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:
- What % of the energy of the church is inward focused (fellowship, etc)?
- What % of the energy of the church is outward focused (evangelism, service, etc)?
- What % of the energy of the church is upward focused (worship)?
- 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.”