Approaches to worship assemblies and Bible studies changed dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s. Churches of all kinds turned to entertaining performances to draw crowds. They succeeded—for a while. Places of worship became more like concerts, theaters, circuses and rodeos. Church leaders looked for anything new and cool to keep people coming back.
Churches of Christ were caught up in this chaos, though usually not to the extremes of others. One shift was the use of movies and television shows to “teach biblical lessons.” One journal that was supposed to teach Christianity began reviewing movies to notice their “spiritual themes.” As these would-be Christian film critics analyzed popular movies, they pointed readers to vague and distorted parallels to something that was in the Bible. It didn’t matter to them that the movie was often R rated and had all kinds of profanity and sex scenes. If it contained a small hint of something good, it deserved a commentary.
Some years later another fad appeared. It was the “Back to Mayberry” Bible study program for churches. Based on the Andy Griffith Show, this series had people in Bible classes watching an episode of the program or portions of it and giving their observations about how it related to the Bible. Like other fads, you hear little about this method of study today. Why?
The most recent trend is to watch the television show The Chosen at church services and use it as a basis for Bible study. The series mixes biblical people and events with fiction. One church shows an episode on Sunday nights and the members meet in small groups the next week to discuss it.
Have we become so obsessed as a culture with television and movies that we cannot even meet to worship and study the Bible without them? Are we so lazy that we need actors to motivate us to think about God and eternity?
The whole idea of watching a movie or a show to find some biblical point assumes that those who watch it know their Bible well enough to see a Bible parallel. It also assumes that they have enough Bible knowledge to distinguish fact from fiction. This is a serious mistake. Even worse is allowing a source of entertainment to be the focus of a “Bible class.”
There were many shows in New Testament times. A large outdoor theater in Ephesus, for instance, offered dramatic performances and other events. Paul spent over two years there. He “went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading the things of the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8). After this he taught the disciples daily in the school of Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:9-10). If watching actors is such a good way to “study the Bible,” then why didn’t Paul take these Christians to the theater and train them?
A Bible study should be a study of the Bible. It should never be secondary. People read the Scriptures seldom enough as it is.