Is Less More? More Thoughts on Text-based Bible Studies
Recently, someone loaned me a book (Uniting Church and Home; A Blueprint for Rebuilding Church Community by Eric Wallace) to read because it validates our move to Text/Sermon based Bible Studies by arguing that biblical churches are cross-generational churches that are built on biblical relationships not programs.
In the book Eric Wallace says that the home ought to be the primary place of making disciples (Deut. 6:1-6; Matthew 28:19-20). (By the way, I’m sure this is an issue of contextualization and culture, which Wallace argues in the book, but it must be significant that the Bible nowhere talks about events, programs, youth groups, etc., and yet these are often must haves for “successful churches”.) He rightly says that biblically, as a first step, we should not be outsourcing the transmission of the all-important gospel to others when the gospel ought to be the primary focus of every Christian home. Children’s ministries and youth groups should be supplemental ministries, not the main way people hear the gospel and are trained to be Christ-like.
Another point that the book makes is that too many programs in a church stifle healthy, Christ-centered relationships in churches by presenting way too much material for any normal person to internalize and apply. Wallace says:
On any given Sunday morning, an average household of four will receive the following teachings: one adult Sunday school class, two children’s classes, and the sermon. That is four different teachings, and we have not reached Sunday or Wednesday night yet!
On a conservative estimate, that is six, at the most ten teachings (depending on household size) that a household is responsible to implement in their lives! Given how busy the average household is during the week, especially the hectic work schedules of most fathers and many mothers as well, how can parents be accountable to work through all of this teaching in one week’s time? The church is shoveling out information at an incredible rate.
Is Eagle Heights doing too much? Have we bitten off more than they can chew with our “programming” and therefore tried to “shovel” too much into the minds of people, making it hard to truly understand the Bible and apply it as families and individuals? Has more become less when less would probably mean more? Different people at Eagle Heights might say different things, but I would argue that less would be more if we were all on the same page, studying the same Bible passage and really focusing on applying the intended meaning to our present lives. Would it not be a great thing if people of all ages could assemble together as the body of Christ and hear the word of God taught in the sermon and then in their small group and then go home and sit around the table as a family or with friends and mull it over because we were all studying the same passage? Wouldn’t that at least help the family begin to assume the primary role of discipleship? Wouldn’t that help us be a cross-generational church and foster unity?
I hope so, because that is where we are going as a church. I hope and pray that God gives us wisdom and a smooth transition. I hope and pray that our efforts build strong biblical and Christ-centered relationships for the glory of God the Father in all things.
Note: I am not suggesting entirely that programs are wrong or bad, but when programs become the point of a church and don’t foster Christ-like relationships and transformation then programs are simply religious distractions.