The BCD of Teaching the Bible

While preaching through Titus, I came up with the BCD of Bible teaching and preaching. Each letter stands for 2 words which should always go together when we study the Bible or preach the Word:

  • Belief and Behavior.
  • Creed and Conduct.
  • Doctrine and Duty.

Necessarily, the first always precedes the second, or the second always follows the first. Through Bible study, our behavior follows our belief, our conduct follows our creed, and our duty follows our doctrine, and not the other way around.

Freedom and rest. Tit 3:8 says, “…those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” When we trust God, we do what is good. When we truly believe, we behave. Those who know the grace of God are eager to do what is good (Tit 2:11,14). The Christian life is not one where we have to squeeze goodness out of reluctant people. Rather, it is a life that is joyfully lived out when the gospel is preached and taught. It is truly a life of freedom (2 Cor 3:17; Gal 5:1) and rest for our souls (Mt 11:29).

Bible study should proclaim, teach and emphasize the first BCD, because the second BCD follows the first.

What about me? My confession is that for over 2 decades of teaching the Bible as a Christian, I primarily emphasized the second BCD. My Bible teaching is laden with imperatives and commands: deny yourself (Mt 16:24), take up your cross (Mk 8:34), feed sheep (Jn 21:15-17), make disciples (Mt 28:19), meditate on God’s word day and night (Ps 1:2), be joyful (1 Th 5:16), pray continually (1 Th 5:17), always give thanks (1 Th 5:18), etc. If I felt the Bible student was not adequately responding in a timely fashion, I would throw in severe threats for good measure. (If you don’t repent, God will give you AIDS … or the Ebola virus!)

Did I do something wrong? “No” and “Yes.” “No,” because I did teach what the Bible said. But “yes” because I stressed the second BCD of behavior, conduct and duty, rather than the 1st BCD of belief, creed and doctrine. I did not deny the first BCD. However, I stressed the Christian life rather than Christ. I stressed being good rather than the gospel. I stressed doing rather than done. I stressed, “Finish your job,” rather than “It is finished” (Jn 19:30).

Is that a problem? I think it is because when behavior, conduct and duty is emphasized in Bible teaching and preaching, our outward Christian life can seem to be right, while our heart may drift (Mt 15:8; Isa 29:13). But God looks at the heart, not the nice outward Christian appearance (1 Sam 16:7).

Weary and tired. Also, when Christian duty is stressed, we soon become weary and tired. When behavior and conduct is emphasized, the Christian life is driven by a sense of duty and burden, rather than the unending wonder of who Jesus is.

Is the BCD of Bible teaching and preaching relevant and practical?


  1. I think that all those imperatives and commands are very good and can be a part of a good doctrine, not a duty.

    For me all of them sounded not so nice while in UBF, because their meaning was shifted. “Deny yourself and take up your cross” had the meaning of “daily bread every morning, writing and sharing sogams of particular size and content, reading 5 chapters of the Bible a day, fishing, teaching the Bible 1:1 to students, preparing for SWS and conferences, especially messages and take up your double or triple cross of job and study, participating in many prayer meetings, etc”. So if I did all these things I felt that I obeyed Jesus. Now after 7 months out of UBF I understand “deny yourself and take up your cross” as simply “walk with Jesus”. And I really like it.

    “Feed sheep” starts actually with “Do you love me?”. When the samaritan woman believed there were no imperatives and she brought the whole town to Jesus.

    “Make disciples” is very emphasized in UBF but it simly means testifying about Jesus from our hearts so that the Holy Spirit attract people to God, faith and church and christian practice. A disciple is just a believer. And there is no attraction when preachers preach like obedient hire men.

    “Meditate on God’s word day and night” also comes when there is attraction and love toward God’s word. It is no imperative neither a command, this is a fact in the life of a christian.

    “Be joyful”,”pray continually” and “always give thanks” are fruit of faith and walking with God.

    In UBF I often heard such a teaching, “You are lazy! You are not shepherds and not christian! What are you doing? You have no new sheep! You live only for bread!”. Then comes such words with an angry and commanding voice, “Now smile! Why are you looking at me so seriously?”. And the director watched closely that everyone smiled with their forced and hypocritical smiles. Sounds stupid, right?

    And, Dr.Ben, you write about some threats. I hope they are healthy and understood as a joke. Otherwise it is something unhealthy and out of the Code of Ethics for pastors. So I think that Bible teaching should be taught in a biblical way and then it will bear fruit of “disciple making” and joyful christian life in listeners.

  2. Thanks, Vitaly, for sharing. I hope you do not mind that I made paragraphs of what you wrote above, which hopefully may be easier for others to read.

    My heart feels very sorry that your 16 year experience in UBF has such unpleasant pastoral abuses. Though you do not expect it, I pray that your shepherd may one day apologize to you. I pray that he realizes that what he did is clearly unacceptable, even if he was well intentioned.

    Regarding my threats, I would do so half-jokingly, but also in a scary way to try to make my sheep repent. When I realized what I did a few years ago, I apologized to some of them whenever I remember that I had threatened them in the past. For sure, I broke the Code of Ethics for Pastors!

    Vitaly, thanks again for sharing. I hope that many who had such experiences like yourself may begin to share, so that we may truly begin to seriously and methodically and publicly address such bad and unhealthy and unsound practices in UBF.

  3. Thanks, Dr.Ben. I would also ask you to correct my funny “prayer meatings” for “prayer meetings”.

  4. James Kim

    Hi Vitaly, thank you for your post. Your concern seems to be more like leadership style issue. I would like to share some points Alan Roxburgh mentioned in his book,Missional leader. He contrasted two kinds of leadership, pastoral and misional.

    (Pastoral) Pastor provides solutions.
    (Missional) Pastor asks questions that cultivate an environment that engages their imagination, creativity, and gifts of God’s people in order to discern solutions.
    (Pastoral) “Peacemaker”
    (Missional) Make tensions okay.
    (Pastoral) Conflicts suppressor or “fixer”
    (Misisonal) Conflict facilitator.
    (Pastoral) “Recovery” expert (“make it like it used to be”)
    (Missional) Cultivator of imagination and creativity.

    Then how can make the change the transition?
    He said, “a local church should be adaptive: members are encouraged to cultivate experiments and interact with one another rather than wait on top-down, preplanned strategy.”

    “Missional leadership cultivates an environment in which the people of God imagine together a new future rather than one already determined by a leader.
    People learn through a never-ending process of trial, error and experimenting. Leaders create an environment where failure is permitted because they know it will happen often. It is more important to create a culture that values and permits risk.”

    He also mentioned a good example of the early church model.
    “The New Testament witness to the early Christians reflected the fact that these Christians disagreed, angered, promoted divergent views of what the church should be, and were competitive and even power hungry.
    They did not suppress the reality of their life together, but instead discovered the unity of the Spirit through their many conflicts. They loved one another in the midst of the messiness of their lives.”

    Missional leadership is not for the faint-hearted. It takes courage to do the right thing when it is neither easy nor comfortable and to accept the personal consequences of leading people out of familiar habits and patterns toward and alternative future.

    Then what is the solution? He said, “The Spirit of God is among the people of God and therefore the answer to the questions of the church’s missional life in particular places is among the people. Leadership is about cultivation the kinds of environment that frees God’s people to feel again the winds of the Spirit and to sail the holy gusts of the Spirit’s directions in waters where we no longer have good, clear, definitive maps.”

    We are living in emerging generation and we all should learn and adapt new leadership model. Even though it will take some time, I believe God is working among us.

  5. Thanks, James, for the excellent quotes from Roxburgh, which I bought but have not read.

    Do correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t Vitaly’s shepherd (who expects Vitaly to “keep spiritual order” and “just obey”) and some other UBF leaders doing the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Roxburgh says?