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I Don’t Attend Small Groups…

May 13, 2011

But if I did, I would go to this one:

Via Unsettled Christianity whose byline reads, “sanctam ecclesiam catholicam; sanctorum communionem” which roughly translated means, “We don’t really know what we’re talking about but we’re going to keep writing posts anyways.”

(Just kidding. Don’t tell them I said this but Joel and Jeremy are pretty good guys.)

I did, however, comment at their site concerning this video as to why I do not attend small groups:

Though to be honest, I don’t go to a small group anymore. I am not trying to be an elitist but to sit around and study the Bible with persons who quite frequently want to ‘teach’ everyone in the group what the ‘Spirit’ has been showing them in their own private study about what the Bible ‘really’ means is mostly a waste of my time… other than material for blog posts. Very often, these people will read these verses through such a distorted lens to make some sort of point unconnected to any historical location, free from any ideological continuity with any group from second temple Judaism or early Christianity, lacking context from any social situation that can be identified, and break nearly every rule of theological and exegetical inquiry, all without recognizing their own assumptions or hermeneutical lens, that sometimes, I would find myself getting angry at the unbridled arrogance and stupidity.

Waste. Of. Time.

At my last small group I attended, a person went on a five minute rant about humanists and liberals, and about how some sinner at her work–what an idiot he supposedly was–who told her that Genesis had two creation narratives. The entire group laughed in derision until I pointed out that there actually are two creation stories. “What?” “What are you talking about?” was the kind of response I suspiciously received until I showed them in the text that indeed the evil humanist was correct. I had another gentleman lose his junk on me after a tirade of his about some Law/Grace dichotomy that he was regurgitating from somewhere when I pointed out that Paul thought the Law was Holy and good. After he went on an ad hominem attack I suggested he open his Bible to Romans, and I read the verse to him. Not being able to admit that perhaps his argument needed a bit of nuance, he responded by saying, “You don’t know how to read the Bible.” [FYI, for those that do not know: when Paul uses the word Law it is not referring to legalism]

Simply put, I cannot sit in a room full of dilettantes who haven’t even read the entire Bible, have no theological training, acumen, or talent whatsoever, but yet want to instruct me on what it really means. No thank you. If I want to hang out with a group of people and have a good time I’ll go out with my buds for a beer after our hockey game, or invite some friends I actually like over for a BBQ. If I want to ‘study’ the Bible I will read or talk to people who actually know what they are talking about (or read my own papers because they are brilliant! ;-) )

I take it back: I am an elitist!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2011 11:09 am

    Scott, that was awesome.

    Next time you’re in Langley for some reason, I’d totally buy you a drinnk.

  2. Greg Jeffers permalink
    May 13, 2011 1:39 pm

    Yeah, dude, your so badass.

    • May 13, 2011 2:27 pm

      “Bad ass” is not really what I was going for… but hey, if the shoe fits…

  3. Greg Jeffers permalink
    May 13, 2011 1:44 pm

    Actually, I agree with you, but I see moments like that as an opportunity to teach people. People don’t know any better because they have never learned. And, anyway, “small group” shouldn’t be about figuring out correct biblical interpretation, it should be about learning to love people like Jesus loved people. Having bad exegesis isn’t why Jesus was pissed at the Pharisees (though they did) it was because they wouldn’t love people.

    • Jon Hendry permalink
      May 14, 2011 12:30 am

      “Actually, I agree with you, but I see moments like that as an opportunity to teach people. ”

      I’d think the risk there, especially for Scott, is that he’d eventually be seen as a ‘know-it-all’, and then the rest of the group would move the meetings and not tell him the new location.

    • Chris E permalink
      May 14, 2011 12:31 pm

      “People don’t know any better because they have never learned. And, anyway, “small group” shouldn’t be about figuring out correct biblical interpretation, it should be about learning to love people like Jesus loved people.”

      Whilst it’s possible to start off with the right premises (correct biblical interpretation) and end up with the wrong goal, it’s not possible to achieve the end goal without the correct premises – unless we are shooting for some kind of civic righteousness only. Niceness on it’s own is not a gift of the holy spirit.

      Secondly, most people don’t actually come to small groups to be corrected, they come to be affirmed. Which is why bible studies in such places consist of everyone sharing contradictory opinions, agreeing that all opinions are correct, followed by a time of prayer.

  4. May 13, 2011 5:47 pm


    The Next time you are in Fort Worth, Texas, free wings, courtesy of Chad of Political Jesus.

    This post was so on the money. The exact same reason I quit my small group too!

    Oh, and what about those dilettantes who think they have been educated, but they only go to websites by televangelists. Yah. Oh yah.

  5. EricW permalink
    May 13, 2011 9:24 pm

    Fortunately, I’ve never encountered anything remotely like what you’ve described in the home group I meet with.

    Isn’t there a third and maybe a fourth creation narrative in Psalms or Job?

  6. Carol permalink
    May 14, 2011 11:18 pm

    Hi Scott,

    New to your blog and loving it so far!

    This post is hitting close to home for me today because I’m starting to consider quitting small groups too.

    The leaders of my group are good Christians who love the Lord but unfortunately, their politics is also their religion. And honestly, I’ve had quite enough of their constant fear mongering. Add on top of that the usual idiotic comments based entirely on GOP/Tea Party talking points and it just gets a little much. And oh yes, let’s not forget the complete lack understanding & sensitivity to racial differences.

    But I don’t really know how to do it without having to go thru all the awkwardness…..=(

  7. Chris E permalink
    May 15, 2011 2:54 am

    Incidentally, on a more serious note, Robert Wuthnow has written on the long term effects of small groups on religion – well worth reading if you are of a thoughtful bent, and your church heavily invests in them.

  8. May 15, 2011 3:01 pm

    I thought hermeneutics was some brand of perfume.

  9. Tim permalink
    October 15, 2013 4:16 pm

    Scott, after reading through a number of your blogs I kept recognizing an underlying theme. It may not be intentional, but I think it is. You are a mocker. Some of if it, if not most of it, is pretty right on- at least the criticism of poor behavior or whatever. You blithely castigate small groups as a place of ignorant dilettantes who are trying to teach you. People who haven’t read through the Bible, taken theology, etc.- how dare they teach you.

    Scott, I was once a missionary in Africa and most of the pastors and elders I served with hadn’t read the whole Bible because they didn’t have a whole Bible- much less theology classes. Yet when these men spoke about Christ it was just like they had left the room He was in. Often they would walk for two days just to get a chance to hear another pastor share what he had learned and then walk two days back to share that with his congregation. Your level of diatribe and vitriol would be completely foreign to them. I was often humbled by their level of intimacy with Christ without the trappings of Western education, but above all they were humble and teachable.

    You seem to have a purpose in your blogs, it seems to protect people from snakes in the grass and other deceptive or harmful people. You honestly seem to care about people, and yet there always seems to be some poor benighted creature at the end of your sabre in every post. I see little love- aside from your homage to your wife- and very little redemption in what you have to say. I wonder if Jesus is holding up a printout of your blogs in heaven and showing the angels and saying “See this is what happens when my servants get arrogant and critical and have way too much time on their hands. When this guy gets to heaven- no internet for him.”

    Scott, there are a lot of blogs from 2007 until the present-most of them seemingly critical and harsh un-redemptive crap, is this the best way you could spend the blessing of a creative mind that God has given you?



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