Six Steps to an Ignorant Church


Einstein: Duh!How to dumb down the biblical knowledge of the adults in a church in six easy steps:

1. Start with a relatively educated church.

2. Kill the adult Sunday School program.

3. Mandate that all adult education move to small groups (because that’s what everyone else is doing).

4. Fail to check whether the small group leaders are themselves biblically knowledgeable and well-equipped to teach.

5. Fail to nurture the new small groups just created, so (A) no one attends because no push occurred, (B) time erodes the enthusiasm after the initial push until the groups wither, or (C) both.

6. Do nothing, sit back, and watch the ignorance creep in.

I’m beginning to wonder if this is someone’s idea of a new programming trend, as plenty of churches seem to have done just this. Come to think of it, I suspect I know who that “someone” might be.

10 thoughts on “Six Steps to an Ignorant Church

  1. Dan – I agree with the issue of (1) losing proper training to small groups and (2) failure to properly train/maintain small group leaders. It is also a failure to understand what small groups are about. I continuously fight the misnomer that small groups are ‘Bible studies’. While I insist that all groups have an ‘element’ of the Word in them, I also insist that they are not Bible studies in the normal sense and are not intended to replace in-depth Bible training.

    • Rick,

      I had lunch with a friend today and we talked about this issue. Small groups are more about fellowship, and the more we try to make them into the primary training vehicle for the Church, the more likely we are to crash and burn. I’ve written about small groups a lot. I just realized I forgot to use that tag on the post, so I’ll adjust it so others can find previous writings.

  2. We just have to be careful also how we define fellowship but yes … in simple terms, I see Bible training as imparting knowledge and small groups as using it.

  3. Don Costello

    Hey Brother,
    We are starting up again in September 16th and you are welcome to come. Really though, each believer has the responsibility to study to show ourselves approved unto God. I think that is the bottom line. Too many Christians do not study the Word and depend upon what the Pastor says. Frankly, I wouldn’t trust about half the Pastors in this country, especially the mainline denominations. Bottom line, it is my fault if I’s ignorant.

    • Don,

      While we most often agree, I’m not entirely with you on this one. While you are correct that people have some responsibility for their own learning, if you study the educational models in the Bible (which I’ve done), you don’t see a “Lone Ranger Learner” model predominate. God created an office/need for teachers, gave us the teacher standard in Jesus, and said that teachers would be held not only to a high standard but also to some level of responsibility for their charges’ educational growth.

      The model consistently held forth in the NT is one of community. And community is never “Lone Ranger.” It’s why the Holy Spirit distributes gifts as HE sees fit, NOT as WE see fit. Part of that reason is for us to depend on each other to fill lacks in our own giftings and talents. Not even the apostles knew it all, or else there would be no need for them to consult among themselves over issues like what to tell the gentiles. You have knowledge I need, and I have knowledge you need. Iron sharpens iron, right?

      If anything, telling people that they must be the source of their own learning rejects all that. I reject that Lone Ranger mentality, too. And I say that as someone who is largely self-taught.

      Or am I?

      Honestly, only a portion of my learning has been just me and God alone and apart from other Christians. I may have derived a lot of my learning from books, but those books were written by believing men and women, some long dead, who “mentored” me across time and space.

      One last thing. If you can’t trust most pastors to teach, how can you trust an individual to teach himself or herself? I certainly can’t trust them. If anything, most people don’t read widely enough to get any sense of the depth of the Faith and the Lord. If you scratch a lot of people who consider themselves well educated in the faith, you may find someone who does little more than watch TBN all day—and that’s enough to damage anyone’s brain. 😉

    • Dan

      You write…
      “If anything, telling people that they must be *the source of their own learning*
      rejects all that. I reject that *Lone Ranger* mentality, too. And I say that
      as someone who is largely *self-taught.*”

      WOW! – All these years I thought “The Lone Ranger” was the good guy. 😉

      I don’t think God’s purpose for believers is to be *the source of their own learning.*
      And they are NOT to be *Self-Taught* or *Pastor-Taught* – BUT God-Taught. 😉
      (I NO longer trust pastors either. Can’t seem to find one pastor/reverend in the Bible.)

      Isn’t Jesus the best teacher? Doesn’t Jesus want to be our “ONE” teacher?

      Mat 23:8 NKJV
      But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for “ONE” is your Teacher, the Christ…

      John 6:45
      It is written in the prophets, And they shall be ALL taught of God.

      Deuteronomy 4:36
      Out of heaven he made thee to *hear HIS voice,*
      that *HE might instruct thee:*

      John 14:26
      But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name,
      *HE shall teach you ALL things*…

      John 16:13
      Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come,
      *HE will guide you into all truth*…

      1 John 2:20
      Ye have an *unction from the Holy One, and ye *know all things.
      *unction = anointing – *know = perceive, discern, discover.

      1 John 2:26-27
      These [things] have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
      But *the anointing* which ye have received of him abideth in you,
      but as the same anointing teacheth you of ALL things,
      and is truth, and is no lie…

      NO – We’re NOT to be *Self-Taught* or *Pastor-Taught* – BUT God-Taught.

      Jer 50:6
      My people hath been *lost sheep:*
      *their shepherds* have caused them to *go astray*…

  4. Are you reading my mind? This is the other hill I’m fighting on right now.

    About a year ago, we did away with “small groups” in place of smaller, shorter, evangelism-focused studies. I fought that hard and got in some trouble over it. The reason was that in my church’s culture, small group was the only place that real Bible Study happened. I was just talking about this with someone Saturday as he’s trying to bring back Adult Bible Study on Sunday mornings before church. But who is competent or trained to actually teach it? So we find ourselves exactly as you describe- ignorant. I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees it.

    • Hans

      ‘Competent,trained teachers’ are the problem not the solution. In my experience all the worthwhile teachers I’ve come across were good not because of their training but more in spite of it. Teaching is a gifting

      The important thing is to be teachable, then the Holy Spirit will bring the right teacher or rather teachers or mentors along when the time is right. Hopefully before some ‘trained’ person gets in the way. Matthew chapter 23 has a few things to say regarding teachers and how its best not to let yourself be called one

      Exploring the bible should journey of discovery and not another classroom experience

      • Hans,

        I strongly disagree because I’ve had experience with a large, Spirit-filled church that believed your philosophy and ended up driving their educational program into the ground. It was one of the worst I’ve seen in a church that size. And not just their educational program, but nearly everything else in the church suffered because they strongly resisted “trained” people when it came to anything that dealt with the faith. Oddly, their videography, sound, marketing, and IT people were trained out the wazoo, but not the “teachers” and leaders.

        Here’s the thing: In most cases, people who ARE gifted seek additional training. It’s just the way it is. So by nature, the trend WILL be in favor of the gifted person.

        Yes, sometimes people self-analyze and believe they have a gifting when they don’t. I am an exceptionally strong proponent of church leaders actually exercising their leadership by helping people to identify their gifts. Too many churches let people self-identify their gifts, and this is the real source of the problem you describe.

        In conclusion, let me add this. You said, “In my experience all the worthwhile teachers I’ve come across were good not because of their training but more in spite of it.” I call shenanigans on that statement. Why? Because I don’t think it is possible to take a scalpel to an educator’s abilities and carve out the organic ability from the training. I certainly can’t do it, so I doubt you or anyone else can. We are all a sum of our experiences, whether formally acquired or informally. I am both a formally trained educator and an informally trained one. My mother was an educator. What of my ability did I absorb from my mother? Which part came from college? Which part from books I read on the side? Which from __________? Which from the Spirit? Later in life, both my brothers have gravitated toward teaching and academics. Naturally or unnaturally? That’s a bogus distinction, as I see it.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          Oddly, their videography, sound, marketing, and IT people were trained out the wazoo, but not the “teachers” and leaders.

          I guess that tells us just WHAT was Important to them…

          “Welcome Back My Friends
          To The Show That Never Ends
          We’re So Glad You Could Attend —
          Come Inside! Come Inside!”
          — Emerson Lake & Palmer, “Karn Evil Nine”

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