The Mailbag: Contending for the Faith on Social Media

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I was wondering what your opinion is about using Facebook to correct false doctrine. Mostly what I do is post Scriptures, but every once in a while I may comment on something that is blatantly contrary to the Bible and I try to point to the appropriate Scriptures to show the truth. This mostly happens when a popular preacher or teacher that does not hold to sound doctrine posts something, or when a friend posts something that is clearly unbiblical.

This is such a great question that so many of us (including me!) struggle with. We love our friends and don’t want to see them believing something unbiblical (and spreading it around on social media) and it’s hard to just scroll past the blasphemy false teachers so often post without taking a stand for God’s word.

I readily admit I don’t have a perfect answer for this question. On the one hand, you want to protect your friends from error. On the other hand, there aren’t enough hours in the day to correct every single false teaching out there. And, if you try, people stop listening and you become ignorable background noise. Here are some of the principles I personally try to operate from on my personal social media pages. (I try to be consistent, but it doesn’t always work out that way):

  • First, I would highly recommend reading Amy Spreeman’s excellent article Words with FriendsI’m personally not yet at the point where I’m messaging people about the false teachers they simply follow on social media, but I definitely understand and support Amy for doing so.
  • Do keep in mind that – if it’s a matter of someone simply following a false teacher/ministry, not re-posting – people don’t always follow these accounts because they agree with them. Sometimes it’s to keep an eye on what the false teacher is teaching, to find out more about her doctrine because her materials are being introduced at church, etc. I follow two or three accounts on Twitter for reasons like that.
  • By and large, I don’t follow false teachers/ministries on social media. It just raises my blood pressure too much. So, for the most part, I don’t comment directly on false teachers’ posts because I don’t see them in my feed. If you do decide to comment, be sure you provide ample, in context Scripture passages to support what you’re saying, and comment in a patient, kind tone, keeping in mind that most of the people who follow that false teacher are baby Christians, Christians who simply aren’t aware they’re being fed false doctrine, or false converts. Be aware that you’re almost certainly not going to change anyone’s mind, that people will verbally eviscerate you, and that the admin of the page will probably block and/or report you.
  • My main way of sharing biblical truth and discernment is to post about it on my own timeline. That way, the information is out there, yet confrontation is avoided.
  • When it comes to posting things on your own news feed, make sure you’re posting about good resources and teachers as well as warning about the bad. It’s not enough to get people away from bad teaching. They need somewhere to go for good teaching.
  • I have something of a “Golden Rule” policy about commenting on other people’s posts. I’ve had people comment on my discernment-type posts rebuking me and arguing with me for posting such things, as though they have some sort of right to dictate what I can and can’t post on my own page. That’s not right. People have the right to post what they want to post on their own page, and, while I’m not always perfect at it, I try to remember to respect that fact as I would want them to respect it with me. If what the person has posted concerns me for her soul, I will send her a private message. I operate on the assumption that people who claim to be Christians would want to know they’re posting something that’s in conflict with God’s word.
  • If someone’s post or comment makes me biblically angry, I try to remember to wait 24 hours before responding. I’ve found that helps me to calm down and respond more patiently and lovingly. I’ve also found that sometimes my anger clouds my understanding of what the person actually meant. I have greater clarity the next day and can respond (or even refrain from responding) more appropriately.
  • There are two passages of Scripture I try to keep in mind when responding to people on social media about false teaching. The first is 2 Timothy 2:24-26. It reminds me of where that person might be coming from and how I am to comport myself:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

The second is Matthew 7:6:

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

The Bible is the final word of the holy God of the universe. What He says, goes, whether people believe it or not. It is stake in the ground, unalterable truth that needs no defense from us to pigs and dogs (not that everyone who posts false doctrine is a pig or dog- sometimes they’re just unaware). Sometimes the best response you can give on social media is to patiently lay down simple biblical truth in one comment and walk away, refusing to engage in debate, and trusting God to work on people’s hearts through His word.

  • Above all, pray. Pray for the false teacher/ministry you’re concerned about. Pray for the friend or loved one who’s re-posting false doctrine, that God will open her eyes to the truth. Pray about whether you should approach someone on social media, in which venue (comment, private message, etc.), and for wisdom to use the right words, tone, and Scriptures.

If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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For those of us in the United States, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. I hope you’ll all have a lovely day with family and friends giving thanks to God for all of the ways He has blessed you.

I am taking the rest of this week off from blogging to spend time with my family and enjoy the holiday. Next week I won’t be blogging as I’ll be traveling to Chicago to speak at a Christian women’s event. I’d be most grateful for your prayers for safe travel and that God would be glorified as I speak. Lord willing, I’ll resume my regular blog schedule starting Monday, December 5. (I apologize if you’re participating in The 10 Bible Study that this means we will go two weeks without a lesson.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Top 10 Bible Verses on Giving Thanks

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Originally published November 20, 2015thanks

Next to Easter and Christmas, there’s no better holiday that Christians could celebrate than Thanksgiving. Scripture reminds us over and over that we have a precious Savior and innumerable blessings to thank God for. Here are ten of my favorite Bible verses about giving thanks. Feel free to share them around on social media or print them out to use in your Thanksgiving decor.

1. Psalm 100:4

ps 100 4

 

2. 1 Corinthians 15:57

1 cor 15 57

 

3. 1 Chronicles 16:8

1 chr 16 8

 

4. Ephesians 5:20

Eph 5 20

 

5. Psalm 69:30

ps 69 30

 

6. Colossians 3:17

col 3 17

 

7. Psalm 79:13

ps 79 13

 

8. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

1 thess 5 18

 

9. Psalm 86:12

ps 86 12

 

10. Revelation 7:12

rev 7 12

 

What’s your favorite Bible verse about giving thanks?

 

The Mailbag: Where should I shop for Christian gifts for Christmas?

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Now that Christmas is coming, I have a question about where to buy books, and/or Christian gifts. Should we patronize Christian bookstores and websites? Or would we be helping the culture become more Christian by buying from Walmart or ordering from Amazon?

It’s great to be thinking about having a Christ-like impact on the culture in everything we do. After all, the Bible does say, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Even shopping.

I think the answer to this question is largely a matter of conscience and good stewardship of the money God has blessed you with, and, of course, husbands and wives need to be on the same page if this is an issue in your home.

Christians have been buying from WalMart and Amazon for years, and the culture continues to march toward Hell at breakneck speed, so I don’t think shopping or not shopping at either of those venues is going to change society much. Amazon carries just about everything that’s in print, so they’re just as happy to sell you a Bible as a Book of Mormon as a Koran as a Richard Dawkins book. The last time I perused the “Christian” book section at my local WalMart, I literally could not find a single book by a doctrinally sound author. The half dozen shelves were laden with Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and the like. (So, yeah, definitely don’t buy “Christian” books there!)

Some Christians don’t want to patronize Christian retailers who carry materials by false teachers. For others this isn’t an issue. This is something you (and your husband, if you’re married) will need to think and pray through and make a decision about.

A few suggestions as you shop this year:

Amazon has a great program called Amazon Smile. It allows you to designate a charity that will receive a percentage of every purchase you make. There are scads of Christian organizations to choose from: churches (maybe even yours!), ministries, missions organizations, pro-life organizations, and others.

If you’re shopping at brick and mortar stores, does your town have a locally owned, doctrinally sound Christian retailer- either stand-alone or at a nearby church? Wherever you choose to shop, don’t forget to take your tracts with you to hand out along the way! That’s the best way to impact your community for Christ while buying gifts.

If you’re shopping for Christian gifts on line, you might consider “shopping small” rather than hitting one of the major Christian retailers. If you’re ordering a book or CD, try getting it directly from the author’s/publisher’s or artist’s web site. Check out some of the smaller Christian book and gift sites. And don’t forget sites like Etsy where you can order lots of Christian gifts directly from the craftsman. Here are a few awesome, doctrinally sound sites to order Christian books and gifts from:

Wretched

Grace and Truth Books

Ligonier

Wrath and Grace

Banner of Truth

Logos

Grace to You

Missional Wear

Westminster Bookstore

Seeds Family Worship

Living Waters

To get the most bang for your stewardship buck, start scouting out the sites you like now. Some are already running Christmas sales. Some will have Black Friday deals, and some will offer discounts on Cyber Monday (Nov. 28).

Happy shopping!


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Top 10 Songs for Thanksgiving

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Isn’t Thanksgiving a wonderful holiday? It’s a whole day set aside for feasting and thanking God for all of the glorious things He has done for us. And what’s a celebration without great music? Here, in no particular order, are my top 10 picks for beautiful and joyful songs of Thanksgiving. (Click on the titles of the videos without screen lyrics for a lyric sheet in case you’d like to sing along!)

 

1. We Gather Together

It’s the iconic song of Thanksgiving, and for good reason. Now you might think it’s strange that I picked this particular rendition, but there’s just something awesome about a large group of men singing. I think they did a marvelous job.

 

2.  My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness

This was a new one for me this year, but it’s already a favorite. With its phenomenal theology and singability, this one is probably already a Thanksgiving staple in many churches.

3. Now Thank We All Our God 

“With hearts and hands and voices.” We thank God in our hearts and by singing and praying to Him, but let’s not forget to serve Him, and others, as an act of thanks as well.

 

4. Give Thanks

This song quickly became a Thanksgiving standard in the 90’s. I love the way it points us to the simple truth of being thankful for Christ.

 

5. Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Sit down and read over the lyrics of this one if you have a moment. The hymnist beautifully weaves together the idea of harvest time and God’s provision for us with the idea that we are God’s “crop,” wheat and tares sown together. And one day “the Lord our God shall come, and shall take the harvest home.”

 

6. Thank You, Lord, for Saving my Soul

Did you know this song had verses? I have to say I feel a little cheated. I’ve been singing this song all my life and never knew of the three precious verses about thankfulness in this song. We need to bring them back!

 

7. For the Beauty of the Earth

How often do we forget to thank God for the simple things? The beauty of the earth, the love of family and friends, the church, and Christ, God’s best gift of all.

 

8. I Thank You, Lord

I’m sorry, but if this song doesn’t have you dancing across the kitchen with the turkey, you’d better check your praise thang to make sure it’s not broken. “I thank you Lord. You’ve been so good to me.” Not a thing wrong with that! (Sorry, I couldn’t find a lyrics sheet.)

 

10. He Has Made Me Glad

Drawn from Psalm 100 and 118, this sweet little song reminds us of the joy of simply being in God’s presence and thanking Him for who He is.

 

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving song,
or song of thanks and praise to God?

Throwback Thursday ~ 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays

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Originally published November 24, 2015share-gospel-during-holidays

With all the hustle and bustle during November and December, it’s easy for the gospel to get lost in the shuffle. But the Great Commission never takes a vacation, and the holiday season provides some unique opportunities for sharing the gospel that we don’t have during the rest of the year.

1.

If your family does the “let’s go around the table and say what we’re thankful for” thing at Thanksgiving, briefly express your thanks to Christ for His death, burial, and resurrection, and for saving you.

2.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, place a slip of paper with a Bible verse on it about giving thanks at each place setting . Go around the table and let each person read his verse before the meal. Here are a few to get you started, or if you like it artsy, try these.

3.

Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering of the International Mission Board. (This is an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, but anyone can donate.) The LMCO is designated to fund and equip missionaries who serve outside of North America. You can give online here or drop by your local Southern Baptist church.

4.

Invite an unchurched friend to church with you. Lots of people are more open to dropping in on a worship service or attending a special church event (like a Christmas cantata or nativity play) during the holidays than they are the rest of the year.

5.

Get a group from church together and go Christmas caroling. Choose songs whose lyrics showcase the gospel (Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, and O Holy Night are good ones!) Take some tracts, Bibles, or small gift baskets (containing tracts or Bibles) with you to leave at each home (and don’t forget to invite them to church!).

6.

Donating to a toy drive? Tuck a tract inside your gift or consider donating a gospel-centered children’s book or Bible. The Jesus Storybook Bible  and The Biggest Story are great, doctrinally sound choices. Or how about The Mission Ball?

7.

Contact your local college campus ministry and find out how to invite an international student to spend the holidays with your family. International students can be curious about the way Americans celebrate the holidays. Additionally, dorms often close during school breaks leaving students far from home with no place to stay. Take advantage of the time with your student to take him to church with you and share the gospel with him.

8.

If Christmas parades are a thing in your area, put a float together for your church and use some awesome gospel-themed throws like The Biggest Question DVD, Pocket Testaments, or some eye catching tracts.

9.

Chat with your neighbors, even if you don’t know them well. Shoveling snow together? Exchanging baked goodies? Slow down and take the time to talk (and really listen) with your neighbors. It is amazing how people often open up if someone just takes the time to listen to them. Ask how you can pray for them, and, if the situation is conducive, do it right then. You might even find it turning into a witnessing encounter.

10.

Send out an annual Christmas newsletter? This year, instead of making it about your family’s accomplishments, how about focusing on what God accomplished through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ? That’s the most important news your family could share.

What’s your favorite way to
share the gospel during the holidays?


This ARticle Was Originally published at satisfaction through Christ.

The Ten: Lesson 4

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3

Exodus 20:4-6

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 32:1-10

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

1 John 5:20-21

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. One of the themes of Exodus we’ve discovered in this study is that God is setting His people apart from the surrounding pagan nations and establishing Israel as a nation. How does the second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6) relate to that theme? Think about what and how pagan nations worshiped. How does the second Commandment set God’s people uniquely apart from pagans and set the worship of God apart from the worship of false gods? How does worshiping God without any sort of visual aid or representation point us to God’s vastness, uniqueness, “other-ness,” and power in comparison with idols?

2. What does it mean that God is a jealous God in the context of the second Commandment (idol worship)? (Exodus 20:5a) Think about God’s nature and character as well as His patience, kindness, and benevolence toward His people both in the Old Testament and today. Doesn’t God have a right to be jealous for His people? What are the consequences of breaking or keeping the second Commandment? (Exodus 20:5b-6)

3. Some Christians believe that the second Commandment prohibits making any representation of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit regardless of whether or not that representation is worshiped. They believe, for example, that nativity scenes and plays in which the baby Jesus is depicted, pictures of Jesus in children’s Bibles, pictures of Jesus used for teaching the Bible to non-readers or lost people on the mission field, are a violation of the second Commandment even though these representations of Jesus are not being worshiped. Do you think the context of Exodus 20:4-6 supports this belief? Why or why not? Can you think of any other Scriptures that support or refute this belief?

4. Examine the Exodus 32 passage. How did the people break the second Commandment? Why did the people want Aaron to make an idol for them? (1) When we find ourselves in idolatry – worshiping, loving, or being devoted to something or someone above God – what is the motive of our hearts? Where did the people get the gold jewelry (2-4) that Aaron used to make the calf? What was God’s initial response to this incident? (10) Can you see how it stirs God to anger when we take things that He has created and blessed us with and worship those things rather than the One who gave them to us?

5. In the Exodus 32 passage, what act of God did the people attribute to the golden calf? (4,8) How does it break the second Commandment to call something “God” that is not the God revealed in Scripture? To attribute an action or characteristic of God to something that is not God? How does the 1 John passage and the idea of the “true God” and “him who is true” contrast with the Israelites’ worship of the golden calf as God?

6. Today, in Western culture, we don’t usually carve idols out of wood or stone and bow down to them. But what about creating idols with our hearts and minds instead of our hands? Have you ever “created God in your own image” – a God who fits your opinions, preferences, feelings, or unbiblical beliefs – and worshiped or trusted that god instead of the true God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit of Scripture? How is that similar to the Israelites’ fashioning a golden calf and essentially calling it God? What does the 1 Corinthians passage say about Christians who practice this or any other form of idolatry and how the church is to deal with them?


Homework:

Listen closely this week to the sermon at church, your Sunday School or Bible study class lesson, any Christian books, magazines, blogs, or social media posts you read, and any Christian music you listen to. Is the God depicted in these venues consistent with the way God reveals Himself in Scripture? Do you find any of these sermons, articles, songs, etc., to be breaking the second Commandment by presenting a false view of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?

Advertising Redux

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Hi Y’all-

As you may or may not have noticed, I recently qualified for an advertising program called WordAds, which is offered through the host site of my blog, WordPress. I allow WordAds to run ads on my site (at the end of the first article on the home page, and at the end of every subsequent page you click on) and they pay me a modest sum (depending on how many people see the ads) in return. I haven’t received any income from WordAds yet, so this is a trial run over the next few months to see how it works and whether or not it’s worth it.

In the past (without alerting me or giving me any remuneration), WordPress has run ads on my more heavily trafficked articles. In the last seven years (since 2011, when I joined WordPress) I’ve received only three or four reports of an ad being biblically inappropriate. Last week I received one more report. So, I thought I would rerun the article that follows (originally published July 26, 2015, and updated to include information about WordAds) to provide a little more insight as to how this all works. Should you need to review this information in the future, there is a link to the original article under the “Welcome- Start Here” tab at the top of this page.


Thanks so much to those of you who have alerted me that inappropriate ads (containing material that conflicts with biblical values) occasionally appear on my site.

My family is a one income family, so I allow WordPress to run ads on my site as a way to bring in a little extra money. Normally, the ads that run are family friendly, but a few times, readers have reported seeing ads that are inappropriate. I want to assure you that I do not select these ads, nor am I given an opportunity to approve or reject them.

I have contacted WordPress about the ads. This is the response they sent me:

“We endeavor to make sure that no inappropriate ads are shown, but occasionally some do make it through. If you or any of your visitors see inappropriate ads, we ask that you (or they) take a screenshot of the ad and forward it to us at wordads@wordpress.com.”

Since I don’t always see the same ads on my end that you see on yours, I would be most grateful if you would alert WordPress in this way should you ever see an ad that’s inappropriate (you can also click on the “About These Ads” link above the ad itself). Sending polite feedback to WordPress – which, to their credit, they have requested – is the best way to get them to keep their advertising appropriate for all of their sites, not just mine.

Additionally, one of my Facebook friends offered this advice:

“Often if people are using Facebook apps or 3rd party apps, such as are used for games, those kinds of ads show up. Different ads for different users. Google is able to customize the ads based on Internet activity. When I blocked 3rd party cookies and all apps, the questionable ads on my feed and Internet activity disappeared.”

Also, if you are bothered by ads on the sites you visit (not just mine), your browser may offer a free ad blocker that will reduce or eliminate them. I use Google Chrome as my browser, and installed Ublock a while back. It has been very helpful.

I apologize for any inappropriate ads you have seen in the past or may see in the future. It is my desire that my blog glorify God and be a place where biblical values are upheld.

The Mailbag: Should Women Take Church Concerns to the Pastor?

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My pastor says we should come to him individually with concerns instead of talking behind his back, so I have taken a concern of mine to him. Because a pastor can’t be alone with a woman, he had his wife at the first meeting and three members of the board at the second meeting. It then becomes a me vs. them argument with them saying, “Listen to the pastor, he’s always right.” Because he is the pastor and a man, should I not bring my concerns to him, even though he said we should?

Great question. It’s important that pastors and church members communicate clearly about any concerns that arise in the life of a church. In this situation, there are several things to sort out:

1. Any church member, male or female, should talk (kindly, lovingly, and respectfully, of course) to the pastor about any concerns. Your pastor is right to encourage you to bring concerns to him and to discourage gossip and backbiting. (There are some concerns that can be handled at a lower level initially, for example, going directly to a person committing a sin {Matthew 18:15-20}, or concerns that should first be taken to an elder in keeping with any existing church policies regarding this. This is not because of a male/female thing, but to keep the pastor from being overwhelmed. Kind of like the way Jethro told Moses he should get some elders to help him judge the people in Exodus 18.)

2. Your pastor is also right and wise not to meet alone with a woman. It protects him as well as the woman.

3. If the elders are literally saying “the pastor is always right,” that’s problematic. There are some things you’ll need to think about and ask about if that’s what they’re saying. Is it possible you misunderstood what was said or that the elder(s) misspoke? Is this their standard answer to every problem raised by a church member? Does the pastor know they’re saying this, and, if so, does he approve of them saying this or has he corrected them? If he knows this is the elders’ standard answer to people and he approves of it, that is not biblical. Pastors are not infallible dictators. Pastors are to be accountable to the elders; the elders are not to be a rubber stamp for the pastor.

On the other hand, you didn’t indicate what your concern was. Perhaps they were just saying the pastor was biblically right in your particular case. Perhaps you’ve brought a concern to the pastor that was an issue of personal preference instead of a biblical issue, and the pastor is going in a direction that is biblically correct but doesn’t sit well with your preferences. In those kinds of cases, Scripture does say that we’re to submit to our leaders (Hebrews 13:17). Maybe this is what they meant.

It’s great that you want to deal with your concerns in an above board, biblical way. Be prayerful about the situation and ask God to give you wisdom and a godly heart as you seek to work through the problem.


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word

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“Why can’t we just be taught a book of the Bible?” I heard this again today from a Christian woman hungry for her church to teach her the truth of God’s word. It’s a cry being raised by women from all over, scrounging through the dumpster of “Bible” teaching their church currently offers, searching for something – anything – that will nourish their hearts, minds, and souls with biblical truth so that they might actually be able to grow in Christ.

What’s going on here, church? Pastors? Women’s ministries? Why are godly women starving for the word of God at their own churches? This is a problem. And it’s not a small one. And it’s not going away. It’s getting worse.

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My family is a one income family. My husband works hard to provide for us, and we’ve made a lot of (completely worthwhile) sacrifices so I can stay home and raise and home school our children. One of those sacrifices is that we rarely get to eat out, even at a fast food restaurant. That means I cook. A lot. Fortunately, I happen to enjoy cooking, but it does take several hours of work a week. And sometimes, at the end of a long day, I’m tired and not particularly in the mood to spend a couple of hours on my feet chopping and mixing and sautéeing and stirring and roasting. I’d much rather chuck it and have my husband pick up McDonald’s on his way home. In fact, if we could afford it, and I couldn’t cook, and I thought it was healthy, my family would probably eat fast food for supper three or four times a week. I like fast food. My kids LOVE fast food. And why do all that work if you don’t have to and there’s an easier option, right?

But that’s no way to feed a family. It makes people obese and can lead to all kinds of other physical problems like heart disease, hypertension, and digestive ailments because the majority of fast food is high in the bad stuff (cholesterol, sodium, fat) and low in the good stuff (fiber, vitamins, minerals). Not to mention that having other people do the work God has assigned me is the lazy way out.

Yet while it’s easy to see how detrimental and unhealthy it is to feed a family a regular fare of fast food in the physical realm, this is exactly what most churches are doing in the spiritual realm when it comes to their Bible study menu.

“My pastor asked me to teach a women’s Bible study class. What’s a good book to use?”
“Why don’t you just teach them a book of the Bible?”
“Oh, I don’t feel equipped to do that.”

“Our Sunday School class is looking for a new curriculum. Any suggestions?”
“How about just working through a book of the Bible?”
“Our teacher works a lot of hours and doesn’t really have the time to study and prepare like that.”

screenshot-2016-11-10-at-12-31-44-pm-editedI hear this kind of thing over and over and over again. Churches aren’t even attempting to train people to properly teach the Bible, and Bible study “teachers,” (often through no fault of their own) either don’t know they need to be trained, or don’t have training available to them, or they’re unwilling or unable to put in the time and effort to be trained and to prepare lessons.

We have classes that need teachers, so we take whoever is available and willing, and we stick them in front of a group of people, hand them a take out bag of McBible Studies written by the celebrity Christian du jour and say, “Here. Feed the church family.”

That’s a problem in and of itself, first and foremost, because relying solely on pre-fab studies due to the fact that no one is trained to instruct the people of your church in the word of God isn’t biblical. The Bible says that pastors, elders, and teachers in the local church body should be “able to teach.” Not facilitate. Not read aloud what someone else wrote. Not “able to work a DVD player.” Teach.

But recruiting “teachers” who are unskilled in handling God’s word to lead a pre-packaged study often morphs into another dangerous problem, especially in the area of women’s Bible study: importing false doctrine into your church. Here’s a list of LifeWay’s top selling books for 2015. Every single non-fiction book on this list that’s likely to be used for a women’s group or individual Bible study (seven of the twelve by my count- which is a staggering proportion considering LifeWay also sells men’s studies, theology books, training manuals, “Christian living” books, and a wide variety of other non-fiction topics, but I digress) is written by a false teacher. Every. single. screenshot-2016-11-10-at-12-31-31-pmone. In my research of women’s Bible study authors and teachers, I estimate that approximately ninety-five per cent of the the female authors and teachers on the shelves at your local Christian retailer are false teachers. That goes way beyond a biblical “diet” laden with cholesterol and fat. Now, we’re talking about spiritual food tainted with E.coli. If you’ve got a woman in your church who’s facilitating a class using materials by one of these false teachers because she’s not competent enough in God’s word to teach the Bible, how in the world is she going to be able to catch and correct the false doctrine these Christian celebrities are teaching her class?

The answer is: she’s not. In fact, her awareness of her own incompetence in Scripture and her assumption that the Christian celebrity knows what she’s talking about (Because, after all, she’s a celebrity and LifeWay sells her materials, so she must know what she’s talking about, right?) will have the exact opposite effect. She will downplay and keep quiet about any nagging doubts – assuming she knows her Bible well enough to even have those doubts – in her own mind that the Christian celebrity is teaching things contrary to sound doctrine, and she will affirm the false doctrine that’s being taught. Then, this harmful bacteria of false doctrine will spread from woman to woman and class to class, and discerning women, knowing that the kitchen is contaminated, will grow emaciated from a lack of clean cuisine to feed on. We end up with a church full of “Bible” study and Sunday School classes that teach fluff and false doctrine instead of the unadulterated word of God. To borrow from Coleridge: “Food, food, every where, nor any bite to eat.” We’ve got a famine of God’s word, right in His very own house.

Church, pastors, women’s ministries- we’ve got to put a stop to this. People teaching Sunday School, Bible study classes, and, particularly, women’s Bible study classes must be trained in basic hermeneutics, the competent handling of God’s word in context, and the ability to teach sound doctrine as well as to refute the false. Do we not believe Scripture, or somehow think our church is exempt from it, when it says:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

or

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1

Where is our fear of God and our obedience to His word? We would never think of letting an untrained, incompetent teacher teach our children math or science in school when all that’s at stake is their academic education. Why are we satisfied to let untrained people teach the Bible at church when people’s eternities are at stake?

It doesn’t take years of seminary training. I never went to culinary school, but I’m still able to cook and feed my family a healthy diet because of what I’ve learned from others. Pastors can train teachers. Skilled Bible teachers can train others to teach. There are even great materials (like this one that was used in a training session I participated in last year) that can help as you teach people how to teach the Bible.

A doctrinally sound book study can be a fun, interesting, or useful supplement to the regular, straight teaching of Scripture in a Bible study class, but even these shouldn’t be used in place of training teachers. The best theologian out there isn’t a living and active member of that class. He doesn’t know the strengths and weaknesses of the class’s theology. He can’t address their current struggles and questions. He doesn’t love them, care about them, pray for them, and labor in the Word for them.

Only real life, trained, biblically competent teachers can do those things. They are vital and they are irreplaceable.

So let’s quit shoving Happy Meals into the hands of women who are starving for the pure milk and meat of God’s word. Let’s offer some cooking classes and set the table so the members of our churches can sit down to a healthy, home cooked diet of nourishing food that will help them grow to spiritual maturity in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And, now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go start supper.