Christian women, Church, Discernment

Throwback Thursday ~ Nine Reasons Discerning Women Are Leaving Your Church

Originally published July 24, 2015
9 disc women leave

Earlier this week, Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, pubished a blog article entitled “Six Reasons Why Women May Be Leaving Your Church.” Although I am not particularly a fan of Dr. Rainer (due to his allowing materials from false teachers to be sold at LifeWay), I thought this article was a good one, and I agreed with several of the issues he raised, especially, that these issues need to be addressed by church leadership.

As a ministry wife and someone in the field of women’s ministry myself, I, too, have noticed women leaving the church. Not just women in general, but a certain subset of church-attending ladies: discerning women. While Scripture is pretty clear that we can expect women (and men) who are false converts to eventually fall away from the gathering of believers, why are godly, genuinely regenerated women who love Christ, His word, and His church, leaving their local churches?

1. Eisegetical or otherwise unbiblical preaching
Discerning women don’t want to hear pastors twist God’s word. The Bible is not about us, our problems, and making all our hopes and dreams come true. We don’t want to hear seeker-driven or Word of Faith false doctrine. We don’t need self-improvement motivational speeches or a list of life tips to follow. We want to hear a pastor rightly handle God’s word from a trustworthy translation and simply exegete the text.

2. The worship hour has become a variety show
Skits, guest stars, movie clips, dance routines, rock concerts, elaborate sets, light shows, and smoke machines. We didn’t sign on for Saturday Night Live on Sunday. This is supposed to be church. Get rid of all that junk, turn the lights on, give us solid preaching, prayer, and some theologically sound songs we can actually sing, and maybe we’ll stick around.

*3. Women in improper places of church leadership
The Bible could not be more clear that women are not to be pastors, instruct men in the Scriptures, or hold authority over men in other capacities in the church. If your church has a female pastor, worship leader, or elders, or if women are teaching and leading men in Sunday school, small groups, or from the platform in the worship service, or if women are heading up certain committees, departments, or ministries which place them in improper authority over men, you’re disobeying Scripture, and we don’t want to help you do that by attending your church.

4. Children are being entertained, not trained
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of play time or crafts for younger children, but we want our children trained in the Scriptures, not entertained for a couple of hours. We want their teachers to open God’s word and read and explain it to them at a level they can understand. We want them memorizing verses, learning to pray, and demonstrating an age-appropriate comprehension of the gospel. We want them to understand that church is joyful, yet, serious, not a Jesus-laced party at Chuck E. Cheese. We need church to bolster the Scriptural training we’re giving our kids at home.

5. Women’s “Bible” Studies
The majority (and I don’t use that term flippantly) of churches holding women’s Bible studies are using materials written by Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Joyce Meyer, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Young, and others who teach unbiblical ideas and false doctrine. Not minor denominational differences of opinion. Not secondary and tertiary unimportant issues that can be overlooked. False doctrine. While we long to study God’s word with other women, discerning women will not sacrifice sound doctrine nor the integrity of Scripture to do so.

6. Ecumenism
Is your church partnering with other “churches” whose orthodoxy and/or orthopraxy are at odds with Scripture? “Churches” which approve of homosexuality or female pastors, or which hold to an unbiblical soteriology (grace plus works, baptismal regeneration, Mary as co-redemptrix with Christ, etc.)? Are you partnering with those who deny the biblical Christ altogether such as Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Mormons, or Buddhists? Discerning women know Scripture forbids yoking ourselves to unbelievers and we want no part of it.

7. Ageism
Look around at your pastor and staff, your lay leadership, your music team, the “face” of your church. How many of those people are over 40? Usually, discernment and spiritual maturity come through walking with the Lord over many years, yet, increasingly, by design, churches are run by twentysomething pastors, staff, and other leadership, who are often spiritually immature and/or lack the wisdom and life experience that come with age. The staff is often specifically structured this way in order to attract young people to the church. The counsel and wisdom mature, godly men and women have to offer is brushed off as old fashioned, and middle aged and older church members feel alienated and unwanted. While there are those among the twentysomething set who are godly and growing into maturity, discerning women value the wisdom and teaching of their godly elders.

8. The “troublemaker” label
Discerning women who see unbiblical things happening in their churches and stand up for what God’s word says about biblical ecclesiology and teaching are often vilified and labeled as troublemakers. We are called haters, threats to unity, complainers, gossips, negative, and a myriad of other scornful names. All this for wanting things done according to Scripture. Can you blame us for shaking the dust off our high heels and leaving?

9. Spineless or stiff-necked pastors
Discerning women have little respect for, and find themselves unable to submit to the authority of pastors who see people in their churches acting overtly sinful or propagating false teaching yet are so afraid of confrontation that they will not set things right. By the same token, we cannot continue to attend a church in which we bring scriptural evidence of false teaching or sin to the pastor and he outright denies the biblical truth we present to him. We cannot be members of churches in which pastors will not submit to Scripture or carry out biblical mandates.

Frequently, the discerning women you see tearfully leaving your church have been there for years. Sometimes they leave your church because it was never doctrinally sound to begin with, and God has opened their eyes to this as they grow and mature in Christ. Sometimes they leave because false doctrine and unbiblical practices have crept in and taken over a church that was once a refuge of trustworthy biblical teaching. Either way, these things should not be.

Maybe it’s not that discerning women are leaving the church**, but that the church is leaving them.


*If you disagree with this point and are considering writing a comment arguing that women SHOULD be pastors and have other unbiblical positions of leadership, please save yourself some time, because I will not be publishing it. As it says in my “welcome” tab (top of this page), I do not print false doctrine without refuting it, and at the moment, I do not have the time. If you are truly interested in what the Bible ACTUALLY says about the proper role of women in the church, click here and explore the Scriptures that address this topic.

**While it may be necessary to leave a church that is not operating biblically, Hebrews 10:24-25 makes it clear that meeting together for worship and the teaching of God’s word is not optional for Christians. Please see my follow up article, Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly for more on this topic.

Church, Discernment

Build the Wall and Station a Guard: A Plea for Pastors to Protect 6 Areas of the Church Vulnerable to False Doctrine

I am flying to New Jersey today to speak to a lovely group of ladies at their women’s conference. I’ll be back in the saddle on Monday, but until then, please enjoy this article from the archives.

Originally published August 5, 2016

Pastors, your church is vulnerable to false doctrine in these 6 areas. Here's how you can protect it.

The Great Wall of China

The Wailing Wall

The walls of Jericho

Walls. Sometimes they go up, and sometimes they come a tumblin’ down. When I was a kid it was, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Now it’s, “Elect me and I’ll build a wall between the United States and Mexico.”

There was a time in history when it was common practice for a city to have a wall built around its perimeter. Walls have historically been built for protection, to keep inhabitants safe from attacking marauders. When Israel returned to Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity, their first priority was to rebuild the altar – their focal point of worship. Next came the temple – to consecrate, or set apart, their worship. And, finally, the city wall – which protected everything, including their worship.

Today, when Christians plant a church, we start off with our focal point of worship, the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. He is the foundation of the church, the center of our worship, our rallying point.

As the church grows, we consecrate it, setting it apart from other organizations and gatherings by buying or constructing its own special building. It’s not a store or an office or a restaurant. It’s a church. It’s where believers gather to worship, fellowship, and be trained in God’s word.

But somehow we never get around to protecting our churches from enemy attack. Indeed, it hardly ever occurs to most pastors and church members that there’s a need for a wall.

But there is. A huge need. And for some churches, it’s already too late.

Pastor, I plead with you- it’s time to build a wall around your church. A “walls of Jericho”-high wall. A chariot races on top- thick wall. And an armed guard posted at the gate. Not to keep out visitors or people who might look or act differently from your congregation- God forbid! It’s to keep out the false doctrine that’s infiltrating and attacking the Body in so many ways. And some areas of your wall are going to need extra fortification because they’re protecting these six vulnerable areas.

1. The Preaching of the Word

Pastor, the buck starts and stops with you. Are you preaching the Word? In season and out of season? Are you rightly handling God’s word? Preaching sound doctrine and rebuking those who contradict it? Declaring the whole counsel of God? Or is your focus on preaching to entertain, to keep people happy, to encourage giving, or to keep from rocking the boat? Only you can answer these questions. Strong preaching is the first step in building a strong wall to protect your church.

2. The Teaching of the Word

How much do you know about how, and what, your Sunday School, Bible study, or other small group leaders teach? Have you ever observed, evaluated, or interviewed any of your teachers? Does your church have any formal qualifications for teachers? Are they required to go through any sort of training? Who are their spiritual influencers? Which celebrity pastors and authors are they recommending to their classes?

A teacher who is listening to or reading materials by false teachers during the week is going to have her theology shaped by those false teachers, and she’s going to bring that warped theology into the classroom where it will infect the students. A teacher whose main discussion questions are, “How do you feel about this verse?” or “What does this verse mean to you?” is not handling God’s word properly and, thus, not properly training her students. Find out what’s going on in your Sunday School classrooms, and strengthen your wall by strengthening your teachers.

3. Sunday School/Small Group Curricula

Because so few teachers are properly trained, churches tend to rely heavily on the Sunday School curricula to do the actual teaching. Have you examined your curricula lately? Are the lessons anchored in copious amounts of rightly exposited Scripture or are they mainly comprised of inspirational stories and illustrations? Are the discussion questions watered down pablum or do they challenge people to think and search the Scriptures for understanding? Does the curriculum recommend supplementary materials or music from doctrinally sound, or questionable, sources? Does the curriculum recommend “homework assignments” that include unbiblical practices such as contemplative prayer or yoga? Build a solid wall with solid curricula.

4. Women’s Bible Study

This is an area of your wall which needs major fortification. In many churches, it is the primary avenue through which false teaching infiltrates the Body. Is your women’s ministry using studies or materials by a best selling author like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Joyce Meyer, Lysa TerKeurst (Proverbs 31), Jen Hatmaker, Lisa Harper, Lisa Bevere, Victoria Osteen, Jennie Allen, Rachel Held Evans, Ann Voskamp, Sheila Walsh, or anyone with “Jakes” in her name? Are they attending conferences, retreats, or simulcasts headlined by any of these people? Then the women of your church are being taught false doctrine. Your men’s Bible study curriculum also needs to be examined, but women’s Bible study is a major foothold of false doctrine.

5. Music

If your church uses KLOVE’s playlist to formulate its worship set, you’re probably importing false doctrine right into your worship service. You’ve got to vet both the lyrics (hymns don’t get a pass on this, by the way) and the artists for sound theology. When it comes to contemporary worship music, the three most popular and common sources of false doctrine are Hillsong (Word of Faith {prosperity gospel}), and Bethel/Jesus Culture (New Apostolic Reformation). Click on the “Popular False Teachers” tab at the top of this page for more information. Here and here are two more excellent resources.

6. Ecumenism

Is your church partnering or fellowshipping with other local churches outside your own denomination? Are you thoroughly familiar with their beliefs and practices? Are those beliefs and practices biblical? Where do they stand on female pastors, elders, and teachers? Homosexuals as church members or leaders? Abortion? The inerrancy, infallibility, and supremacy of Scripture? Extra-biblical revelation? Signs and wonders? Works righteousness? Do they have a biblical statement of faith “on paper” but stray from it in practice? Not every organization that calls itself a Christian church actually is one by biblical standards, and we are not to partner or fellowship with those whose beliefs and practices do not line up with Scripture.

That’s a lot of vetting to do for a pastor who’s probably already overwhelmed and stretched thin. May I make a suggestion? Don’t try to do it alone. After all, those cities with protective walls hired soldiers to guard the gates. Is there an associate pastor who could take on vetting curricula and fellow churches and conference speakers? Is there a mature, discerning layman or woman you trust who would be willing to lend a hand with researching your music or women’s Bible study books? Do you have a “master teacher” capable of training your Sunday School and small group teachers? Ask your people for help. Use the able. Train the willing. Get that wall built to shut out false doctrine, and station your armed guards at the gates to check out everything that comes in.

The enemy is out there, dear pastor. Let’s make sure that’s where he stays.

Christian women, Church, Discernment

Throwback Thursday ~ Nine Reasons Discerning Women Are Leaving Your Church

Originally published July 24, 2015
9 disc women leave

 

Earlier this week, Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, pubished a blog article entitled “Six Reasons Why Women May Be Leaving Your Church.” Although I am not particularly a fan of Dr. Rainer (due to his allowing materials from false teachers to be sold at LifeWay), I thought this article was a good one, and I agreed with several of the issues he raised, especially, that these issues need to be addressed by church leadership.

As a ministry wife and someone in the field of women’s ministry myself, I, too, have noticed women leaving the church. Not just women in general, but a certain subset of church-attending ladies: discerning women. While Scripture is pretty clear that we can expect women (and men) who are false converts to eventually fall away from the gathering of believers, why are godly, genuinely regenerated women who love Christ, His word, and His church, leaving their local churches?

1. Eisegetical or otherwise unbiblical preaching
Discerning women don’t want to hear pastors twist God’s word. The Bible is not about us, our problems, and making all our hopes and dreams come true. We don’t want to hear seeker-driven or Word of Faith false doctrine. We don’t need self-improvement motivational speeches or a list of life tips to follow. We want to hear a pastor rightly handle God’s word from a trustworthy translation and simply exegete the text.

2. The worship hour has become a variety show
Skits, guest stars, movie clips, dance routines, rock concerts, elaborate sets, light shows, and smoke machines. We didn’t sign on for Saturday Night Live on Sunday. This is supposed to be church. Get rid of all that junk, turn the lights on, give us solid preaching, prayer, and some theologically sound songs we can actually sing, and maybe we’ll stick around.

*3. Women in improper places of church leadership
The Bible could not be more clear that women are not to be pastors, instruct men in the Scriptures, or hold authority over men in other capacities in the church. If your church has a female pastor, worship leader, or elders, or if women are teaching and leading men in Sunday school, small groups, or from the platform in the worship service, or if women are heading up certain committees, departments, or ministries which place them in improper authority over men, you’re disobeying Scripture, and we don’t want to help you do that by attending your church.

4. Children are being entertained, not trained
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of play time or crafts for younger children, but we want our children trained in the Scriptures, not entertained for a couple of hours. We want their teachers to open God’s word and read and explain it to them at a level they can understand. We want them memorizing verses, learning to pray, and demonstrating an age-appropriate comprehension of the gospel. We want them to understand that church is joyful, yet, serious, not a Jesus-laced party at Chuck E. Cheese. We need church to bolster the Scriptural training we’re giving our kids at home.

5. Women’s “Bible” Studies
The majority (and I don’t use that term flippantly) of churches holding women’s Bible studies are using materials written by Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Joyce Meyer, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Young, and others who teach unbiblical ideas and false doctrine. Not minor denominational differences of opinion. Not secondary and tertiary unimportant issues that can be overlooked. False doctrine. While we long to study God’s word with other women, discerning women will not sacrifice sound doctrine nor the integrity of Scripture to do so.

6. Ecumenism
Is your church partnering with other “churches” whose orthodoxy and/or orthopraxy are at odds with Scripture? “Churches” which approve of homosexuality or female pastors, or which hold to an unbiblical soteriology (grace plus works, baptismal regeneration, Mary as co-redemptrix with Christ, etc.)? Are you partnering with those who deny the biblical Christ altogether such as Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Mormons, or Buddhists? Discerning women know Scripture forbids yoking ourselves to unbelievers and we want no part of it.

7. Ageism
Look around at your pastor and staff, your lay leadership, your music team, the “face” of your church. How many of those people are over 40? Usually, discernment and spiritual maturity come through walking with the Lord over many years, yet, increasingly, by design, churches are run by twentysomething pastors, staff, and other leadership, who are often spiritually immature and/or lack the wisdom and life experience that come with age. The staff is often specifically structured this way in order to attract young people to the church. The counsel and wisdom mature, godly men and women have to offer is brushed off as old fashioned, and middle aged and older church members feel alienated and unwanted. While there are those among the twentysomething set who are godly and growing into maturity, discerning women value the wisdom and teaching of their godly elders.

8. The “troublemaker” label
Discerning women who see unbiblical things happening in their churches and stand up for what God’s word says about biblical ecclesiology and teaching are often vilified and labeled as troublemakers. We are called haters, threats to unity, complainers, gossips, negative, and a myriad of other scornful names. All this for wanting things done according to Scripture. Can you blame us for shaking the dust off our high heels and leaving?

9. Spineless or stiff-necked pastors
Discerning women have little respect for, and find themselves unable to submit to the authority of pastors who see people in their churches acting overtly sinful or propagating false teaching yet are so afraid of confrontation that they will not set things right. By the same token, we cannot continue to attend a church in which we bring scriptural evidence of false teaching or sin to the pastor and he outright denies the biblical truth we present to him. We cannot be members of churches in which pastors will not submit to Scripture or carry out biblical mandates.

 

Frequently, the discerning women you see tearfully leaving your church have been there for years. Sometimes they leave your church because it was never doctrinally sound to begin with, and God has opened their eyes to this as they grow and mature in Christ. Sometimes they leave because false doctrine and unbiblical practices have crept in and taken over a church that was once a refuge of trustworthy biblical teaching. Either way, these things should not be.

Maybe it’s not that discerning women are leaving the church**, but that the church is leaving them.


*If you disagree with this point and are considering writing a comment arguing that women SHOULD be pastors and have other unbiblical positions of leadership, please save yourself some time, because I will not be printing it. As it says in my “welcome” tab (top of this page), I do not print false doctrine without refuting it, and at the moment, I do not have the time. If you are truly interested in what the Bible ACTUALLY says about the proper role of women in the church, click here and explore the Scriptures that address this topic.

**While it may be necessary to leave a church that is not operating biblically, Hebrews 10:24-25 makes it clear that meeting together for worship and the teaching of God’s word is not optional for Christians. Please see my follow up article, Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly for more on this topic.

Church, Discernment

Build the Wall and Station a Guard: A Plea for Pastors to Protect 6 Areas of the Church Vulnerable to False Doctrine

Pastors, your church is vulnerable to false doctrine in these 6 areas. Here's how you can protect it.

The Great Wall of China

The Wailing Wall

The walls of Jericho

Walls. Sometimes they go up, and sometimes they come a tumblin’ down. When I was a kid it was, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Now it’s, “Elect me and I’ll build a wall between the United States and Mexico.”

There was a time in history when it was common practice for a city to have a wall built around its perimeter. Walls have historically been built for protection, to keep inhabitants safe from attacking marauders. When Israel returned to Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity, their first priority was to rebuild the altar – their focal point of worship. Next came the temple – to consecrate, or set apart, their worship. And, finally, the city wall – which protected everything, including their worship.

Today, when Christians plant a church, we start off with our focal point of worship, the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. He is the foundation of the church, the center of our worship, our rallying point.

As the church grows, we consecrate it, setting it apart from other organizations and gatherings by buying or constructing its own special building. It’s not a store or an office or a restaurant. It’s a church. It’s where believers gather to worship, fellowship, and be trained in God’s word.

But somehow we never get around to protecting our churches from enemy attack. Indeed, it hardly ever occurs to most pastors and church members that there’s a need for a wall.

But there is. A huge need. And for some churches, it’s already too late.

Pastor, I plead with you- it’s time to build a wall around your church. A “walls of Jericho”-high wall. A chariot races on top- thick wall. And an armed guard posted at the gate. Not to keep out visitors or people who might look or act differently from your congregation- God forbid! It’s to keep out the false doctrine that’s infiltrating and attacking the Body in so many ways. And some areas of your wall are going to need extra fortification because they’re protecting these six vulnerable areas.

1. The Preaching of the Word

Pastor, the buck starts and stops with you. Are you preaching the Word? In season and out of season? Are you rightly handling God’s word? Preaching sound doctrine and rebuking those who contradict it? Declaring the whole counsel of God? Or is your focus on preaching to entertain, to keep people happy, to encourage giving, or to keep from rocking the boat? Only you can answer these questions. Strong preaching is the first step in building a strong wall to protect your church.

2. The Teaching of the Word

How much do you know about how, and what, your Sunday School, Bible study, or other small group leaders teach? Have you ever observed, evaluated, or interviewed any of your teachers? Does your church have any formal qualifications for teachers? Are they required to go through any sort of training? Who are their spiritual influencers? Which celebrity pastors and authors are they recommending to their classes?

A teacher who is listening to or reading materials by false teachers during the week is going to have her theology shaped by those false teachers, and she’s going to bring that warped theology into the classroom where it will infect the students. A teacher whose main discussion questions are, “How do you feel about this verse?” or “What does this verse mean to you?” is not handling God’s word properly and, thus, not properly training her students. Find out what’s going on in your Sunday School classrooms, and strengthen your wall by strengthening your teachers.

3. Sunday School/Small Group Curricula

Because so few teachers are properly trained, churches tend to rely heavily on the Sunday School curricula to do the actual teaching. Have you examined your curricula lately? Are the lessons anchored in copious amounts of rightly exposited Scripture or are they mainly comprised of inspirational stories and illustrations? Are the discussion questions watered down pablum or do they challenge people to think and search the Scriptures for understanding? Does the curriculum recommend supplementary materials or music from doctrinally sound, or questionable, sources? Does the curriculum recommend “homework assignments” that include unbiblical practices such as contemplative prayer or yoga? Build a solid wall with solid curricula.

4. Women’s Bible Study

This is an area of your wall which needs major fortification. In many churches, it is the primary avenue through which false teaching infiltrates the Body. Is your women’s ministry using studies or materials by a best selling author like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Joyce Meyer, Lysa TerKeurst (Proverbs 31), Jen Hatmaker, Lisa Harper, Lisa Bevere, Victoria Osteen, Jennie Allen, Rachel Held Evans, Ann Voskamp, Sheila Walsh, or anyone with “Jakes” in her name? Are they attending conferences, retreats, or simulcasts headlined by any of these people? Then the women of your church are being taught false doctrine. Your men’s Bible study curriculum also needs to be examined, but women’s Bible study is a major foothold of false doctrine.

5. Music

If your church uses KLOVE’s playlist to formulate its worship set, you’re probably importing false doctrine right into your worship service. You’ve got to vet both the lyrics (hymns don’t get a pass on this, by the way) and the artists for sound theology. When it comes to contemporary worship music, the three most popular and common sources of false doctrine are Hillsong (Word of Faith {prosperity gospel}), and Bethel/Jesus Culture (New Apostolic Reformation). Click on the “Popular False Teachers” tab at the top of this page for more information. Here and here are two more excellent resources.

6. Ecumenism

Is your church partnering or fellowshipping with other local churches outside your own denomination? Are you thoroughly familiar with their beliefs and practices? Are those beliefs and practices biblical? Where do they stand on female pastors, elders, and teachers? Homosexuals as church members or leaders? Abortion? The inerrancy, infallibility, and supremacy of Scripture? Extra-biblical revelation? Signs and wonders? Works righteousness? Do they have a biblical statement of faith “on paper” but stray from it in practice? Not every organization that calls itself a Christian church actually is one by biblical standards, and we are not to partner or fellowship with those whose beliefs and practices do not line up with Scripture.

That’s a lot of vetting to do for a pastor who’s probably already overwhelmed and stretched thin. May I make a suggestion? Don’t try to do it alone. After all, those cities with protective walls hired soldiers to guard the gates. Is there an associate pastor who could take on vetting curricula and fellow churches and conference speakers? Is there a mature, discerning layman or woman you trust who would be willing to lend a hand with researching your music or women’s Bible study books? Do you have a “master teacher” capable of training your Sunday School and small group teachers? Ask your people for help. Use the able. Train the willing. Get that wall built to shut out false doctrine, and station your armed guards at the gates to check out everything that comes in.

The enemy is out there, dear pastor. Let’s make sure that’s where he stays.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: BSF (Bible Study Fellowship)

mailbag

 

What are your thoughts on BSF (Bible Study Fellowship)? Is it doctrinally sound? Is it a good way of studying the Bible?

According to the BSF web site, “BSF is an in-depth, interdenominational Bible study that helps people know God and equips them to effectively serve the Church throughout the world.” BSF Bible study groups are held in various local churches and are open to anyone.

I have never participated in BSF myself, but I am somewhat familiar with it through a couple of friends who have been very involved.

While I totally support the idea of delving deeply into the Scriptures with other women, there are a few of aspects of BSF that concern me. Let me start off by saying that every BSF group is different, so I’m sure these may or may not be issues with every group depending on the leaders and participants.

First, the amount of time required for BSF homework and other responsibilities may not be a fit for every participant. Some women have the hours required for these things and embrace it, but many do not. For the women who do not, this can become discouraging. They may come to view studying the Bible as a chore. They may sometimes neglect their husbands, children, homes, churches, friends, etc., in favor of completing the assignments. They may even give up on organized Bible study all together, assuming that all classes require the same investment of time as BSF. For these reasons alone, I would probably not recommend BSF for a new believer.

Next, BSF is limited to studies of only ten books/topics. I understand why BSF may have to do this from a logistics standpoint, but if BSF is a woman’s only form of personal or group Bible study, that’s leaving out a lot of the Bible. We need all of the Bible for all of life.

Concerns have also been raised by BSF participants and leaders that BSF may be headed in an Emergent and/or contemplative direction considering BSF’s recommendations of materials by authors who subscribe to these false teachings and BSF’s increasing use of The Message (a very shoddy paraphrase of Scripture) rather than a reliable translation.

Finally, my major concern with BSF is that it is ecumenical. It is my understanding that BSF is open to, and led by, people from all denominations (and non-denominations) that call themselves Christian. This is a problem because there are many churches and denominations which call themselves Christian but whose doctrine is not in compliance with Scripture (for example, Catholics, Oneness Pentecostals, Mormons, and New Apostolic Reformation).

BSF could be very helpful in this regard if it would require its leaders to hold to sound doctrine (our doctrine colors the way we teach Scripture) and would allow its leaders and members to discuss correct biblical doctrine, but the way it has been explained to me, “BSF doesn’t teach doctrine, it just teaches the Bible.” That statement, if an accurate representation of BSF’s stance, demonstrates a fundamental flaw in their view of Scripture and its regulation of the church. The Bible is doctrine. There is no way to teach the Bible without teaching doctrine.

What if, during a discussion of that day’s lesson, one of the Catholic members says, “This verse seems to say that praying to Mary would be wrong. Have I been sinning all these years?” or a Mormon says, “This passage indicates that we can be baptized for the dead. We should all be doing this.”? These are doctrinal issues, whether BSF sees them as such or not, and from a biblical standpoint these members need to be taught that praying to Mary and baptism for the dead are unscriptural and sinful. But, according to what I’ve been told, BSF will not correct people’s false doctrine in order to remain open to people of all “Christian” faiths. In fact, I’ve been told it’s against the rules for members/leaders to even disclose which church they belong to. Nor, for the same reason, can anyone recommend (or warn against) any pastor, author, or teacher, despite the fact that his/her materials might be very helpful (or harmful) to someone in the group. BSF leaders are also told not to use any Scripture other than what is being studied that day, which is most unhelpful, as one of the basic tenets of sound hermeneutics is that “Scripture interprets Scripture” and that unclear passages are to be understood in light of clear passages. Cross-referencing Scripture could help clear up doctrinal issues.

The Bible tells us that the job of a pastor (and by the extension of this principle, Bible teachers) is to “give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9b). It also says Christians are not to yoke ourselves together with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Those who claim to be Christians yet deny the essentials of the faith (the Trinity, salvation by grace alone, etc.) are just as much unbelievers as atheists and agnostics (Matthew 7:21-23). It seems to me that there is something foundationally wrong with a Bible study in which genuine believers and false converts, people who hold to sound doctrine and people who hold to false doctrine, can sit side by side with neither being offended or corrected.

Mature, discerning believers can probably attend BSF without being swayed to believe any false doctrine (and, just to be clear, I’m certain it’s not BSF’s intention to teach false doctrine). However, I imagine that those mature, discerning believers would find it difficult to abide by the rules of keeping quiet on issues of sound doctrine as those issues arise.

Additional Resources

BSF Leader resigns; warns members about 2018 Study at Naomi’s Table

BSF, Jesus Calling and a plea from the heart at Berean Research

BSF as a “Vision-Casting” ministry? An open letter from a leader at Naomi’s Table


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.


UPDATE: I’ve received numerous comments on this article. About half have disagreed with some or all of it and the other half have said it’s spot on. As mentioned in the article, “every BSF group is different, so I’m sure these may or may not be issues with every group depending on the leaders and participants.” Comments are now becoming redundant, and some of them downright ugly, so I’ve closed comments on this article. (Just to save you some time, please don’t go to another article’s comment section and attempt to comment on this article there. It won’t be published. I also will not be responding to e-mails/social media messages about this article.)