Splinters and Fragments
Here is my unpopular opinion for the week.
I don’t like women’s Bible studies. I don’t like men’s Bible studies, either. I really don’t care for any modifier-added Bible study. It’s not just because they tend to focus narrowly on group-specific topics, losing the wider context of “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27), and tend to drift into silliness and even heresy,* nor is it just because they are often not led by qualified teachers.†
I know I risk of sounding like an old fogey longing for the good old days, but just as the past may not have been as good as remembered, the present isn’t so new and improved—and this is one example of the old days actually being better days. I remember a time when Wednesday was Bible study night, and everyone came and studied together under pastoral leadership. Now it’s a men’s study here, a women’s study there; here a small group, there a young adults class, everywhere a seniors group; Old MacDonald split his church, E-I-E-I-O. In the name of meeting specific needs—which, I’m afraid, really means catering to special interests—many churches are splintered into so many segments that they look more like collections of amputated limbs than whole bodies.
I’m not pushing for the full family-integrated program, although I think it has a lot to teach us about being a body. Neither am I pushing for Wednesday night; an adult class on Sunday morning will serve just fine. But how is the church to function as a body when every part goes off in its own direction, only coming together for the formal‡ Lord’s Day worship service?
Surely there are good reasons for men to gather with men, and women with women. But if those gatherings replace the integrated Elder-led Bible study, or in any way contribute to the fragmenting of the body, I’d rather see them abandoned entirely.
* e.g., Wild at Heart, Beth Moore, etc.
† Not every group has to be taught by an Elder, but active pastoral oversight is essential.
‡ Yes, it should be formal, and yes, it should be dominated by preaching, and no, it’s not the time for dialogue.