How Not To Study

So there is a leadership workshop coming up in October. Now that I have the freedom to take time and think about such things, I want to document what I see.

This workshop is already giving me good ideas of how not to study the Bible. These are not new ideas to me however. I can see them in every conference and most Bible studies I’ve attended the past 24 years.

A) Command/promise switching. The title of this workshop is “Be a good minister of Christ Jesus”. This title is phrased as a command. But does Scripture state this as a command? No. The verse says “If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” 1 Timothy 4:6 NIV. The words “you will be” indicate a promise or a fruit or a result of a command. The command is to “point these things out”. The exhortation is to “Command and teach these things.” (v. 11) But the title of the workshop sets a mantra that switches out the promise or effect with a command.

B) Location baiting. Often I was excited about some new change for a conference, only to find that the “new change” got switched back to something else at the last minute. It is no different for this workshop. Those who registered early were told the conference would be at a Salvation Army campground called Camp Wonderland. I have heard that this is a very good place to have a workshop or retreat or conference. But a few days before registration closes for this workshop, the location was canceled and switched back to the local church building.

C) Subjective selection process. You might think that the public links for this workshop would indicate an open enrollment with objective standards for who could attend. The reason given for the location switch was that there were a “large number” of interested candidates. But the behind-the-scenes emails state: “Only about 45 leaders will be accepted to this workshop.” If this information was made public, it would not be a big deal. But the perception of a large, open enrollment process is contradicted by the hidden selection-by-your-leader process. This selection process is entirely subjective, with no evidence of an objective evaluation criteria. Members are left to wonder why some where chosen and others were not.

D) Missing role of the Holy Spirit. The prayer given for this workshop in an email to directors was this: “We pray that key UBF leaders serving throughout the USA and Canada, primarily those serving in the capacity of a fellowship leader, may be strengthened by meeting God our Savior and having a broader view of his church, and may learn to serve more effectively in God’s household as good ministers of Christ Jesus.” Again, there is only mention of a binary god: 1) God our Savior and 2) Christ Jesus. The four question sheets sent as material for this workshop do not mention the Holy Spirit even once. How can anyone minister the gospel without the Holy Spirit?

E) Telling the Bible what to say. UBF idealism has many values, but four important values are: 1) the acceptance of salvation in two gods 2) the family of God 3) growth or development and 4) servantship. The question sheets given for this workshop are carefully constructed to emphasize these values, prooftexting them from 1 Timothy chapters 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. The key verse chosen should have prompted an immediate question for those who would want to be ministers of Christ Jesus: what things should we be pointing out to our brothers and sisters? The passages in 1 Timothy are ripe with things we should be pointing out.

F) Incoherent arranging of Scripture. If the workshop studied 1 Timothy in some logical way, such as the way it is presented in the Bible, people would be able to grasp the truths God wants to convey through Apostle Paul to Timothy and to us. Unfortunately below is how the verses are arranged in four lessons. My head was spinning as I tried to follow the verses and questions. Notice how the verses are carefully selected and arranged in an attempt to support four themes important to UBF idealism. The arrangement is so noisy that I’m not really sure if they do support the themes, but I’m guessing there is some sort of wisdom that says they do.

1. GOD OUR SAVIOR (who God is and who Jesus is) ***
1 Timothy 2:3–6a; 4:3–4 (1:1,12–17; 3:16; 4:10; 6:13–17)
Key Verses: 2:3–4

1 Timothy 2:1–2,8–15; 3:1–16
Key Verse: 3:15

1 Timothy 4:6–16; 6:11–12
Key Verse: 4:7b

1 Timothy 4:13; 5:1–25
Key Verse: 4:13

*** Note that the Holy Spirit (who has a critical role in ministry) is mentioned by Apostle Paul twice in these passages, but not once in any of the workshop lessons:

1 Timothy 3:16 “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”

1 Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

4 thoughts on “How Not To Study

  1. 1 Corinthians 12 continues to come to mind, shouting God’s message to me:

    “1 Corinthians 12 1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”

    No one can be a good minister of Christ Jesus without the Holy Spirit. No ministry can be effective in making disciples of Jesus without putting the gifts of the Spirit to good use.

  2. Hello! May the Holy Spirit strengthen you and grant you necessary wisdom as you research and speak the truth.
    Sarah Nolan

  3. Hi Sarah, glad to hear from you! Your family was blessing to me so many times. I hope everyone is doing well. I see now that Abraham (Bob) was correct in a lot of what he said several years ago. I apologize for not speaking up back then.

  4. It looks like some more information about the workshop has been made public, which is a surprising but potentially promising move:

    I expect quite a few “good ministers” will be emailing me after this workshop, to command me to stop spreading meaningless talk and false doctrine…