Monday, April 16, 2007

Beth Moore and Eating Out

I'm not critical of Beth Moore, but I am of us. My feelings towards Beth Moore are like my feelings about eating out. I have this ambivalence: I'm glad she's around and that she's speaking and passionately propounding the beauties of Scripture, I'm also troubled by how easily her Bible studies become our bible studies.

Last week I felt tired and uncreative almost every evening. When 7:30pm rolled around and both Fincher bellies were empty, the last thing I wanted to do was scrounge around in the fridge for some suspicious smelling leftovers. Mostly, I opted to eat out, because it was made-up, served-up and cleaned up and over with in about a 1/2 hour. Since, we have to eat, let's go out. Panera is a lot simpler than home-made paninis.

Don't get me wrong, I love eating at home (even if it's just a microwaved meal with carrot sticks). The home-cooked meals offer me a chance to customize, to notice the details, to present the food and to make sure it's really good for us. Though with our schedules it's becoming more rare (One of the things I miss on the road is cooking our own food, yet when I get home, where's the time?!) when I cook our meals, both Dale and I can sigh with contentment afterwards.

There is a dying tradition of mining out the good foods at the market, feeling the tomatoes for their quality, smelling the melons for their ripeness, then lugging it all home, unloading, putting away. Then, a few hours ahead of your hunger pains peeling, dicing, paring, simmering, sauteeing, baking, cooling, slicing, serving. Eating is just the last part of a longer process.

Eating out all the time is like doing another person's Bible study all the time. Sometimes we need to eat-in.

There is a dying tradition of mining out the old, old stories from Scripture, of poring over long passages at a time, or of meditating on one verse for a half an hour, wondering what one word means and cross-referencing it with your concordance or looking it up on Bible to see what other versions say, of getting caught up with what one passage means and following it like Alice followed the white rabbit, losing all track of time. Few people set aside hours to read Scripture, if we're really disciplined we get 20 minute chunks a day, or 2 hours of frantic filling the the blanks the day before Bible study. But if we do spent this type of time with Scripture, we will get a satisfied feeling in our souls. This food was something we dug for, something we found, a first person, un-mediated experience of the God we want to know better.

I'm an old-fashioned believer in the goodness of the process. That when I take time to cook, the eating is better. That when I take time to be with the Triune God, he will show me something about the passage that will be a long-term satisfaction, lasting me through the weeks. I'm not saying don't listen to Beth Moore anymore than I'm swearing off eating out (though I have in the past and it was a good season). What I am saying is that if we rely on a Bible study to find out about God and never approach him one-on-one, we might miss the quality of Scripture, just like we miss the quality of a home-cooked meal.

Once in a while we need to shop and cook and eat for a meal at home. It will be a lot more work, but we will be glad we did. Once in a while we need to meet God as our only Bible study companion, no book, no list of questions to guide us, no video to propel us. We might get frustrated that we're not in and out in 30 minutes (home-cooked meals usually take a good 1-2 hours) or that we cannot find the right measurement tool (we may get stumped with the mysterious places of the Bible--that happens to me every time I study it). Regardless we need to do it. Why? Because Bible studying shouldn't always be an eating-out experience, with pre-packaged, mass-produced bullet-points and meditation questions. God can customize for us better than that.


Anonymous said...

I just read your most recent blog on Beth Moore and eating out...very true. Last year I was going through a really rough time.... I was angry, scared, lonely, questioning...and I was supposed to lead a Bible study that I didn't feel qualified to lead at all. But a friend challenged me that God doesn't want to use strong people.... He uses weak people, and He is their strength. So I started out trying to prepare for Bible study...I spent at least a week on just a few verses, thinking about them, looking up words, cross-referencing other passages on similar subjects...and it was the most rewarding study I've ever done. Each week was the same. I brought my broken self…and He brought all the rest.

Lois said...

A good comparison. I would add that the more time we spend in the kitchen or in our study of the Bible, the easier, the more comfortable the process becomes. It still requires labor, time, energy, but there is joy in the process. We easily get dulled by the convenience of others doing the work for us and forget that there are even other options out there.

Shannon said...

Hey Jonalyn!

You spoke at my school, Pusch Ridge Chistian Academy, about a month or two ago and I really learned alot that day. I'm sure you hear this alot and if you don't I think you should, but there is something about you that just amazes me.

My mother does Beth Moore studies and I have tried doing other Bible studies but I find that I don't get as much depth out of them as I do from experiences and from trusting God to feed my soul with what He wants to say.

I'm looking forward to learning more from you as time goes on and you and Dale will be in my prayers!


p.s. Did you know you're beautiful?

Anonymous said...

I've never read your blogs before, but this one was interesting.
AS I have matured in my faith, I have become a student of the Word as you have described. I remind you, though, that many "young" in their faith need guidance in their sutdies, and Beth is a great teacher and model to all of us on how to become that great "student" of the word that you speak of.
In my teaching profession, I have learned that "modeling" is the most affective approach. I am so thankful that God has given Beth this ministry. Millions of women are now studying on their own because of her obedience to His calling.
Praise God for the revelation He has given you, but be careful about using "names" of God's chosen in any sort of negative way.
Thanks for your insight.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Dear Anonymous above,
Wanted to thank you for interacting with this idea. I like that you took time to note the value of Beth Moore's model for us, especially young believers. I do think, however, that women need to be more willing to go to God on their own without any Bible study or guidance from another. This, as I tried to explain in this post, is not a weakness of Beth Moore. It is our weakness. I'm disappointed you saw my post as a criticism of Beth, it was intended to be a criticism of our reliance on Beth. Any good model's methods, in the end, cannot and should not be our final goal. Growth means finding and needing new models, who we will also grow out of. I believe this growth often involves critiquing models that worked for us in the past and pressing outward for new ones. As we grow to experience God's word and truth in new ways, we need different parts of the body. That's where we cannot consistently rely on Beth's studies for the goal is not to be like Beth Moore, it is to be like Christ.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post! There is nothing quite like getting a piece of steak to chew on, so to speak. It gives me an absolute thrill when I learn something from Scripture that didn't come from someone else. The Lord wants to teach us things in His way and I'm glad that you're pointing this out.

Anonymous said...

Good post. I do think though that if some of the people who use BM's studies as their own did not do that they would not do anything. A little time in the word, even if it is being driven by a mass product, is better than no time in the word.

Let me also add, many Christians today are clueless to studying the bible. They don't know how. The church has failed in equipping the saints for such a personal task.

my 2 cents only...

Jonalyn Fincher said...

In response, thanks for your thoughts. I agree that few know how to read the bible. That is one reason we have a teaching series on that. You might enjoy listening/passing it along to others. See, click to Library and the series is called "how to read the bible". I originally gave this talk to junior highers, who ate it up. It always goes over very well and gives people a chance to feel they can own the Bible again.
Hope you enjoy!

Anonymous said...

A great way to put it. I'm not opposed to Beth Moore studies,but there's so much more fulfillment when we do the hard work. I get that not everyone has time or some people are dipping their toes in the spiritual waters, so her studies serve a good purpose.
I guess I'm just left a little unsatisfied unless I'm the one doing the digging in the Bible.