When was a kid, we went to Sunday School and then church and went back again for the evening service. We went every Sunday rain or shine (or snow) and to midweek service too. I loved Sunday School and children’s church. In college I joined a collegiate ministry and was involved in Bible studies, prayer meetings, and went to every conference, retreat and training program they ever had. As a young adult I spent two years as a missionary nurse in South America, came back for more training and went to Asia to help with Bible translation. In my early years in Asia, though at first I struggled with language, church was an oasis in the midst of a predominantly non-Christian society. You’d think I would really like church.
But too often nowdays I come out of church feeling upset and wishing I hadn’t gone.
So what happpened?
I think the thing that is most disturbing is what I can only call Bible Abuse.
I am not a world class exegete but even I can see that far too many sermons are somebody’s ideas with some Scripture tacked on it with the whole lot passed off as God’s truth. Some sermons allude, allude, allude but never ever get around to plainly stating what Scripture says. Some take Scripture and come up with jaw-dropping “applications”. Some tell so many stories that any point is lost in the constant shift in story lines. Some preach psychology. Some preach self-esteem. Some preach prosperity. Some preach that we need to do more and work harder and by leaps and bounds give us lists of 6 steps to this, 3 steps to that, 7 principles of the other.
People nowdays seem to be forever imposing stuff on the Biblical characters too. I went to a workshop about how adults learn. I was astonished to be told that Jesus used these methods. Imagine that! Those very methods – that we didn’t rediscover until the 21st century! And they showed a film to prove it! And did you know Jesus was a CEO? Did you know that He was rich and wants you to be rich? And remember Jabez and his magic prayer? But somehow when you read the Bible yourself, it’s not like that at all.
So what is going on? The Bible is treated as if it were a some magic “dust” that you can sprinkle on your talk to give it authority. If you can associate your ideas with the Bible, and tell us that Paul used that method, or better yet that Jesus used that method, then that will make it binding on us. You can be very selective too. Look at all the verses on God’s love – and ignore the ones that talk about His hatred of sin and His justice and holiness. Not only that, you can twist a verse around and tie it in knots and make it say whatever you want it to. With a bit of practice you can even go from “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good” (Psalm 136:1a) to “We must praise God [preferably with modern worship bands] so that He will then be obligated to bless us and give us what we want.”
Is this not Bible Abuse?