Beyond Bible Study

For 21 years I’ve grown up in, been discipled under and now served within a movement of churches that is dedicated to verse by verse exposition of the scriptures. Prior to attending Calvary, my family attended an Episcopal church for several years and a fairly charismatic Pentecostal fellowship for a short time while living in London. Calvary has remained our home due largely to the fact that the scripture, and the teaching of them, has always been central. Expositional bible study is certainly not unique to Calvary, but “Simply teaching the word of God simply” has been something of a mission statement for the Calvary Chapel family of churches; may that never change.

Being raised up under such a model, and ordained a pastor within such a movement, I’ve always elevated bible study highly. I mean, the bible is God’s word, right? And God has exalted His word above His name; shouldn’t we therefore exalt it in bible study too? Of certain that has been the logic I’ve often employed and encountered; and not only within Calvary. The centrality of bible study within many evangelical churches is good, even great. Yet there is a downside I’ve observed, especially since becoming a senior pastor.

In my church and others, many believers find their Christian experience to be summed up by bible study. If asked to describe their Christian walk it is often boiled down to the bible studies they attend or are involved with. Planning to have a group of believers meet together in your home? It’s a home bible study. A coffee shop meeting, it’s a bible study. We have men’s bible study, women’s bible study, youth, college, young adults, mid-week, Friday night… The list could go one and on. If you say, “We’re going to start a Saturday night meeting,” the question comes, “What will you be studying.”

This was all the more evident to me more than a year ago when we put our men’s and women’s bible studies on hold for the fall, while we focused our attention on the Perspectives On The World Christian Movement class. I received more than a few notes and emails from people saying things like, “You’re taking away our bible study.” Some of them very dramatically said things like, “This is going to be catastrophic for many people in our church.” It wasn’t. Then again several weeks ago when we announced to our fellowship that we would no longer be having a mid-week bible study in the new year. Several people approached me with real concern. “What will I do with out the Wednesday night bible study?”

Please don’t miss understand. Bible study and a knowledge of the scripture is certainly important. But I’ve realized in the last year that I’ve often weighed my success as a pastor by whether or not the people under my oversight are good students of the bible and not by the exercise of spiritual discipline or bearing of spiritual fruit in their lives. I think, in part that this arises from the fact that we tend to make little to no distinction between the pastor-teacher role we find in Ephesians 4:11.

Many pastors, myself included, look to Ephesians 4:11-12 as those verses that describe their very calling. I have taught them and heard them taught many times.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

These verses unfold for us what has been oft referred to as the “fivefold ministry” within the church. Here we are presented with five roles or offices (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher) that many evangelicals believe to be – in some way – still active within the church today. There are certainly different ways in which these roles are defined (especially apostles and prophets), but I think few would say they’ve completely disappeared. However, some question, whether it should be a fivefold ministry or four, as there is some reason to connect the roles of “pastors and teachers” into one office of “pastor-teacher.” The wording in the Greek makes it possible to connect pastor-teacher while separating apostles, prophets and evangelists. Yet, I believe the roles should be separate, albeit overlapping.

I could get real technical and delve into Granville Sharp’s rule, in which I’m convinced I could make the case for separate, but overlapping offices; for the sake of this article, I will not. Needless to say, I think it’s important to recognize that not all pastors are called to teach, and not all Christian ministry should be wholly bible study oriented. There is a real need in our day for pastoral leadership that aids in the development and encouragement of spiritual disciplines and fruitfulness in every area of the Christian’s life (i.e. church, home, work, school, recreation, etc…). Our Christianity must needs extend beyond bible study.

These realities are incredibly important for modernistic western Christianity to grapple with as our own culture continues to move beyond postmodern and Christianity persists in it’s push through the global south. Perhaps we would do well to consider how Christianity grows and flourishes in these settings. In such environments discipleship is more relational than informational. Narrative based discovery of the biblical texts take precedent over expositional exegesis. The applications of the biblical narrative overflow in intentional missional outreach; and churches are planted through spontaneous multiplication and not demographical manipulation.

 

Recommended Reading – “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Reader

30 replies
  1. Don Steigerwald
    Don Steigerwald says:

    Hallelujah and amen. In the Authorized versions of the John 17:3 is read: “this is eternal life, to know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” In contrast the Jehovah’s witness cult of Watch Tower followers, this scripture is rendered that eternal life is to “acquire knowledge of” God. The difference being something Jesus said to the Pharisees “you search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life, but they are that which testify of Me”.
    I’m glad to read your article that we as a body of believers will continue to draw near to God in our everyday lives and not substitute actual and intimate relationship with Him (which results naturally in fellowship with other believers and reaching out to the unsaved), with the tendency of man to rely on our own understanding. He is the Way we are to walk in and His Word is our necessary meat. I must daily pick up His Word and eat thereof in order to nourish my Spirit. Corporate bible study is for the equipping of the saints, but if they only go to school and never apply in their daily lives the things of fellowship WITH Jesus we become not much different than any other cult who rely on their own understanding and do not acknowledge Him in all they do.

    Reply
  2. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Miles, a cluster of questions come to mind in reading your article. In removing the mid-week Bible study, are you replacing it with anything? And when I say replace, I don’t mean another meeting in its time slot, but what are you encouraging the people to do instead? What can they do that they didn’t do before mid-week was cancelled? What kind of practical engagement are you exhorting them to be involved in? What pointers are you giving them toward relational vs informational Christianity? And if you are pushing them toward small groups, what will keep these from becoming Bible studies? How have you and your leadership team addressed these concerns? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Miles DeBenedictis
      Miles DeBenedictis says:

      Tim,

      Great question. The mid-week is being replaced with small groups. We are training leaders for such groups that focus more on relational discipleship. They will be less centered around a bible study and more fellowship together and prayer for one another. Our desire is also to have a time of simply reading through passages of scripture, but there is not going to be exposition of the passages. 

      We still have men’s and women’s ministry during the week (Tuesday & Thursday) as well as youth and our school of discipleship. 

      In our observation of our church we (our leadership team) have seen that our mid-week bible study is becoming less and less apart of the overall culture in our area. Generally we had about 30 people who we’re coming (maybe 5% of the fellowship). In ’04 we set aside the mid-week for home groups for a summer, there were over 300 people engaged in those.  At that time that was nearly 2/3’s of the church. I’ve talked with a lot of pastors about a downward trend in their mid-week, many have seen the same thing.y question then comes, “is it possible that the Lord, or our culture, or both are telling us something?” If so, are we willing to do something different. 

      Thanks Tim. 

      Reply
      • Tim Brown
        Tim Brown says:

        Thanks, Miles. It sounds like a healthy move. Have you received any criticism in the form of: “You’re still serving yourselves. The church is still ministering to the church. The focus is still inward and not outward.” And if so, how have you replied?

        Reply
        • Miles DeBenedictis
          Miles DeBenedictis says:

          Only 2 people were concerned… one felt that every Calvary has a mid-week and therefore we should too. The other just loves the mid-week service and really enjoyed it, which was a blessing to hear. Other than those two, I’ve heard nothing (but that I’ve heard nothing doesn’t always mean much, if you know what I mean).

          Reply
  3. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    An aside, the Granville Sharp Rule does the opposite of what you say it does and makes pastor-teacher one office, not two separate but overlapping offices. When two two nouns are joined by the copulative KAI, and the first noun has the definite article HO, and the second one doesn’t – the rule is called into play. How does the Ephesians four passage depart from Granville Sharp’s rule?

    I think it is safe to say that practical experience can make them two separate but overlapping offices, but the grammar doesn’t – unless I’m missing something. Which has happened on occasions too numerous to mention.

    Reply
    • Miles DeBenedictis
      Miles DeBenedictis says:

      Tim,

      Sharp’s rule is that both nouns when preceded by the definite article and separated by kai are speaking of the same individual when (1) both nouns are singular, (2) both nouns are personal and (3) both nouns are not proper names. In Ephesians 4:11 the nouns are not singular. To this end I would argue that they are separate but overlapping offices.

      Reply
  4. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    I just read again GS’s rule – he speaks of two nouns in the same case, the definite article preceding the first while the second is anarthrous referring to the same person. I then read Wallace where he refines this rule, and states what you state, that this only refers to nouns in the singular, not the plural. I learned something new today! I can now go back to bed!

    Really, when I think about it, this conforms to church reality. On the local level – and beyond – we have pastors who don’t teach in a public meeting (some of my elders) and teachers who don’t pastor (this describes some people who are referred to as pastors).

    Reply
  5. Gunnar Hanson
    Gunnar Hanson says:

    Okay, I love that Miles says he is not going to talk about the GS rule…and then I come down to the the comments and there is a whole refresher course! Awesome…

    Now midway through Miles said, “Now don’t misunderstand.” Which I am afraid I might have. I think I agree with you. I totally believe in line by line studying of the Word always…whether it is at church, in a small group, or in personal study. It is the only was to read any book in order to get the meaning. Who picks up a best seller book and just starts flipping through the pages for stuff that jumps out at them?

    Am I understanding your point in this blog? If I had to summarize what you said, I would say this, “Miles believes that many people in his church have become ‘hearers of the word’ as described in James 1:22 and he want to enable his people to live out their knowledge as described in Ephesians 2:10.” Am I close?

    I am not a NASCAR fan, but I think an analogy would be if NASCAR fans focused on the gas used for racing…studied it, knew all about it, but never put it into a car and fired it up to race!

    Reply
  6. Miles DeBenedictis
    Miles DeBenedictis says:

    Gunnar,

    I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem with that summarization.

    I think that one of our goals as pastors is to raise people up that they not need to rely upon us for their spiritual growth and walk, yes? So while I do think good deep exegesis and theologically strong bible teaching are important for a church, we need also to show the people how to live out their Christianity.

    The fact that only 2% of Christians give (or Christians only give 2%) in America shows that there is some serious disconnect. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that many Christians in America have a Christianity that only consists of Sunday morning, even within solidly biblical churches like your’s and mine. So their Christianity is bible study.

    Thoughts?

    Reply
  7. Gunnar Hanson
    Gunnar Hanson says:

    Hmm, you may have hit something with this statement, “So while I do think good deep exegesis and theologically strong bible teaching are important for a church, we need also to show the people how to live out their Christianity.” Why are these two items in your mind? Good exegesis that is theologically strong (are you sure you didn’t go to seminary…you’re throwing out some big words today) should in itself demonstrate and lead people to obedience and application in following Christ.

    Now, to be the devil’s advocate, concerning the fruit that comes from teaching and life example. I think you would agree that Jesus and Paul were exceptional teacher and examples…yet I wonder their statistics concerning followers? Judas and the church in Corinth come to mind…the point is that regardless of what we do, our quest is to battle the flesh and the demonic realm…

    Also, would it be too much for me to laugh at this post in light of CC stance on seminaries? It seems that the very criticism aimed at seminaries is plaguing your pews…no? I admit, I could be off…why is it that so many CC are opposed to seminary? My understanding is the criticism is against the teaching of the Word and the lack of application…my discussion here is limited to good Bible believing seminaries alone.

    Reply
    • Miles DeBenedictis
      Miles DeBenedictis says:

      Gunnar,

      I never seek to exalt 1st century Christianity as some perfect picture of the Church. It is certain that there were many problems in early Christianity just as there are today. I’m merely arguing that we should seek to, and intentionally work toward, a deeper and fuller expression of the life of Christ in every aspect of our congregational life.

      LOL on paragraph 3. Very good point! A good friend of mine, and an admired pastor within Calvary once said to me, “I came to a point where I felt my church had become a “Sermon appreciation society.”” I think that’s a very real danger within some Calvary’s and any church that emphasizes good biblical exposition.

      As to the question of seminaries, I’m not sure I have a good answer. I, for one, am not opposed to “good Bible believing seminaries,” but I’ll admit — with some measure of shame even — that that was not always the case. Earlier in my walk I did hold a lesser view of seminaries; I think that it was purely the result of conditioning. When you hear people you look up to switch the word seminaries with cemeteries, and speak ill of them, it has an effect on how you view them.

      You said, “Good exegesis that is theologically strong, should in itself demonstrate and lead people to obedience and application in following Christ.” Lets put some serious emphasis on the word “should” in that statement. I’m convinced that in 21st century America we have the greatest abundance of solidly biblical, theologically sound and easily accessible teaching the church has ever known, and yet – statistically speaking – the church is lacking in obedience and application in following Christ.

      Something is missing.

      Reply
  8. Gunnar Hanson
    Gunnar Hanson says:

    I will only address your last paragraph. I hate to say what I am about to say, but I think there is truth in it. A few years ago I heard a pastor from Uganda speak at The Rock Church. He said something to the effect of, “Stop pray that we would have persecution, for we in Uganda are praying that you would experience some as there is no greater catalyst for setting your walk with the Lord on fire.”

    I have wrestled with his words ever since, but I think the point is that with persecution there is a refining of those who profess Christ. I also think it reduces the number of people who profess/identify with Christ. It seems the American culture has effectively created a watered down weak Christianity…

    Also, your criticism here is very much like what Tim Keller said in The Reason for God, that essentially the criticisms against Christianity are not because of their Christianity, but in their lack of living it out while taking on the name of Christ. This is a horrible quoting of what he said…but it is the best I have right now!

    Reply
    • Miles DeBenedictis
      Miles DeBenedictis says:

      Agreed.

      I do think that our nation, and the church within the west will experiencing a sifting, wherein the wheat will be separated from the chaff. The reality is that there is always more chaff than wheat.

      Challenging people to live outside of their comfort-zone, which for us is to simply be a spectator, is a good sifting agent. Inviting people to live in true Christian community is also a bit outside of the western norm, but I believe people enjoy the fruit of such a step when they take it.

      Reply
  9. Craig Sayler
    Craig Sayler says:

    Miles,

    Praise God! This is an answer to a prayer that goes back to 2000, according to my journal! I am excited to hear of the fruit! Fellowship in service with the right heart teaches Christains the way of the Lord through experience in loving and fellowshiping with others serving one another! Making them stronger in the Lord, and finding there weakness… I will be praying!

    Blessing!

    Reply
  10. Trip Kimball
    Trip Kimball says:

    Miles,
    I’ve got a bit simpler take on all this, being reminded of Jesus’ gentle rebuke of the Pharisees in Jn 5:39-40. They “search the Scriptures” but don’t come to Him to receive life. As a young pastor, I remember seeing a row of people with big study Bibles taking copious notes (of what I’m not sure) while I preached/taught. Within the week I would see them struggling with pretty basic things that I had just addressed that very Sunday. It made me realize there is a huge difference between Bible knowledge (which America is inundated with) and the Word becoming life in a person’s daily life (re: practical Application of IBS).

    Today I was talking with one of my former Filipino students, who learned English to attend our school (here in the Phils). He does so much with so little, but I am proud to know him as my brother and to have mentored him (he mentors me as well). He was sharing his vision of getting a 10 watt radio transmitter, relaying through another radio station & holding a workshop via cell phones while teaching and asking questions through the broadcast. I know this probably doesn’t make sense, but the point is this… he’s not allowing much to hold him back from communicating the truth. I could go on, but won’t.

    Here’s a pastor with little support who has planted churches, trained church planters, raised up leaders, and wants to send out a missionary to Hong Kong (and he’s serious). He has a vision for extended radio ministry that can be replicated at very low cost, and a heart to help his people make a living. He just does it. I’ve told others, “if I had 10 men (or women for that matter) like Elmer (the pastor mentioned), I could change the world.” A bit overstated, but I’m not so sure… he’s just getting started.

    I know I’m off track from G Sharp’s rule & mid-week Bible studies, but what struck me after living outside my home culture for 15 years was the weakness in the church, which I attribute to the lack of genuine discipleship. It still grieves me. We need the Greek, we need the exposition and studies, but we also need to find a way to move people “beyond”. Thanks for stirring things up, Miles

    Reply
  11. Bill Holdridge
    Bill Holdridge says:

    Miles,

    I’m glad you’re working through the question of the current value of the mid-week service. Regardless of where a pastor lands with his answer to it, it’s important to be convinced. What works here may not work there, etc. But if I’m not convinced that I should be doing something, or am not convinced about the value of something, I’ll be less effective in it.

    I’ve had several thoughts myself on the same subject. Here are some of them.

    1. I don’t want the folks to be professional hearers and not doers. Another study option might be better for them. Cancel Wednesday night, strengthen the Life Groups, point people to them.

    2. I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to help believers get a better handle on God’s Word. Unless they have a broader Biblical knowledge, they’ll not be able to do their own study as effectively, and apply the Word properly. So I don’t want to cancel Wednesday night!

    3. I love teaching more than once a week, publicly. I don’t want to give up Wednesday night because I need to teach!

    4. If I cancel Wednesday nights now, I can always relaunch it later.

    5. There are many thousands of people in this area that don’t know anything about the Bible. Keep Wednesday night so they can have an opportunity to learn what the Bible teaches.

    6. Wednesday night in our O.T. study night. When will we be in the O.T. if we cancel? Should I alternate O.T./N.T. books on Sunday morning? Can I envision myself teaching line by line through Isaiah on Sunday AM?

    7. Maybe I should change the way we do Wednesday night. Maybe I should use that as our through the Bible night and then do a study out of that passage, as Jon Courson and Pastor Chuck do in their fellowships?

    8. Perhaps we’re not relevant enough in our presentation, but relevant enough in our content. Maybe I teach too long on Wednesday night. Maybe I’m going into too much detail.

    9. Perhaps I should keep the midweek, but use it to train future pulpit teachers. Why should I be the one that dominates the pulpit time around here?

    10. Our main task is to disciple those we win. There are lots of ways to do that. Wednesday nights may not be absolutely necessary to accomplish the task. At least for now.

    Etc.

    There are too many thoughts in my brain. My head hurts.

    I’m just gonna do Proverbs 3:5-6 for now, and see how the Lord makes my path straight.

    Reply
  12. James Class
    James Class says:

    I’ve got to say, I’m not sure this is the most appropriate place or format for Calvary Pastors to debate Calvary Chapel distinctives (I realize that some of you aren’t). But let’s be honest, could there be any other single issue or topic that better defines what Calvary is all about? The emphasis and priority of verse by verse teaching?? In all fairness, I might still be a little fired up over, “Calvary Chapel, D+”.

    That said, I don’t think Bible study is the problem. I’m sure I’m not the only pastor hear who listens to 2-3 Bible studies a week, sometimes more. I think it’s a mistake to assume that everyone in my church is doing the same thing, and perhaps even negligent to rely on other Bible teachers that people could listen to online. The problem wasn’t that the Pharisees were searching the scriptures, the problem was they missed Jesus. If some one is not a doer of the Word, the problem isn’t that they’re listening, the problem is there is no response. Some one who listens to a study and doesn’t live it, may have never intended to live it. Perhaps they just want to be known as a spiritual person or something, but it’s certainly not because they didn’t know they were supposed to be obedient to what they heard. I do believe relationships and discipleship are important in helping believers understand and apply the Word. But the problem is not Bible study, and I don’t know if the best opportunity for relational discipleship is in a home group with 10, 15 or 20 people. I think a much smaller group meeting at a coffee shop has a better chance of experiencing a depth of relationship and fellowship that extends far beyond an average home group. I’m not against home groups, but I don’t think they should replace a midweek Bible study. And I certainly don’t see them as the end all be all answer to our problems.

    I don’t want to get off track, but what I think has lead to a greater disconnect from Bible study to daily living is a lack of the Holy Spirit’s power in our churches. Being filled with the Spirit, overflowing in agape love, the gifts of the Spirit, etc. I think it’s something we’ve lost to a certain degree… I don’t know if Calvary’s would be some of the worst offenders, but personally I want to repent as if I was. Some in the hyper charismatic movement have perhaps overreacted to this issue, by focusing only on the Spirit at the expense of solid Bible teaching. To them I would also say, the problem was never Bible teaching. If we’re not careful, in a pursuit of community and relationships, we’ll do the same thing that many in the signs and wonders movement did.

    Reply
    • Tim Brown
      Tim Brown says:

      Hi, James – I see your concern, but I don’t share your concern. No one is moving away from verse-by-verse teaching. In fact, I think just the opposite is true. Miles is indicating that he is moving in the direction that verse-by-verse teaching is pointing – a Spirit filled group of people seeking to meet needs in Jesus’ name. Verse-by-verse teaching is not the end, it is a means to an end.

      Possibly, your post highlights a clash of vision and value within CC itself. (I have been a CC pastor for 27 years). You state that maybe vbv teaching is the one single issue that defines CC. This may be so and if so, I think that this is unfortunate. For me, the essence of CC, what should define us, is being led of the Spirit. Obviously, vbv teaching and being led of the Spirit are not mutually exclusive. Instead of insisting on a particular form that each CC look like, we need to give each other the liberty to follow the Spirit to lead where He may. Miles is not abandoning vbv Bible study, nor is he stating that vbv Bible is no longer a viable form of ministry. He and the leadership are following the prompting of the Spirit to go where vbv teaching is pointing. You speak of being disconnected to the Spirit’s power and yet when someone reports that the Spirit is leading in a particular direction, you protest. We didn’t begin with verse-by-verse Bible study, we began in the Spirit. If we began in the Spirit let’s continue in the Spirit.

      Where am I missing it?

      Reply
  13. James Class
    James Class says:

    Tim – I think you can separate my comments into two categories. One category is, how appropriate it is to challenge Calvary in this way? (and that question would probably reach back to “Calvary Chapel D+”). The second is, my opinion on the subject. And I think the two should be separated. I would agree that being led by the Spirit is very important. And I would agree that being led by the Spirit and studying/teaching the Word are not opposing ideas. I do have to disagree with you when you suggested that this article isn’t saying we move away from verse by verse exposition (not completely, but in part). I know Miles teaches the Word, and a great teacher at that. And I know he’s not suggesting we abandon verse by verse teaching, but he is clearly saying it should be less of a defining characteristic of the church. The truth is I totally understand where he’s coming from, I just don’t think that less Bible study is the answer. I think we need more of the Holy Spirit breathing life into our lives.

    To be honest, I really debated whether or not I would say anything. I listen to Miles teach fairly often and I’m always blessed. I can completely respect the decisions he feels like the Lord is leading him to. I think what made me go ahead and comment was I feel like the questions he’s asking are the kinds of questions you ask when you’re considering whether or not you want to be in fellowship with Calvary. If that is in any way true, is a blog that’s open to the public the best place for a Calvary pastor to be asking those questions? And really they don’t sound like questions, but rather well thought out and defined opinions. It’s one thing to say, we need to get back to our roots. And it’s another to say, maybe we need to redefine what our roots are. Anyone who has any history with Calvary knows that the last few blogs are “fighting words” so to speak. He is absolutely entitled to his opinions, and you might agree with what he’s saying. But he kicked a bee hive, he couldn’t possibly be surprised by the result.

    Reply
  14. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, James – thanks for your response. I didn’t read his post as a slam on CC or as a criticism of vbv methodology or as a challenge to our family of churches. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know that Miles is questioning his continued association with CC. Miles?

    Reply
  15. Miles DeBenedictis
    Miles DeBenedictis says:

    Wow!

    I haven’t looked back at this for several days. Interesting discussion.

    Calvary Chapel has a long history that encompasses much more than bible study alone. Expository preaching and teaching are core to the ministry of Calvary, but certainly not all there is to this great ministry. Such teaching and preaching has been core to my growth as a believer and a pastor; so this discussion is in no way a signal of my departure from it. Rather, myself and many others, are seeking the Lord as to how we can more fully disciple those under our oversight. Our desire is that those who are apart of our church see their Christian life as more than just bible study. The life of Christ needs to encompass all aspects of our lives; where we live, work, learn, recreate and relax. But many Christians only engage in their Christianity in Bible study.

    I’m not asking these questions as a way of working out whether or not I’ll be apart of Calvary Chapel. I’ve been apart of Calvary Chapel for more than 20 years, 13 of which have been in full-time vocational ministry. I’ve never considered a departure from the fellowship of Calvary Chapel churches, nor am I now. My questions are as a result of observation, contemplation and prayer; and are offered in a way to stir us up to further love and good deeds. I’m not surprised by the response to my post, but if my words are seen as “fighting words” then [unfortunately] I think it only proves we’ve become defensive.

    Reply
  16. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Miles – as we seek new/different/other ways to disciple those under our care, the form of our ministry may begin to look somewhat different. But a change in form doesn’t necessarily signal a change in essence. I think a lot of guys have a knee jerk reaction to a change in form thinking that it signals a change in essence. I, for one, think it is a positive development that you are willing to change the form of ministry to better serve those entrusted to your care.

    Reply
  17. James Class
    James Class says:

    Miles – Thanks for clarifying.

    Let me clarify one thing. What I meant by “fighting words” is in the sense of stirring up a big reaction, not that I am personally upset or offended. But to have written “Calvary Chapel D+”, and then follow it up with this post, you obviously knew there would be some who might possibly get upset. I mean, my mom would have been happy with a D+ on my report card (at least that meant I was showing up to class), but most wouldn’t.

    I totally get your concern and desire for getting people beyond Bible Study. And I love, and quite frankly might steel (sorry, borrow), a lot of your ideas. I just personally don’t feel like the problem is the Bible Study themselves. For me, what the elephant in the room has become is – where is the Holy Spirit? If somebody simply read the New Testament and then observed a typical week at my church, would they make the connection? I think it was Tozer who said that if the Holy Spirit was removed from the early church, 90% of what they did would have stopped. If He was removed from the church today, 90% of what we do would continue on as scheduled. One man’s opinion, but I feel like there is more truth than error to that statement.

    I love your heart and passion,

    James

    Reply
    • Miles DeBenedictis
      Miles DeBenedictis says:

      James,

      I definitely recognize the provocative nature of some of my posts. Perhaps I’m too controversial. That said, I’m in no way writing for the express purpose of being provocative or controversial. My sincerest desire is to further a discourse that [hopefully] encourages our mutual growth.

      One more question. What evidence of the Holy Spirit’s power/presence would you expect to see in a healthy or thriving fellowship in a typical week? The reason I ask is that the most carnal church of the New Testament was also the one with [apparently] the most open expression of spiritual gifts. This seems to indicate, at least to me, that spiritual gifts are not a good indication of spiritual maturity.

      Blessings,
      Miles

      Reply
  18. James Class
    James Class says:

    Fair enough, perhaps I was a bit over the top myself.

    Good word on spiritual gifts not necessarily equalling spiritual maturity. There are quite a few things that puzzle me when it comes to 1st Corinthians. You could however look at it from the opposite perspective. Here was a church struggling with carnality, division, and immorality. And though they had spiritual gifts they were abusing them. It seems like this sums up the fear that I have shared with many others in the past, and that is, don’t emphasize the gifts because this is what happens. You end up with a wacky, carnal, experience driven church. But even though they had all of these problems, Paul didn’t say they should stop exercising the gifts. He explained how they should operate properly. But the exhortation was never, even in this carnal church, to stop using or desiring them.

    So what would I expect to see? More miracles, healings, supernatural communication between God and man, basically the gifts of the Spirit in full operation. And yes more power for daily living, to be His witnesses, and to love and serve one another. But in the early church it seems like the word was “and” not “or”. The Bible AND the Spirit. Godly living AND supernatural gifts. In so much of the American church it seems to be “or”, and that’s unfortunate. Why is it when we read: Lord grant to your servants that with all boldness they may preach your Word, we say, amen! But when the text goes on to say: by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders be done in the name of Your holy servant Jesus, then we say, well…. that’s not for today, because the Apostles… you see… well when the gospel was first being preached it needed…. When perhaps we should just once again say, amen!

    James

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