Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can we get women to WANT to come to Bible study?

Originally published March 19, 2018

 

My church is blessed to have two strong ladies’ Bible study leaders – one during the week for those who are available and one on Saturday for those who cannot attend during the week – who have the discernment to choose biblical content, study, and lead scripturally sound discussion. My prayer is that more women in my church would have the desire to attend these Bible studies, not only learning and growing spiritually but also for fellowship with each other and drawing closer to each other. If you have any ideas for actually getting women to want to study God’s word with other women I would love to hear them.

Been there, done that. I once taught a women’s Bible study class that consistently had only one to two women in it. I think our maximum attendance was one day when we had a whopping…four. The other women of the church chose to attend the “fluffier” classes that were being offered, and many just didn’t attend at all.

There could be any number of spiritual and practical reasons women aren’t attending your (or another reader’s) Bible studies.

☞ People are extraordinarily busy these days, especially women. Jam-packed schedules are probably the main reason for your low attendance. I’ll be honest, if I worked a full time job outside the home as well as taking care of my home and family, I’d be very unlikely to attend any Bible study class besides Sunday School. I’d want to devote that time to my family or to rest.

☞ Perhaps there are more false converts in your church than you’re aware of. People who aren’t saved are not new creatures in Christ and are devoid of the Holy Spirit, so they have no organic desire to spend time in God’s Word or with God’s people beyond the minimal amount required to fulfill whatever fleshly agenda brings them to church in the first place. There’s no human way to give them the desire to attend Bible study. Only God can accomplish that by saving them.

☞ If you go to a doctrinally sound church, your ladies may feel like they get plenty of good Bible study already and what they really want is unstructured fellowship time. See my article All Word and No Play: The Importance of Fun and Fellowship in the Doctrinally Sound Church.

☞ There may be something about the teaching style or the materials, that – even though they’re doctrinally sound – are rubbing people the wrong way. Maybe the teacher lectures and your ladies want more discussion. Maybe she talks over their heads in a very academic style. Maybe the materials are too expensive or there’s something about the book that is off-putting. Maybe your church only does “canned” (workbook, DVD, etc.) studies and what your ladies really want is to study books of the Bible, or vice versa.

☞ Hopefully this isn’t the case, but if there are factions in your church, someone could be surreptitiously – out of jealousy, sowing discord, or other reasons – discouraging the women from attending.

☞ The logistics of the class might be inconvenient for some. Do you offer child care for those who need it? Is the class held on a convenient day of the week and time of day? Is your church and the room you’re using for the class accessible to women with disabilities? 

These are just a few things that came to mind. Some of them may have to do with the class or the teacher. Others have more to do with the women themselves. What can you do to encourage more women to attend?

✔ Pray – and be ready to be in it for the long haul – that God will change hearts and give the women of your church a greater desire for His Word. In the end, God is the only One who knows all of the reasons women aren’t attending Bible study, and He is the only One with the power to transform them and overcome those reasons. Pray fervently and trust Him.

✔ If you’re truly stumped as to why women aren’t attending Bible study, ask them. You could do so face to face, individually, or, with your pastor’s permission, send out an anonymous survey (you’ll probably get a better response this way) asking things like, “Is the lecture style teaching we offer a fit for you?” or “Would you be able to attend if we offered child care?”, and also leave space to write in comments. (Naturally, you would not be asking things like whether or not you should water down the theology of the class, but if you can remove a practical barrier to attendance, why wouldn’t you?)

✔ Ask your pastor for advice. He knows the heartbeat of your congregation and will probably have some valuable counsel and suggestions.

✔ Be willing to try something different in the class. If you’ve only ever done workbook studies, do a study of a book of the Bible. Maybe a Saturday class isn’t convenient for a lot of people but a Sunday class would be. “I Shall Not be Moved” is for the theology of the class, not the logistics of it.

✔ Be willing to try something different than the class. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to do discipleship. Bible studies are awesome, but how about taking a semester off and doing some one on one Titus 2 mentoring instead? Or some unstructured “let’s just sit and chat” fellowships or ladies’ night outs? Or a prayer group? Or some outreach projects? If your ladies are already getting good preaching in the worship service and good teaching in Sunday School, it’s OK to try a discipleship method other than a Bible study class.

✔ Are you doing enough publicity well in advance of the class? You should start a minimum of 3-4 weeks before the class begins, and you should blitz with a variety of media: verbal announcements in multiple worship services, announce it in the church bulletin, newsletter, web site, and social media pages, have Sunday School classes announce it, send out a church-wide e-mail, put up fliers around the church, and encourage the ladies who are already attending the classes to personally, individually invite other women.

✔ If your pastor is OK with it, consider having one of the women who has been a faithful member of the class give a testimony (during the worship service, in the church newsletter, or wherever appropriate) about how the class has helped and blessed her, the relationships she has built through the class, etc.

In the end, the old saying is true: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” You may bend over backwards and pray your kneecaps off and you may still have a small attendance. That’s OK. That’s on God. All you are responsible for is to pray, trust and obey Him, and be faithful to Him where He has planted you. God doesn’t measure your success by how many women attend, but by your faithfulness to Him.


If you have a question about: 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.

Easter

Easter with the King: The Story of Nabal, Abigail and David ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 4-20-14

Since we’re focusing on Resurrection Sunday this week,
I thought we’d take a brief break from our Living Stones study
for an Easter-themed Bible study lesson.
Find the rest of this chronological study here.


Originally published April 20, 2014

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 15 ~ Apr. 13-19
1 Samuel 18-31, Psalm 11, 59,7,27,31,34,52,56,120,140-142,17,35,54,63,18
Easter with the King: The Story of Nabal, Abigail and David

 

Since the whole Bible points to Jesus, the whole Bible tells the story of the gospel. Even the Old Testament. Even the story of David, Abigail, and Nabal.

1 Samuel 25:2-42

flock of sheep in israelFilthy Rich (2)
3000 sheep/1000 goats was definitely rich (even today it wouldn’t be too shabby). While cattle are more valued in our culture for their meat, milk, and leather, sheep and goats were more valued in Israel for these, and also for sacrifices. Sheep and goats were Israel’s “pantry on the hoof.”

I Pity the Fool (3)
The name “Nabal” means “fool.” As we have seen throughout the OT, names weren’t just random labels. They told something about the person’s character or life, where he was from, who he was related to, etc. Sometimes names were changed to reflect life circumstances: Ben-oni (son of my sorrow) to Benjamin (son of the right hand- Genesis 35:18), Naomi (pleasant) to Mara (bitter- Ruth 1:20), Simon (God has heard) to Peter (rock- Matthew 16:18).

It seems odd, even by Israel’s standards, to name an infant “fool,” but we have no way of knowing whether this was the case or whether he acquired this name later in life after earning it by his behavior.

“Abigail” means “My father is joy.”

An Offer You Can’t Refuse? (4-13, Deuteronomy 22:1-4, 18:7, 21:11, 15:7-8, Leviticus 19:10, 23:22)
This incident hits our Western ears as odd or inappropriate, even presumptuous or akin to extortion, but Middle Eastern hospitality etiquette and neighborliness, not to mention God’s Law was, and still is, much different from ours in many cases.

Nabal did not ask David to guard his shepherds and flocks. Indeed, he probably didn’t even know David was doing so unless the shepherds told him when they brought the sheep in for shearing. (And since “one cannot speak to him” {17} maybe they didn’t.) David, however, when he met up with the shepherds, took it upon himself, out of his own good will, to look out for them. Maybe he had sympathy for them because he had also been a shepherd.

michael-corleoneDavid and his men likely put their lives on the line numerous times protecting Nabal’s livelihood. And he didn’t do it with an “I scratch your back; you scratch mine” attitude, thinking he would later demand pay from Nabal. He also didn’t take advantage of the shepherds (such as extorting sheep/goats in exchange for protection) while they were with him. David was obeying the spirit of all those “good neighbor laws” we read about (ex: Deuteronomy 22:1-4). The law is not just “don’t harm your neighbor,” but also, “do good to your neighbor.”

Remember, these shepherds were alone out in the wilderness with the flocks. There was no police force or army to protect them from raiding bands of Philistines. If the Philistines saw a thousand goats and 3000 sheep and wanted them, they just took them and captured or killed the shepherds. No legal redress, no sheep insurance. Nabal’s entire portfolio was at stake. You would think once he found out what David had done –for free and out of the goodness of his heart—Nabal would be extremely grateful. But was he? Nope.

David’s men arrived, explained themselves, and asked politely for whatever food Nabal could spare (kind of hard to make groceries when you’re on the run living in caves). They did not demand his best, and they did not demand he provide enough for their entire company of 600 men. They had even come on a feast day when Nabal was celebrating his wealth, should have been in a good mood, and should have had plenty of extra food on hand. And notice this telling little phrase, “they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited.” (9) Now here’s one way Middle Eastern culture is similar to Southern culture. If someone was standing there telling you about all those nice things he had done for you, how long would it take before you gleefully interrupted him and offered him everything under the sun in thanks? Well, Middle Easterners aren’t as shy about interrupting as we are, and furthermore, they would take it as the highest insult if you didn’t take everything they offered.

Not Nabal, though. First, he pretended not to know who David was. Pretty ridiculous, since David’s conquests were well known throughout Israel (18:7, 21:11- even outside Israel), not to mention the fact that he was next in line for the throne. Next, he insulted David’s men by accusing them of lying about working for David. Of course, if he had been interested in finding out whether or not that was true, he could have brought his shepherds in and asked them if these were the guys who had protected them.

David’s men went back and reported what had happened. David’s immediate response was for everyone to “strap on his sword.” It seems like kind of an extreme response to us, but we have to keep a few things in mind. First, the Law. Nabal was breaking both the letter and the spirit of it. While there was no specific law covering a band of mighty men coming to you and asking for food on a feast day, there were laws about taking care of people who were hungry and poor, such as the gleaning laws (Leviticus 19:10, 23:22).

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 says: “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.”

When we read through Ruth, we saw Boaz doing a great job of fulfilling this law for Ruth and Naomi. Here, Nabal is showing the exact opposite of Boaz’s kindness and generosity.

Second, Nabal’s actions showed disregard and ingratitude for God’s provision and blessing. God blessed Nabal with wealth and protected that wealth (through David) without Nabal even knowing about it. Do we see any evidence that Nabal was humbled that God should do such a thing for him, or thankfulness to God for what He had provided? No. We see only selfishness, stinginess, and a blatant disregard for God as sovereign provider.

Finally, David’s response was likely an answer to Nabal’s accusations. “He wants to know who David is? He wants to know whether or not my men are lying? Well, let’s go show him the answer to his questions and see if he changes his tune.”

The Go-Between (14-31, John 12:14-15)
Abigail was quite a remarkable woman. This was not the first time Nabal had acted this way. He had a long standing history of being harsh and worthless (“son of Belial” is also applied to Satan in 2 Corinthians). And here, Abigail was going behind his back and defying him. This was no small thing for any wife in Israel. But for Abigail, it could have meant a beating or worse when Nabal found out. It’s possible she was even risking her life. And for what? To save him. Without his knowledge that she was saving him. Without his knowledge that he even needed saving.

Why in the world would Abigail want to save someone who was probably making her life a living hell? She could have just let David and his men handle Nabal. Certainly he would have www-St-Takla-org--abigail-entreats-mercygotten what he deserved. But she stepped in because it was the right thing to do. It was right to obey God by providing for David and his men. It was even right to protect her husband from his own foolishness and bringing David’s wrath down upon himself. But even more, she did it because she loved God, and maybe even her husband, too.

She sent the gift on ahead (19) to appease David’s wrath, then presented herself to him on Nabal’s behalf. Notice that she got down off her donkey (23). Kings rode donkeys. Rich people and people of high standing rode donkeys. She left her wealth and position behind and got as low as she could get, bowing down, humbling herself, and submitting herself to David. For Nabal.

Then Abigail did something even more remarkable. She said (24-25), “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he.” She—a completely innocent party to Nabal’s sin (25)—voluntarily takes on the guilt and consequences of his sin. (Is this starting to sound familiar?) In v. 28, she asked David to “Please forgive the trespass of your servant.” It wasn’t her trespass, but Nabal’s. She was asking forgiveness for him.

The King’s Response (32-35)
David blessed Abigail, not just for her prudence and godliness, but also because she had satisfied his wrath and kept him from exercising it on Nabal. Her gift was sufficient, and David granted her petition to extend forgiveness to Nabal.

Happily Ever After (36-42)
Well, except for Nabal. Abigail had to tell Nabal what she had done. She’d been gone for a while and had taken quite a bit of food out of the house. No sense trying to cover it up. Hopefully Nabal would be grateful she saved him from certain death. When she told him, did he repent? Humble himself? The text doesn’t say that he did. It says “his heart died within him.” It’s generally believed this means that Nabal had a stroke (especially since it further says that he “became as stone” and lived for ten more days). Did he become enraged at what Abigail had done, and this physical exertion contributed to a stroke? We can’t know for certain. What seems unlikely is that he genuinely repented, because God “struck Nabal and he died.” As we’ll see later with David, while we usually do suffer the consequences of our sin, God shows mercy and forgiveness to the repentant.

David was thankful he had not taken matters into his own hands and that God had handled the situation. Justice had been served. And for her faithfulness, Abigail—who considered herself the lowliest of servants, only fit to wash the feet of other servants—ascended to the position of Queen. Back on her donkey where she belonged, exalted out of humility to sit at the right hand of the king.

The Backstage Gospel (Psalm 14:1, Philippians 2:6-8, 9-11)
Often, in stories like this, the characters aren’t just playing themselves, they’re playing out the parts of the gospel.

As with Nabal, God blessed His people richly with life, family, provisions, and all kinds of other blessings she wasn’t even aware of. The people didn’t ask God to do these things. God, the Good Shepherd, did these things for them out of the goodness of His own heart, the same way David had done for Nabal. But, as with Nabal the fool, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” (Ps. 14) The same way David presented himself to Nabal and told him what he had done for him, God, over and over, reminded Israel of the way He had protected and provided for them. But just as Nabal rejected David, so, Israel rejected God, and rebelled against Him in favor of their own sin and selfishness. And, like David, God’s wrath was inflamed.

Enter Jesus. Just as Abigail intervened on behalf of Nabal, Jesus intervened on behalf of Israel and all mankind. Just like Abigail, He laid down His life to save us. Before we ever knew Him. Before we ever knew we needed saving. Why? Why would He even want to save us Nabals? He could have let God exercise His wrath on us. We certainly deserve it. But in the same way that Abigail acted in love and in doing what was right, Jesus loved His Father and us enough to fulfill righteousness and to bring God glory by staying His hand of wrath.

In the same way that Abigail got down off her donkey, leaving behind all prestige and humbling herself to the lowest position possible—a servant only worthy of washing other hp-crossshadowservants’ feet— Jesus “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant [one who washed other servants’ feet], being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8) And for whom? Us Nabals. “On me alone, my Lord, be the guilt,” Jesus said, even though, like Abigail, He was completely innocent. He voluntarily took on the guilt and consequences of our sin when He died in our place on the cross, and He did it to win forgiveness for us.

Jesus sent this offering of His life for the atonement of our sin on ahead of Himself to the Father, and God’s wrath was satisfied. Jesus’ offering was sufficient, and God granted His petition to extend forgiveness to the likes of us. And just as David picked Abigail up from her humility and she ascended to the position of queen, Jesus ascended to sit at the right hand of the King, and “God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

This story didn’t have a happy ending for Nabal, because Nabal didn’t repent and submit himself to God. Nabal ended up taking the guilt and consequences for his sin himself (death) instead of gratefully humbling himself and being thankful for the gift of Abigail’s intervention and David’s forgiveness. But the rest of us Nabals can have a happy ending. Jesus has paid the price for our sin with His death, burial, and the resurrection we celebrate today. He completely satisfied the wrath of God on our behalf. It is finished. Forgiveness has been purchased with His blood. If we will humble ourselves, repent of our sin, and accept the beautiful gift of forgiveness God is extending to us at the request of His Son, we can be reconciled to God now and live happily in the ever after.

Bible Study, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be preparing to speak at the Cruciform
conference, so I’ll be re-running some popular articles from the archives.
I hope you’ll enjoy this one.

Originally published May 15, 2017

 

Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study? 

Can you recommend a Bible study we can do with our teens/children?

Next to being asked whether or not a particular teacher is doctrinally sound, this question, or some variation of it, is the one I’m most often asked. And, to be honest, it’s a question I have a love-hate relationship with.

I love (LOVELOVELOVELOVE) that women ask me this question because it means two things: they want to study/teach their children the Bible and they want to be sure what they’re learning or teaching is doctrinally sound and in line with Scripture. That’s the central reason my ministry even exists- I want Christian women to be grounded in the Bible and sound doctrine, and it brings me unbelievable joy and encouragement when I see women seek that out.

The hate part has nothing to do with the people asking the question, but with the prevailing line of thought in evangelicalism that has led them to ask the question. Namely, that the people in the pew aren’t capable of studying and understanding the Bible for themselves- they need some Christian celebrity to tell them what it means.

This is scarily reminiscent of the pre-Protestant Reformation ideology that ruled Roman Catholic “Christianity.” The pope and the priests, not the Scriptures themselves, told Christians what to believe. Catholic rulers prohibited the people from having copies of the Bible in their own language and martyred many Bible translators and reformers. Only the elite, those in leadership, were supposedly able to comprehend the Scriptures and dispense doctrine to the common Christian.

Twentieth and twenty-first century evangelicalism hasn’t taken that direct and violent route, but rather, has gradually brainwashed – whether intentionally or unintentionally – Christians into thinking that if they’re going to study or teach the Bible, they have to have a curriculum, book, or DVD study in order to do so. Teach straight from the Bible with no leader’s guide or student books? It’s practically unheard of in the average church, and hardly anyone is equipped to do so. Why? Because for the past several decades, that’s how Bible study has been presented to church members. You walk into Sunday School and you’re handed a quarterly. Somebody wants to teach a women’s Bible study? She’s sent to peruse the shelves of LifeWay for a popular author, not to her prayer closet and her Bible. Using teaching materials written by somebody else is just assumed.

Well in my opinion, it’s time for another reformation. A Bible study reformation. And, so, with hammer in hand, I have one resolution I want to nail to the door of Church As Usual:

I will no longer help perpetuate the stranglehold the pre-packaged Bible study industry has on Christians. If you are a 21st century believer with access to a Bible in your native language and doctrinally sound preaching and teaching I will not recommend a Bible study book or program to you. You need to pick up the actual Bible and begin studying the God-breathed text for yourself, and teach it to your children. 

“…my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”¹

Ladies, I know you may feel inadequate, but don’t give in to those feelings. Try. Pick a book of the Bible, start at the beginning, and read it through to the end, taking as much time as you need. You might just be pleasantly surprised at how well you grasp it. That’s because, if you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit resides within you and will help you to understand the Word He authored.

Read directly from the Bible to your children. Ask them simple questions about the passage: How was this Bible character obedient or disobedient to God? What can we learn about what God is like from this chapter? What does this passage teach us about prayer, forgiveness, loving each other, kindness, etc.? Explain any big words they might not understand, or look them up together.

Afraid you might get something wrong? Confused by a particular verse? That may happen from time to time, and that’s OK. Bible study is a skill just like everything else. Nobody ever tried a new task and was perfect at it the very first time. But God has not only given you the Holy Spirit who will never lead you into doctrinal error, He has given you a pastor, elders, teachers, and brothers and sisters in the Lord to help disciple you. Ask questions, trust God to illumine your understanding, and keep right on practicing.

There are also a myriad of reference materials that can hone your skills and help as you study your Bible (see the “Additional Resources” section below). And there are some fantastic, easy to read books on theology by trustworthy authors that can give you greater clarity on various points of doctrine. By all means, read as many as you can get your hands on.

But when it’s time for Bible study, study your Bible. When it’s time to teach your children, teach them the Bible. You can do this, ladies. Women with less education and fewer resources than you have access to have done it for centuries and have flourished in their walk with the Lord.

Trust God. Study hard. You can do this.


Additional Resources:

The Mailbag: We Want Bible Study Answers

Bible Study resource articles

Bible Studies by Michelle Lesley

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

10 Bookmarkable Biblical Resources for Christian Women

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study


¹Just a little tribute to Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms


If you have a question about: 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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can we get women to WANT to come to Bible study?

 

My church is blessed to have two strong ladies’ Bible study leaders – one during the week for those who are available and one on Saturday for those who cannot attend during the week – who have the discernment to choose biblical content, study, and lead scripturally sound discussion. My prayer is that more women in my church would have the desire to attend these Bible studies, not only learning and growing spiritually but also for fellowship with each other and drawing closer to each other. If you have any ideas for actually getting women to want to study God’s word with other women I would love to hear them.

Been there, done that. I once taught a women’s Bible study class that consistently had only one to two women in it. I think our maximum attendance was one day when we had a whopping…four. The other women of the church chose to attend the “fluffier” classes that were being offered, and many just didn’t attend at all.

There could be any number of spiritual and practical reasons women aren’t attending your (or another reader’s) Bible studies.

☞ People are extraordinarily busy these days, especially women. Jam-packed schedules are probably the main reason for your low attendance. I’ll be honest, if I worked a full time job outside the home as well as taking care of my home and family, I’d be very unlikely to attend any Bible study class besides Sunday School. I’d want to devote that time to my family or to rest.

☞ Perhaps there are more false converts in your church than you’re aware of. People who aren’t saved are not new creatures in Christ and are devoid of the Holy Spirit, so they have no organic desire to spend time in God’s Word or with God’s people beyond the minimal amount required to fulfill whatever fleshly agenda brings them to church in the first place. There’s no human way to give them the desire to attend Bible study. Only God can accomplish that by saving them.

☞ If you go to a doctrinally sound church, your ladies may feel like they get plenty of good Bible study already and what they really want is unstructured fellowship time. See my article All Word and No Play: The Importance of Fun and Fellowship in the Doctrinally Sound Church.

☞ There may be something about the teaching style or the materials, that – even though they’re doctrinally sound – are rubbing people the wrong way. Maybe the teacher lectures and your ladies want more discussion. Maybe she talks over their heads in a very academic style. Maybe the materials are too expensive or there’s something about the book that is off-putting. Maybe your church only does “canned” (workbook, DVD, etc.) studies and what your ladies really want is to study books of the Bible, or vice versa.

☞ Hopefully this isn’t the case, but if there are factions in your church, someone could be surreptitiously – out of jealousy, sowing discord, or other reasons – discouraging the women from attending.

☞ The logistics of the class might be inconvenient for some. Do you offer child care for those who need it? Is the class held on a convenient day of the week and time of day? Is your church and the room you’re using for the class accessible to women with disabilities? 

These are just a few things that came to mind. Some of them may have to do with the class or the teacher. Others have more to do with the women themselves. What can you do to encourage more women to attend?

✔ Pray – and be ready to be in it for the long haul – that God will change hearts and give the women of your church a greater desire for His Word. In the end, God is the only One who knows all of the reasons women aren’t attending Bible study, and He is the only One with the power to transform them and overcome those reasons. Pray fervently and trust Him.

✔ If you’re truly stumped as to why women aren’t attending Bible study, ask them. You could do so face to face, individually, or, with your pastor’s permission, send out an anonymous survey (you’ll probably get a better response this way) asking things like, “Is the lecture style teaching we offer a fit for you?” or “Would you be able to attend if we offered child care?”, and also leave space to write in comments. (Naturally, you would not be asking things like whether or not you should water down the theology of the class, but if you can remove a practical barrier to attendance, why wouldn’t you?)

✔ Ask your pastor for advice. He knows the heartbeat of your congregation and will probably have some valuable counsel and suggestions.

✔ Be willing to try something different in the class. If you’ve only ever done workbook studies, do a study of a book of the Bible. Maybe a Saturday class isn’t convenient for a lot of people but a Sunday class would be. “I Shall Not be Moved” is for the theology of the class, not the logistics of it.

✔ Be willing to try something different than the class. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to do discipleship. Bible studies are awesome, but how about taking a semester off and doing some one on one Titus 2 mentoring instead? Or some unstructured “let’s just sit and chat” fellowships or ladies’ night outs? Or a prayer group? Or some outreach projects? If your ladies are already getting good preaching in the worship service and good teaching in Sunday School, it’s OK to try a discipleship method other than a Bible study class.

✔ Are you doing enough publicity well in advance of the class? You should start a minimum of 3-4 weeks before the class begins, and you should blitz with a variety of media: verbal announcements in multiple worship services, announce it in the church bulletin, newsletter, web site, and social media pages, have Sunday School classes announce it, send out a church-wide e-mail, put up fliers around the church, and encourage the ladies who are already attending the classes to personally, individually invite other women.

✔ If your pastor is OK with it, consider having one of the women who has been a faithful member of the class give a testimony (during the worship service, in the church newsletter, or wherever appropriate) about how the class has helped and blessed her, the relationships she has built through the class, etc.

In the end, the old saying is true: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” You may bend over backwards and pray your kneecaps off and you may still have a small attendance. That’s OK. That’s on God. All you are responsible for is to pray, trust and obey Him, and be faithful to Him where He has planted you. God doesn’t measure your success by how many women attend, but by your faithfulness to Him.


If you have a question about: 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.

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.