!
Do not get me wrong; I am not seminary, or even pastor, bashing, I am pointing out a critical problem in a lot of our churches today. They create "pew-sitters" who go to church in name only, but do nothing with their faith, even refusing to learn and grow in the Word. This is a problem both in our leadership and in the pew, where the people do not want to follow a good leader. They allow pride and laziness get in the way of knowing His Word. Or, they seek sensationalism and personality over truth and relevance. Not learning and adhering to the precepts of Scripture effects every decision and action that the church faces and makes.
The Bible has been debated much and read little over the centuries. All kinds of theology have been excavated from its pages. Great nuggets of inspiration have been found in the precepts of its truth, while other schemes, falsehoods, and crazy doctrines have been cleverly placed where they do not belong. The quest for grandstanding and sensationalism to gather as many followers as possible has clouded the pulpit and airways from the Truth. Where truth once reigned, comes confusion and spurious doctrines. Yes, people follow the personalities and charisma of its leaders, but where is the Truth; where is the Word; where is the discipleship?
On the positive side, we have seen the rising interest in home Bible studies since the early 1970s, which, for some strange reason, were a rarity in the U.S. beforehand. We have seen the development of dozens of new translations, Bible helps, resources, and even software that cuts research time to a mere fraction compared with the past. There are more ministries (including Into Thy Word) that are teaching and distributing His precious Word more than ever before in history. On the dark side-at the same time, more and more people are going astray from His Word more than ever before.
So, what has happened? We have the same Spirit, the same Word, more and greater resources, more translations, more ministries, and more Bible studies than ever before. Yet, many churches close their doors every year, and people are leaving the church. More false doctrines are spreading and taking over the truth more than ever before, too. So, we have more resources and more Bible studies, yet fewer churches and more false doctrine; this does not make sense. Or, does it? To the committed disciple and Bible lover, this is extremely frustrating. I sometimes even wonder if it is worth the time and effort to teach truth when false teaching is so enticing and claiming so many.
So, when all the home Bible studies and resources were spreading, Satan was too, and is there in force with his entourage (demons) to manipulate the results. And, many leaders were there too, arguing, spreading confusion, backstabbing, and engaging in their own manipulation. The home Bible studies and the expository preaching from the pulpit are to teach the truth of God's most precious Word. And, this has been happening, as many great churches have sprung up while others rekindled their call. In the most part, the home Bible studies have been essential, and must build and continue. But, we need to be aware that at the same time of growing Bible studies, human, fallen thinking is walking hand in hand with Satan to spoil the work of our Lord. Personal political agendas and power quested individuals are entering in the Bible study and pulpit with a self-purpose mentality to take the spotlight away from God in most of His churches. How many sermons have had the pastor's experience and stories as their central focus; how many Bible studies have been led by leaders with their own agenda? As I travel around and speak and teach in churches, I am astounded at the degree of "self-worship" and "pastor worship" that is in the church. Either the pastor is worshiped or the pastor is on trial in the court of pew sitters who do not want to be convicted. And, there is lack of Christ's shed blood being lifted up and preached. We have to not only continue home Bible studies, but also reform them, train the leaders, and infuse a passion for the truth of His Word so that the focus becomes growth and discipleship, not personalities, personal agendas, or even programs.
I have to confess; I too have struggled with this, as I was very arrogant and condescending in my early pastoral days. In the opposite sense of Biblical ignorance, I overpowered people with the Word. I figured since I was so much smarter and educated, I had all the answers. I would engage in conversations with my rhetoric skill, while my ears took a break. Maybe I had good answers, but I was not listening or being encouraging to people. And, when I taught, my teaching came across as patronizing. I even swooped in to take over Bible studies that were defective instead of discipling those already in the lead. I may have even crushed hearts and calls when I was supposed to lift up and glorify Christ. I would speak so highly above people's heads that no one understood what I was saying. God had to swat me a few times before I got it right. I had to learn-it is about Christ and not about me. It is His Word, and I am just His servant.
The result of our political games and lifting of ourselves instead of the Lord has created an enigma in place of the Word. In the early days of Billy Graham's ministry, all he had to do was say, "the Bible says…" and people had a general grasp of its contents and that it was indeed His Word. Today, when Billy Graham says "the Bible says..." most people will wonder what Bible; what is in it; whose opinion; whose interpretation. Has Billy changed his message? No. Has the Bible changed? No. We have created the enigma of argument in place of a solid, comforting foundation of truth-as it is. No longer does the Bible present a unified identity. To the non-Christian, it is a document of conflicting and changing meanings. It no longer makes sense; it is a piece of clay that can be sculptured to our own image and needs.
This not only hurts our outreach endeavors, but the church as well! Because, even though we have all these wonderful ministries and resources, very few people are actually reading the Bible and using those resources, especially the leaders in the church! As a former church growth consultant, I was amazed at the lack of basic Bible understanding when I conducted leadership retreats and had church leaders develop vision and direction from God's Word. Many could not find the books of the Bible nor had even a basic understanding of the theological principles of the denomination that they were representing. That is why people in denominational conventions promote crazy stuff such as homosexuality and re-imaging God, because they do not know better. They infuse their agenda over God's. The church has forgotten to train and disciple its people so they can know Him better and be poured out to Him (John 14-15; Gal. 2:20: Phil.1:6; 3:10).
While in seminary, I worked as a cooperate trainer for a major bank; one of the things I did was train tellers how to detect counterfeit money. I received my training from the American Secret Service who not only guards the President but whose principle duty is to track and thwart counterfeits. I was commissioned to train the managers of bank branches. In our training, I had them feel real $100 bills with their eyes closed to get to know the real one. Then I gave them sample counterfeits; just by the feel of them, they were able to quickly detect phony $100 bills. We also had elaborate displays of various counterfeits from the Treasury Department as well as all kinds of things to memorize, electronic gadgets, ink dabs, and other ways to detect the counterfeit bills. But, I found if you spent the time to know the real one, the fakes were easily spotted; the gadgets were not necessary. As Christians, we must be willing and able to stop the phony teaching and the apathy that is rampant in our churches. The best way we can do this is by knowing the real One, and spreading the real message and Truth.
The why of studying the Bible is to bring our mindsets in line with His truth. We cannot do that when we refuse to yield ourselves to our Lord. We cannot do that when pride and arrogance are piloting at the helm, or apathy is running the bridge. We can not ignore the Bible's relevance in history or in our personal lives. If we do, we will have closed off churches and will reap corrupt governments and broken and hopeless lives. Remember, He is Lord-not co-pilot, or vice president, or divine bellhop. He is God and Creator and King of the universe who loves us and desires the best for all of us. Thus, when we yield ourselves to His precepts, we are giving Him glory which is the primary fruit from studying the Bible.
More thoughts on why should we study the Bible
· The study of the Bible matters!We must study the Bible because it is the foundation for life. God even commands us to study His Word as the priority before we do anything else (Deut. 6: 6-9).
· Because we are to love Him (Deut. 6:4-5).
· Because He demands we teach others the Word (2 Tim. 3:14-17).
· Because we are to fear, trust, understand, and respect Him (Prov. 1:7; 3:5: 9:10)
· As a Christian, we need to live a life of distinction; and the only way to receive the knowledge of that distinction is to get into the Word!
· We do not want to be "barcode" Christians who do not care what is in the box because only the label matters, or that Christianity is just "fire insurance" from hell!
· We must seek out the truth and the answers that we need from the final authority, and not the ways of the world!
· If we do not study the Bible, then we set ourselves up as the final judge and authority, and not God. We will lead ourselves to societal corruption and personal loss of freedom and hope-all leading us down the road to hell made from the paving of false truths and distractions.
· The point of Christianity is to be a transformed person through self-surrender to our Lord's holiness, through His Word and prayer!This is what glorifies our Lord!
· The response of grace is to be a transformed person, through self-surrender to our Lord's holiness and through His Word and prayer!
· REMEMBER: THE BIBLE IS GOD'S LOVE LETTER TO YOU!!!
· We need to get into the Bible ourselves. One of the problems of Christianity today is that we are conditioned to be taught from the Scriptures but not to do it for ourselves.
· The cults place their authority elsewhere, and not in the Word!
· The Bible brings us in line with His Holiness, and with reality! Science may have explanations, but they change completely every few years. However, the Word of God never changes. What a great comfort!
· Science can never explain love, justice, peace, goodness, purity, or sin because you cannot quantify it in a microscope or scientific instrument! Why we do what we do cannot be scientifically measured and hypothesized; that is why there are so many theories in science and psychology and they are always changing!
· The Bible is read much, but studied little!Be the person who reads and studies it, and apply the precepts to all aspects of your life!
· The truths of Scripture will transcend any other subject, discipline, or passion!
· The Bible gives us a greater reality that cannot be seen, but is clearly felt, and to deny it would be like living in Huntington Beach in Southern California and never seeing the ocean!
Yes, indeed the study of the Bible does matter so we do not become the counterfeiters to His truth!!!
© 1991 originally titled "Why Should We Study the Bible," revised 2001, 2004 R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/