Ignorance of God's Word
Ignorance of the teaching of God's Word is still our Number One problem. From a s t a t e of ignorance every kind of false teaching and practice is encouraged. The vast majority accept error, not because they are basically dishonest, insecure, or indifferent, but because they do not know the truth.
Many efforts have been put forth to combat the ignorance that is so widespread among God's children. Gospel meetings have been conducted with edification of the saints as a stated purpose. Special Bible classes have been conducted for the benefit of members of the church. Doubtless all of these have been profitable; but something is lacking yet.
Nearly every congregation conducts Bible classes on Sunday morning. Some regularly conduct such classes for all age groups on Wednesday evening, or some other evening during the week. Most of these classes are divided into age groups up to adult classes. Many children begin attending these classes while only two years old. These children very often attend from this early age, even before they are able to read or write, until they are adults with families of their own. Yet, they remain, for the most part, ignorant of God's word. They learn the "first principles"; faith, repentance, confession, baptism, etc. But they never seem to grasp the importance of the revealed word, the perfection of God's revelation, the absolute authority which Christ possesses, and the all-sufficiency of His Church. If people can attend such classes for twenty or thirty years and remain ignorant of such important concepts, certainly something is wrong with these classes.
I do not claim to be a "specialist" on such matters; we have those among us who do. This one observation I do want to pass on to you, and I write as one who has experience teaching young people in the public schools. Bible class teachers have no control o f the students' study habits. When work is assigned to be accomplished outside of class it is done only by those students who have enough interest on their own to accomplish the assignment. With but few exceptions there is little or no co-operation from parents. The result is an average of forty-five minutes per week of unprepared Bible study.
Without a detailed description of the situation as it exists in most churches, let us consider a plan of improvement.
1. Qualified teachers. We must insist upon teachers who are qualified to teach. This must be true at every level. It is just as important, and perhaps more so, that those who teach the young be qualified as it is of those who teach the old. A college degree is in no sense an indication of qualification. A devout and faithful Christian, anxious to work in the Lord's vineyard, willing to study and prove himself, - these are the traits to look for. Classes for teachers should be conducted periodically, and visits to the various classes by the elders should be considered in order to continually raise the standards of teaching in each church.
2. A course o f study requiring outside work. Whenever the students are old enough to do homework it should be expected of them in the Bible class as well as in the secular fields of study which they pursue in the public school. Literature should be designed with this in mind. Literature which is filled with questions giving the precise scripture reference of the answer is, in my mind, relatively useless. No challenge is presented. No real effort is required. Outside work for each class should require at least an hour. In this hour each student should find it necessary to think and search. Writers of literature should stop making their materials so ridiculously simple.
3. Parents willing to cooperate. A program requiring work and study outside of class cannot be successful without the cooperation of parents. Children must often be encouraged, and occasionally they must be compelled to study and work. ' Many parents who will take an active interest in the secular studies of their children will take no interest at all in their work in the Bible class. Parents must require their children to study. Teachers must inform parents when it becomes evident that their child is not making necessary preparation. Students should not be promoted until they have satisfactorily completed the work of the present course. Perhaps a type of report card should be considered as a way of letting parents know of their child's progress.
It be well for elders in every church to examine the situation, and to consider these suggestions. The church is authorized to teach God's Word, but nowhere is it authorized to run a baby-sitting service.
Truth Magazine, V:12, pp. 2-3