Vol.X No.III Pg.5
May 1973

"New" Teaching Forms

Robert F. Turner

The Bible class was poorly attended, and those who were there showed little interest in the "study", so -- the teacher closed the Bible, told the young people that henceforth the class would have free discussion of whatever came to the minds of the pupils. Interest picked up, attendance increased, the elders congratulated the teacher for having a very popular "Bible Class" -- which did not study the Bible at all. Who are we kidding?

In my thirty-seven years of local church work, I have seen this repeated many times. Sometimes it begins in a genuine effort to make the class "more relevant" to current needs, and that is commendable. But in order to answer those needs with the Scriptures it takes even more research, time and effort, and that is usually what the class and teacher are trying to avoid. Again, who are we kidding?

I have read an article by a young man who advocates "new" forms in our worship. He favored an unplanned, uninhibited service, in which any and all present could take turns "bearing witness" and praising God. Nearly two hundred years of this sort of thing among various denominations has not led them closer to God, nor to a better understanding of His will. It is only "new" to "us" because "we" now have some who make a subjective approach to the Holy Spirit. Among liberal institutional churches there is a rash of such things, which even threatens to become an epidemic.

But for more conservative churches who favor greater participation in the worship, but intend that each one who "hash a teaching" present God's word, objectively approached -- this is no "new" thing. In earlier days it was called "mutual edification" and it had many commendable features not the least of which was the training of gospel preachers. Of course to preserve order (one main point in Paul's letter to Corinth) it was necessary that some sort of schedule prevail. Some solved this by preappointment of speakers, or by the appointment of a "presiding" officer at each service.

As congregations grew the plan became less practical, and some advocates of the system charged that money-hungry preachers (they called them "pastors") killed it. I suspect that the chief reason for its failure was lack of preparation on the part of the speakers. After a prolonged diet -uninformed, opinionated talks that rambled aimlessly through a few pet themes, brethren welcomed even a "pastor" with a prepared subject.

The system contributed heavily to another error -- Evangelistic Authority. A circuit-riding preacher would drop in periodically, and sermon-hungry brethren raised him to a pedestal of adulation. Priestly concepts of authority developed, and spheres of influence became virtual dioceses.

The better aspects of the plan are seen in good churches today, training their men and regularly placing them before the church as teachers. This may not seem "new" and "exciting" but it certainly beats turning things over to a group of uninformed, emotionally motivated folk, guided by what spirit?? (1JO4:1-6; LUK.9:55)