Is Too Much Bible Teaching the Problem or the Solution?

“We don’t need more Bible teaching. We’ve got so much Bible teaching that people cannot put it all into practice. We need help with application of that teaching.”

Have you ever heard this or a variant of this? I hear this kind of comment more and more in churches. And on the surface, it seems to make some sense. While some churches are down to one service on Sunday’s, many still have the typical big four: Sunday School, Sunday AM Service, Sunday PM Service, and Mid-week Prayer and Bible Study. Add to this a possible small group and you could have up to 4–5 teaching times from the Scriptures every week. This is a lot of Bible! Perhaps there is much to be said for those who claim that we have enough Bible teaching and what we need to do now is live it out.

I beg to differ.

Now, I am not a wise experienced church leader. I’m only 29. I have some theological education under my belt, I’ve preached and taught a lot, I read a lot, but I’m not in any way a mover and shaker in the Christian church today. But, I think I’ve been around long enough to notice a few things. Now I shouldn’t have to do this, but you all recognize I am not speaking to all people in every church but am broadly generalizing here.

1)      People Know Nothing About the Bible

Now, this may sound harsh but if you have been in most churches or even on a number of Bible college campuses you would have to admit that many people can hardly articulate the basic fundamental core teachings of the Scripture let alone something more complex like issues of perseverance and falling away. People could not explain to you why they believe the Scriptures are without error, why Jesus had to die on the cross, how the Holy Spirit operates in the life of the believer, and any other thing you can think of.

This is sad! With all our Bible teaching we should be able to quickly name the major themes of every book of the Bible, trace the progress of redemption from Genesis to Revelation, and articulate the core teachings of our particular local church. Yet, for the most part, your average Christian could hardly do any of this. This failure to know anything about the Bible shows how people are blown away by every form of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) and cannot discern truth from error as in The Shack phenomenon.

2)      People Do Not Grasp the Connection between Knowledge and Obedience

Talk to most people in the pew and they will tell you that they need less head knowledge and a greater pursuit of God. At first, this seems to make sense and seems very spiritual. But at the base of it all, there is a failure to grasp a simple point: knowledge leads to obedience.

There is a process here. We know that the God of the universe revealed Him to us through the Scriptures. Apart from the Scriptures we have only a vague knowledge of God that is testified to us in nature. This is a non-saving knowledge, only a condemning knowledge. God gave us the Scriptures to teach us about Him and teach us about the way of life through Jesus Christ. Without knowledge of God we would have no love for God. Instead, our love for God grows in proportion to our knowledge of God. I remember my systematic theology professor in Seminary say, “you should love God more after a systematic theology exam than after you read some daily devotional ditty.” There is a lot of wisdom in this statement. As we know more of God, His character and his work, we grow in our love for Him. If we only knew God existed our love for Him would be rather blah. But when we know of the greatness and goodness of this God our love grows greater. As we learn and grow in our knowledge of Him, His word, and the Word, Jesus Christ, we grow in our love for Him. And out of love for God flows obedience to God. If we love God we will keep his commandments (1 John 5:3). Therefore, we need knowledge of God and His Word to move us to obedience.

3)      People Focus on the Lowest Common Denominator

Most of us have met these people. They are “all about Jesus.” They reduce the complete teaching of the Scriptures down into some sort of quasi-evangelical spiritual belief that the only thing that is important is Jesus and that should unite us together. We can unite together in all denominations because we all believe in Jesus.

If you know anything of history this is the same argument used by theological liberalism. Theological liberals knew that any kind of systematic document like a confession or a doctrinal statement could be used to prevent them from having control in the churches (think the fundamentalist-modernist controversy). They knew that if they could throw off the shackles of a systematic belief in theology and the Word especially manifested in a doctrinal statement, they could participate with any evangelical. So the mantra of “no creed but the Bible” became key in many denominations who are now bombarded with theological liberalism. This mentality that it is all about Jesus is a misnomer. Even theological liberals believe that and they deny the core teachings of the Scriptures. While Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, there is more to the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) than “just Jesus.”

So what do we do? Where is the culprit?

The culprit is in most preachers and teachers of God’s Word.

Wait a minute! They’re the ones who are actually trying to teach their people! Why is it their fault?

The haphazard way of teaching and preaching in most churches is to blame. The failure of pastors and teachers to teach through the whole counsel of God so people can get a grasp of both the big and little picture is lacking. There is no scope and sequence in how we do our teaching. We go from one message to the next without much thought. Even if we do preach expositionally though books of the Bible we fail to think about where we are going with it or where to go next. We preach our favourite book and go onto another favourite without thinking how they all go together in the larger redemption story. We fail to teach and preach on issues affecting our churches today. We are for the most part the problem. So what do we do?

We teach and preach with scope and sequence. I mean that there is a logical formula for teaching people the whole word of God and integrating it together as a whole. Do not get lost in details but make sure you focus on the forest as well, especially on the forest of the whole progress of redemption. Do not hesitate to teach through and talk about issues like the Trinity, penal substitutionary atonement, the sovereignty of God, and other issues. Deal with issues going on around us like abortion, same-sex marriage, the economy and such. The Scriptures all deal with these issues and more. Expositional teaching and preaching is the main foundation of fixing this lack of Biblical knowledge of the people in our pews but not without thought and consideration as to how it all fits together into the story of redemption. Make sure you not only look at details of the text but you bring it into that grand metanarrative of redemption. Sure, apply the text in your teaching and preaching. That’s a given. But what we don’t need is less teaching and more application. We need more and more thorough and thought-driven teaching and preaching so people have the wisdom and the discernment to learn how to apply the Scriptures themselves to their lives.

Where does the solution start? It starts with pastors and teachers faithfully teaching the whole counsel of God (both the OT and the NT), teaching through systematic theology (if it was important for you to learn to systematize the truth in seminary then it is important for your people to learn it too!), address issues of the day and show how the Scriptures apply to it, and pray for your people and yourself in the process.

We don’t need less Bible teaching. We need more of it in a better form. I’m going to start today with my own teaching and preaching and hope I will be a reverser of the lack of biblical knowledge not a contributor to it!

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40 Responses to Is Too Much Bible Teaching the Problem or the Solution?

  1. beatthedrum says:

    In many ways I agree with you but in others I dont. I think we can be bombarded with ‘Bible’ teaching that is academic, head based dry.

    I want to be informed, challenged, renewed, strengthened, matured, moved to repentance and restored by what I hear in a sermon. This is often not the case.

    So someone like Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle is an excellent person flor me to listen to. He teaches from the bible, but makes it applicable for me. By which I mean there is stuff that comes out that I have to deal with or change to become more like Jesus.

    I would say that its ALL about Jesus. But not in a nice safe conforming way. It’s about Jesus who brough divisions, who challenges, who rebukes, who loves, who shows mercy, who cares, who worshiped.

    anyway enough of me. Like the post. I commented on this type of thing on my blog here:

    http://beatthedrum.wordpress.com/2008/02/27/apple-for-teacher/

  2. allenmickle says:

    Greetings brother! Thanks for commenting!

    Let me clarify regarding what you mentioned. I do not believe in teaching that does not emphasize application. A wise pastor told me once to always move from the head, to the heart, to the hands. So, I think the pastor should seek to apply the truth to the believers to whom he is preaching or teaching. In that way, Mark Driscoll is good, although I disagree with him in other areas!

    My issue with the reductionistic thinking of “it’s all about Jesus” or “only Jesus matters” is that this was the mantra of theological liberalism. If we remove everything else but that we can practically join hands with unbelief. There is more to the faith than just Jesus!

    Thanks though for commenting brother! Iron sharpens iron!

  3. beatthedrum says:

    Yes there is more to the faith than Jesus, but he is the cornerstone or capstone… ;-)

    Is it theology, style or content that you disagree with Driscoll?

  4. April Hardwick says:

    Wow, I have read through this many times Allen.
    I can’t say I agree with you. I’m not sure what churches you’ve been sitting in but I think that most evangelical Pastor’s seek to use the “whole counsel of God”.
    Where is the responsibility of the people? Should church be the only place they are learning? I don’t think so. We are responsible for our own spiritual growth. We can learn from our Pastor’s and teachers but if we aren’t growing and learning, it is unfair to lay all the blame at their feet.

    Also, you imply that in order to be obedient to God we must all be Bible scholars. Do you really think this? Is it impossible for me to properly serve my Saviour unless I am properly schooled in theology? Where does that leave those with little intellectual capacity? The wonderful, joyful, Christlike woman who has never completed High School, yet obediently serves Christ in a soup kitchen every week spreading offering love to those who are unlovable. Who can’t begin to understand all the in’s and out’s of most theology but knows that she loves Jesus and He commanded her to love others. Is she less of a Christian than you or I? I certainly hope not.

    Jesus is the CENTER of all I do. If I never have another minute to study theology or grow in intellectual knowledge of Him, I will continue to serve Him, love Him and obey Him. He lives in my heart and I truly believe I can hear His voice and understand His commands without a complete study of redemptive hermeneutics.

  5. allenmickle says:

    My issues with Driscoll are more on style than anything else.

  6. allenmickle says:

    April,

    Glad you found your way to my blog! I hope you and Mark are well.

    To answer your post I’ll deal with it in the three points you outline.

    1) As a pastor/ministry leader I blame myself with this. So, I don’t do this as casting stones before casting them upon myself first! Second, yes, it is an individuals responsibility but of course it is the pastor/teachers responsibility as well. We have failed to see the corporate nature of much of early Christianity and in our isolationist North American culture we think our spirituality is really an individual thing when it is much more corporate than we think. Therefore the primary study and growth should be done in the context of and subservience to the local church. The neglect of the teaching on the primacy of the local church today in the life of the believer is disappointing.

    2) Every person is a theologian whether they know it or not. The real question is, are they a good one or a bad one? As we grow in our spirituality it is a spirituality rooted in the Word. Intellectual capacity affects this as to a degree. Those with more ability are more responsible than others. I of course didn’t say one couldn’t serve Christ apart from a clear teaching of Scripture. My point is a simple one of foundation. The foundation of our obedience is the love of God and our love of God grows as it does in relation to the Word and the truth. There is a strong emphasis in the Scriptures on the truth and the faith as an objective body of teaching which we must study. Our love for God grows in proportion to our knowledge of God. I of course didn’t say anyone is less of a Christian. That would be putting words in my mouth. There are no “less or more Christians” but we are all responsible before God to know His Word and study it!

    3) I never said Jesus was not at the center. I am talking about a reductionistic approach that makes the content of faith to simply be “Jesus” and nothing else. We know the “faith” is more than just Jesus. The content of faith in the whole counsel of God includes more than that. Anyone who does not desire to know more of God as revealed through His Word in some kind of belief they are following God fails to understand the importance of the study of the Word of God.

    Whether you agree or not, I do appreciate your feedback. I trust at least it made you think a little. Our postmodern day eschews doctrine and commitment to the local church and we must constantly go back to the sources and study out the Scriptures to best know God and live for Christ. This can never be done in some kind of anti-intellectual approach of feelings that is not rooted in the authoritative and absolute teachings of the Scripture.

    • Jon says:

      Education is not the end all I been in church for 30 plus years and then only that is done is to teach more and more.
      All this talk about preparing for the work what work??

  7. […] There is no scope and sequence in how we do our teaching. We go from one message to the next without much thought. Even if we do preach expositionally though books of the Bible we fail to think about where we are going with it or where …$anchor_text[$anchor_choice] […]

    • Jon says:

      What great insight from such an uneducated man no college degree here
      The church is dying in America it needs to spend some time thinking through why this is the case as Tozer did.
      But I think it is to late

      A W Tozer
      But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. –Acts 20:24

      If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation, it must be by other means than any now being used. If the Church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.

      Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many), he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt- spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath. The Size of the Soul, 128-129.

      “Lord, in the first half of this current century this need is even greater. Send to Your church today many who have ‘seen visions of God and…heard a voice from the Throne.’ Amen.”

  8. Tom Clarke says:

    Allen – I’ve read your review on Amazon of recommended books on the topic of Proverbs. Have you looked at “A Topical Treasury of Proverbs”?

    Tom Clarke
    http://www.bible-discernments.com/proverbs/index.html

  9. allenmickle says:

    Tom,

    I don’t even remember doing a recommended books on Proverbs! :) But I am not familiar with your work but definitely looks interesting!

    Allen Mickle

  10. Arthur Sido says:

    Allen,

    I think you are right on the mark here in many ways. Not only are people ignorant of the Bible (how can you love Jesus when you have no idea who Jesus is!?), but even spending tons of time “in church” rarely helps because so little of the Bible is taught in so many congregations. With ever increasing budgets and more and more activities designed to draw people in, the purpose and focus on the local assembling of Christians has been lost.

  11. allenmickle says:

    Arthur,

    Thank you for the comment! I agree with you exactly. Let’s pray for better teaching in our churches!

    Allen

  12. beatthedrum says:

    Maybe we need more than one type of meeting then. We need to preach the Gospel to the lost, the simple FULL gospel. Then teach them to become disciples.

    Of course you can do both but MOST preachers can do one or the other, only the truely gifted can do both at the same time.

    There are not many truely gifted preachers available to the church, who can reach both the lost with the gospel and teach the disciples all in one go.

    Is it not better to have two types of service available rather than one in the case where the truely gifted by God is not available?

  13. beatthedrum says:

    Oh and I am praying as well ;-)

  14. allenmickle says:

    You’re probably right. And I have my own ideas about how those services should look and maybe I’ll post on them in the near future!

    Blessings!

  15. […] to Reach both the Lost and the Found on Sunday’s In my previous post, “Is Too Much Bible Teaching the Problem or the Solution?” I wrote about the failure of many churches when it comes to systematic instruction in the […]

  16. […] This is one of the biggest problems in our churches today: Christians who cannot think about the Scriptures with the grand progress of redemption in mind. They look at Scripture in isolated ways and in a moralistic fashion. I mentioned this problem in a previous post, Is Too Much Bible Teaching the Problem or the Solution? […]

  17. Jay N. Smith says:

    This really resonates with me! I am glad that you have articulated what I have been thinking about. I am not a vocational pastor but have a strong interest in teaching the Bible. I have noticed that the opportunities for men to exercise their gift of teaching are becoming more and more limited: many churches have dropped Sunday school, Sunday evening and weekday services. I currently attend a church that is very application oriented but the issues that you mentioned have been nagging me in my mind. I have a heart to teach the Bible, but it seems like the appetite for Bible teaching is slowly being eliminated. “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

    • allenmickle says:

      Thanks Jay for dropping in! I am glad you agree with the problems we having in our churches and society. I hope you, when you have the opportunity to teach God’s Word will do so by revealing the grand scope and sequence of the Scriptures and relate people to the progressive plan of redemption as outlined in the Scriptures!

      • Jay N. Smith says:

        That is definitely my desire, and I have done a series in the past that overviews the entire Bible to help people see the big picture. I have been thinking recently about the things of “first importance” that Paul preached in 1 Cor. 15:3-8. It is very encouraging that you started there with your new church. Yours for the King, JNS

    • allenmickle says:

      Thanks again Jay. I’ve really wanted to make sure church and pastor were on the same page so we’ve been teaching through a series in the AM service on “Laying a Solid Foundation.” Unfortunately until I have my work visa in I have to pop in and out once a month. But so far we’ve looked at:

      “First Things First: The Gospel”
      “One+One+One=One: The Trinity”

      On November 1 I’ll be doing:

      “With a Mighty Hand and an Outstretched Arm: The Person and Work of God the Father”

      Basically we’ll be covering the main areas of systematic theology. We want to make sure we are teaching through the whole counsel of God and educating our people on the wonder and grandeur of the God we worship. Continue to pray for our church as we seek to do this! Also pray for my work visa so I can be with our church full-time.

    • Jon says:

      Why is it everyone wants to teach to sit around and talk but not live it out.

  18. Jon says:

    Our yearly budget to run our church is $925,675 a year $465,783 is toward staff salaries’. $465 thousand dollars for teaching!!!!!!!!
    To train us for the work of the ministry????
    What work?????
    Usher, potluck dinners, nursery, etc……
    Why such highly paid staff, Jesus took untrained losers of his day and turned the world upside down.
    How by teaching and living out daily the life of being a disciple.
    The early church did not separate themselves from the world but was in it, they were not spectators in the seats listening to truths taught by the professional.
    Instead of focusing on teaching through the whole counsel of God try living it out in the real world with lost sinful people like the Lord lets not forget he spent time with tax collectors and prosatutes
    The Great commission is a great place to start oh yes i forgot the budget for missions, reaching the lost you know sharing your life and the Gospel to someone who has never heard or how else do they become saved unless someone is sent preaching the Gospel, oh I forgot they need to come to the Middle Class Church in the burbs to hear theGospel to be saved from hell.

    Has been cut again by 4% for a grand total of 4 % of the budget. Money and how it is spent speaks loud to were the hearts really are. Lastly were in the Bible does it teach that the church needs paid professional ” worthy of his wages” no not wages but double honor no mention of money in this vs as a matter of fact Paul worked a lot didn’t he. Paul and the disciples spent a lot of time in the world not 40 hours a week study and never really training anyone to live it out in the real world.
    As a matter of fact this whole talk on teaching and the Church is simply a MIDDLE CLASS America thing and has no roots in Christianity blame it Constantine making Christianity the government sponsored religion from that moment on it went down hill

    I could go on and on but all this talk, teaching, study etc… What about the book of James you remember the one Luther want to throw out, if we are truly saved our faith wil lprove it self in works not just more talk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Please give us a break from all this talk, study, teaching and lets not forget preaching and live it out in a real hard world were people die in there sins because were to bust study!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • allenmickle says:

      Hi Jon,

      You raise some good questions. Let me try to answer based on what you have written:

      “Our yearly budget to run our church is $925,675 a year $465,783 is toward staff salaries’. $465 thousand dollars for teaching!!!!!!!! To train us for the work of the ministry???? What work????? Usher, potluck dinners, nursery, etc……”

      I can’t speak to your church situation. My church is quite small and my salary is not large. And I strive to teach for people to actually do the work of the ministry, the tending and growing of the people of Christ, not the infrastructure of the church.

      “Why such highly paid staff, Jesus took untrained losers of his day and turned the world upside down.”

      Yes but the NT teaches that those who shepherd and teach the flock should be paid for it.

      “How by teaching and living out daily the life of being a disciple. The early church did not separate themselves from the world but was in it, they were not spectators in the seats listening to truths taught by the professional.”

      No disagreements here!

      “Instead of focusing on teaching through the whole counsel of God try living it out in the real world with lost sinful people like the Lord lets not forget he spent time with tax collectors and prosatutes”

      This is not an either/or but a both/and. Both are called for in the Scriptures. To neglect either is to neglect the command of God.

      “The Great commission is a great place to start oh yes i forgot the budget for missions, reaching the lost you know sharing your life and the Gospel to someone who has never heard or how else do they become saved unless someone is sent preaching the Gospel, oh I forgot they need to come to the Middle Class Church in the burbs to hear theGospel to be saved from hell. Has been cut again by 4% for a grand total of 4 % of the budget. Money and how it is spent speaks loud to were the hearts really are.”

      Both the teaching aspect (also see the Great Commission) and the evangelism part are required of course. That means we both reach out in our own neighbourhood with the Gospel, and around the world. Either we go, or we support those who do. Not all of us are called to be a foreign missionary. We’re all called to be a missionary in our own backyards.

      “Lastly were in the Bible does it teach that the church needs paid professional ” worthy of his wages” no not wages but double honor no mention of money in this vs as a matter of fact Paul worked a lot didn’t he. Paul and the disciples spent a lot of time in the world not 40 hours a week study and never really training anyone to live it out in the real world.”

      1 Cor 9:4-9 is key “Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?

      “As a matter of fact this whole talk on teaching and the Church is simply a MIDDLE CLASS America thing and has no roots in Christianity blame it Constantine making Christianity the government sponsored religion from that moment on it went down hill”

      Historically the early church taught it’s people (known as catchumens in the early church) long before Constantine.

      “I could go on and on but all this talk, teaching, study etc… What about the book of James you remember the one Luther want to throw out, if we are truly saved our faith wil lprove it self in works not just more talk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

      Sure, faith without works is dead. It doesn’t say do not teach. In fact, James talks a lot about teaching in the church!

      “Please give us a break from all this talk, study, teaching and lets not forget preaching and live it out in a real hard world were people die in there sins because were to bust study!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

      Amen! Talk that does not act is not what God calls for. Teaching AND meeting the needs of others is.

  19. Jon says:

    Lets take the pay from all pastors and have them work full time then see how pasanote they still are about all this stuff.

  20. Jon says:

    You ever stop and think you spend all week in study while you church spends all week in the world???
    Think about it really THINK????
    Is there a disconnect, YES THERE IS

    • allenmickle says:

      Hi Jon. You can see my above comment. Also, I think you may be shocked to realize that many pastors don’t just spend all week inside the church. They minister in the lives of the people in their churches and also volunteer and serve in their community in various ways to be not only the teachers of the flock but also to fulfill the ethical components of a faithful Christian.

  21. Jon says:

    Yes but the NT teaches that those who shepherd and teach the flock should be paid for it
    Your quote

    No it does not say that in the Bible stop cherry picking vs out of context

  22. Jon says:

    That vs is talking about apostles not elders, apostles/church planters.

  23. Jon says:

    It makes sense does it not that as the apostles traveled around from city to city they would not be able to hold down a full time job

  24. Jon says:

    Historically were in the new testament did the pastor come from?

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