By Carl McMurray
Action usually represents attitude. Have you noticed that? I believe we all keep a little bit of child within us all our lives. What we really want to do, we do! What we don’t want to do, we always have excuses for. What has this to do with the title, you ask? Have you noticed the same things that I have noticed over the years about our Bible classes? There is in most congregations, a noticeable difference between the number attending worship and the number attending Bible class. Of course, some of that number consists of visitors, and latecomers, and some elderly and those recovering from illness that just cannot sit for long periods. But when those numbers are taken into account, there is still a consistent number of people that are absent from class. And that’s not all .. .
The number in classes drops even more dramatically when the class is scheduled anytime outside of Sunday or Wednesday evening. Evening classes, daytime classes, or studies in homes of the members can seem almost desolate for the lack of interest shown, even in large congregations. And have you noticed anything that adult classes in different places have in common? In many adult classes participation is rare and preparation even more so. Auditorium classes have the worst reputation in this regard.
It occurs to me that perhaps the reason that we don’t seem to take our Bible classes seriously, the reason we don’t seem to have any qualms about not attending or taking part in the study is we don’t really understand what Bible classes are. To that end, I am here to say to Christians that a Bible class, any Bible class is .. .
Motivation to Study
2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) teaches us to “study” in order to show ourself approved unto God. Let’s be honest. Most of us do a better job of studying when we have something specific to prepare for. Vague, general study, without goals is usually useless study.
Opportunity to Learn
In 2 Peter 1:12-15, Peter appeals to the most basic principle of learning, i.e., repetition. The apostle implied that they needed reminders. Even if you know it all (and the onewho gives that impression usually doesn’t), you need to hear different viewpoints and refresh your own memory.
Opportunity to Grow
2 Peter 3:18 states this as a command. There can be no growth “in the knowledge of Jesus Christ” without study and learning. Bible class gives one another opportunity to fulfill the Lord’s wishes in this respect. As a personal observation, I have never seen a Christian spiritually, knowledgeable, and mature who made it his practice to be absent from the Bible classes.
Opportunity to Teach
There is an alarming lack of elders, preachers, and teachers in the church today, including older women, who will accept the responsibility to teach the younger. In many areas there is a lack of spiritual maturity. There is also the problem of so many children of God returning to the world and being lost to the Lord. I believe Hebrews 5:11-14 ties all three of the above problems together. All three are fired and fueled by members of the church who continue to need elementary teaching because they have not tried to become teachers themselves. They refuse to have their senses trained by practice. They continue, year by year, to need milk and in so doing they are often the source of petty strifes, quarrels, and doubtful disputations. The great need and number of Bible classes give anyone desiring to grow and exercise himself an opportunity to teach.
Opportunity to Stimulate
Hebrews 10:24 teaches us to “consider one another” and “stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Being present and listening closely often gives one a chance to hear and give consideration to their feelings or attitudes. Insightful, thought-provoking comments can go a long way toward stimulating them to greater works in the kingdom.
Opportunity to Encourage
Hebrews 10:25 is the oft-quoted passage that so plainly teaches us to not get in the habit of “forsaking the assembling” of Christians together. The context of the passage does not limit this to just Sunday morning or “communion services” as some have erroneously done. Bible classes are another opportunity for saints to assemble together, and the writer ties this directly to encouragement. Far too many of us have the idea of “what do I get?” out of various assemblies (Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, meetings, classes) rather than “what can I give?” Your presence says a great deal!
Acts 2:42 says that the early Christians were “continually devoted” to fellowship (i.e., sharing together in the Lord’s work). They were doing this weekly and even daily (Acts 2:46). Our Bible classes are part of the work here, of the congregation as well as individual brethren. Participating is one way that New Testament Christians follow the New Testament example and work together in growth, encouragement, edification, and study.
Correction and Instruction
2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches us that this is one purpose of the Scriptures. When we study and talk and discuss and listen, then our attitudes and actions, sooner or later, are addressed. Wrong actions and attitudes can be identified while proper and acceptable attitudes can be encouraged. It is so sad that most often, the one who needs the word of God working on his heart, who needs God’s correction and instruction, is the very one who won’t attend.
This is the purpose for the church. Everything we do should ultimately look toward this goal. Whether you bring a friend and introduce him to Bible study in the various classes available or whether I bring one and you help to make him feel comfortable and welcome we all can work in this regard. John 1:40-42 illustrates this with Andrew and Peter. The Baptist denomination illustrates this by re-leasing some figures a few years ago that said that over 90% of their converts were introduced to the church through their Sunday School. Who is doing so much evangelistic work that he can afford not to use this opportunity that we have in front of us every week. And home Bible classes are even more effective as soul-winning situations!
These are just a few of the things that Bible classes are. Make these studies an important part of your service to God.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 22, p. 8-9
November 21, 1996