Bible Study vs. Black Churches
Most Christians that I know go to church on Sunday. They sing and praise and put something on the offering plate. They socialize and check out each other’s outfit and afterward they go home, and never open a bible till the next Sunday rolls around and then, they do it all over again.
And then you have me. I personally don't enjoy going to church. I know I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true. And I’ll tell you why. Firstly, it’s too long. If you’ve ever been to a black church then you are aware of what I’m talking about. While each church may operate a little differently, there are some basic themes that most black churches follow.
They sing between 3-5 long songs, they send the collection plate around 2-3 times (I usually end up having to stop at the ATM on my way into the sanctuary, which is now located in the lobby for our "convenience"), they welcome visitors (which can be nerve wrecking for some), they announce the sick and shut-ins, and finally they have the sermon.
The sermon is usually about 30 minutes long. The pastor reads from 1-2 verses of scripture and is supposed to break down the meaning. But in most black churches, this is a real art form. Black pastors and ministers are very excitable. They do a lot of shouting and jumping around the pulpit. They aim to get people excited about GOD. Now some people love this style of preaching. It gets them out of their seats, their hands start waving, and their heads start swaying back and forth in praise. It’s almost like the pastor is his own hype man. Except everybody isn’t getting hype.
Some people, like myself, prefer a teaching style of preaching. Where instead of being yelled at, their being taught the word of GOD through clear presentation and calm speech. I don’t need anybody to shout at me to feel the holy spirit in the room. And all the theatrics are just that, theatrics. I’m not saying these aren’t true men of GOD, but I believe they put on a show for the church members. And some people really enjoy it, and leave feeling refreshed, and that's wonderful. But how much did they learn from the performance? I bet if you asked half of church goers, what the pastor preached about last Sunday, very few of them could remember. If you can’t remember what the word was on Sunday, how is GOD truly able to transform your life?
Therefore, I prefer bible study. Bible study typically lasts 1 hour. There are no songs, no collection plates passed around. And the best part is, we actually study the bible. In a bible study , you learn firsthand, what the word of GOD says. You read not just one verse, but you can delve into an entire book of the Bible. You learn the major characters, major events, and most importantly, you learn what pleases GOD and what displeases him. You can even learn the basics, like how many books are in the bible and why are they broken up into 2 parts.
But, if all you ever do is go to church on Sunday, and never open your Bible Monday through Saturday, you are not learning the word of GOD.
"Study to shew thyself approved unto GOD, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV
Church is more about fellowship than anything else. It might plant the seed for someone to begin the journey of learning about Christ, but it won’t teach you that much. The sermon is more like an inspirational word of the week. But unless you study the Bible for yourself, outside of the church, you’ll never really know GOD.
And when you don’t know his word for yourself, you will be easily misled by false teachers and preachers, and you’ll start to believe things that aren’t truly in the bible. Widely spread misconceptions about GOD will become like fact to you, such as:
- If you are a generally good person, you’ll get into heaven,
- To get into heaven, you need only to believe in God
- Some sins are worst than others
- God wants us to condemn gays and lesbians
These statements are false, but spewed by pseudo-Christians every day. Many people believe these myths to be true because of what they have heard other Christians say. And plenty of would-be-Christians have turned their backs on the church based on false teachings and ignorance. But when you know the Bible for yourself, ignorance will have less of an effect on your view of GOD and you can begin establishing your own relationship with him.
Another reason why I prefer Bible study over church, is because usually a Bible study group is small and intimate. Fellowship in a small group is more comfortable for most people. You start to feel connected to these people. But more importantly, you get the opportunity to ask questions. You can engage with your facilitator and classmates in open discussions, which will really help you in the learning process.
In my bible study group, we have a great facilitator, we play games, and do trivia. We even get homework throughout the week, which forces us to study through the week. And let’s face it, we should be studying the bible for at least 15-30 minutes daily.
Being in a bible study group, and getting to know GOD has changed me a lot. I’m more patient, I don’t seek revenge, I’m slow to anger, I speak less and listen more, I seek out wisdom more, and my faith has grown immensely. Plus, I’m proud that there’s a subject I now know a lot about. But even more importantly, I now try to turn away from sin. Sin just doesn’t feel a fun as in used to. That’s not to say that I’m perfect, because I’m certainly not. There are still things that I do, that I should not do. And I am working every day to break those habits. But there’s no doubt that I am a better person because of my relationship with Christ.
If you haven’t done so yet, I urge you to begin your relationship with Christ, by joining a bible study group. Perhaps your current church has one, or maybe you know someone who teaches bible study from their home, the way my dad does. Seek them out. Find one that you feel comfortable in. I started with a beginners’ bible study group, and we are still going strong, 5 years later. It’s every Friday night and I try never to miss a class. Whereas I had to drag myself to church on Sunday, I now go freely and happily to bible study each Friday. There is no happy hour that I feel like I’m missing on Friday nights. I’m right where I’m supposed be, among the spirit of GOD.
"For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." Matthew 18:20 NLT
Until next time, stay prayed up