BLOG: This time we had a pop quiz on Bible literacy in church
What happens when the leader of your small group is a professional educator giving literature classes to sophomores in high school and graduate students of the AP? I found out the hard way: you get a pop quiz in church!
This happened to me a few weeks ago, but I won’t tell you what my score was. Let’s just say, I hope there is a curve on the finish!
My church group leader, Jeff Jordan is an ordained pastor whom God called into public education. He is Professor of AP Literature at Guthrie High School and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English (OSU) and Masters in Religious Education (SWBTS). He has university degrees as an educator. But he also has the heart of a pastor who wants to equip believers in their understanding of the Word.
One lesson I learned from Jeff is that the only time you can mishandle the Word and it is not considered a sin is when you are alone or in a learning environment as a student. Then you can learn from your mistakes (like taking a quiz). Wrongly manipulating the Bible becomes a sin when you try to guess what scripture means without doing any study and teaching your uniformed hunches to someone else as Bible truth. Jeff takes seriously the biblical warning that says:
“Be diligent in presenting yourselves approved to God, a worker who need not be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 HCSB).
He leads the small group of which I have been a member for a few years. I like the conversations he prompts us to have and I like to soak up his ideas.
And, as a professional, Jeff decided to see what would happen if he eliminated some of what he had put in us by using a 50 question Bible literacy quiz.
Jeff gave us 20 minutes to do the test. (That’s right, he timed us.) It was a little unusual to take a quiz at church, but our group did a great job.
I asked Jeff to answer a few questions about Bible literacy from an educator’s perspective.
Q: Why should Christians test themselves on knowledge of the Bible?
Jeff: Christians should test * their Bible literacy themselves, so that they know where they are missing and can make adjustments in their Bible reading and Bible study. (They should also consider the methods they used and make adjustments to them.)
If we question ourselves regularly, it also helps us consolidate what we know and sink it deeper into our long-term memory. Quizzes can happen in a number of ways, but as an English teacher I think there are some tough doctrinal questions we should solve on paper – journaling or writing down our thoughts as this will help us deepen what we know.
* testing is a scary word for most people. I like the words “question or evaluate”
Q: What is at stake if Christians cannot read the Bible?
Jeff: Anyway, the big commission can’t be fulfilled. One aspect of the disciple maker is “teach them to observe everything I have commanded you(Matt. 28:20 a CSB). Believers must teach in order to reproduce, and we cannot teach the truth that we do not know.
Second, if we cannot read the Bible, we are susceptible to false teachings. Pierre reminds us that “There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and bring rapid destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their depraved ways, and the way of truth will be slandered because of them.”(2 Peter 2: 1-2 CSB).
Q: What should Christians take away from the educational practice of tests and quizzes?
Jeff: We need to understand the purpose of tests and quizzes. The problem is, we went to school and learned a bunch of bad habits. When we understand the purpose, our precious time can be maximized. Regular quizzes (and small quizzes work best for most of us) help us retain what we learn for longer.
We cannot be afraid of having the wrong answer; our Bible studies should be places where we can make and correct mistakes. Those responsible for Bible studies can subtly interrogate through the questions they ask or simply give quizzes on literature (multiple choice, etc.). We have to embrace tough questions and work to get them the right answers.
Part of us quizzing has to be putting what we are learning into our own words (this is where journaling can be a huge benefit).
Learning science tells us that if we practice elaboration (elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in our own words and relating it to what we already know), it does not There is no known limit to what we can learn. Make it stick by Peter Brown is a good book on this subject.
Q: What is a good strategy for improving your knowledge of the Bible?
Jeff: I think the number one thing is to read the Bible. I know this sounds like an oversimplification, but we have to read the Bible daily in pieces. Our main text should be the Bible (devotions have their place, but if we read more of what someone says about the Bible and not the Bible itself, we are in trouble). The other points I would like to include are:
- We are to read the Bible throughout each year. In doing this we have to vary the way we do it. If you’ve never read the Bible in chronological order, it must be done (but if you really want to benefit from this exercise, calculate the timeline on your own – don’t just grab what someone else did and follow this plan).
- We should study the Bible regularly. Most people do not study the Bible regularly. They allow someone else to do it, and then they study the Bible.
- Those of us who have learned to study well must teach others to do the same. We are to be disciple-makers. If we want to do it right, we will have to read and study.
You do not need to be a professional teacher to use the principles of education in your personal scripture study. If you want to try it, here is a Bible quiz you can try. here is another. If you like these, a quick internet search will lead you to a lot more quizzes than you can try.
Jeff makes some good points, if we don’t test ourselves how will we know if we have learned?
Our small church group sometimes considers bringing Bible questions to our meetings and making our quest for Bible literacy a fun fellowship time as well.
This is our plan. What will your small group do?