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Does it seem ironic to you that in a time when we have free access to the Bible, in dozens of translations and media format; that at a time when we have free access to Bible study resources that people used to spend good money for, such as Bible dictionaries, concordances, and commentaries, we are so biblically illiterate?
Barna Research shows that only 5% of Americans consider the Bible central and transformative in their life, and nearly 50% are almost completely or completely disengaged with it.
Biblical skepticism is growing and 1/3 of Americans never used their Bible at all in 2019.
What is surprising in all of this is our culture is saturated with biblical teaching.
Online Bible studies make daily and weekly study of God’s Word far more accessible to those who have busy schedules, most of which come with free resources; removing the economic barrier for the low income.
And yet we’re moving farther and farther away from actual biblical literacy.
Even those who do spend time daily in God’s Word have an astounding lack of understanding and depth of biblical knowledge.
3 Hidden Dangers of Elite Christianity
Over the past few decades, as the hub of the church moved away from local congregations and on to celebrity Bible teachers and Christian radio and TV personalities, personal study of the Bible began to trickle off as people began relying on biblical experts to tell them about the Bible, rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to speak directly to them from the Bible.
The Internet has only increased this exponentially with the birth of YouTube and social media.
Now we have even more access, free access, to the teachings of these celebrity Bible teachers; and our reliance on them has only grown greater.
This reliance has been created through their promises to uncover mysteries and hidden truths that only they have discovered; and over time we have unconsciously begun to believe that we are unable to understand God’s Word for ourselves without their commentary.
We believe that we need their complex and educated understanding of God’s Word to really digest it properly.+
Read the post: 3 Ways to Spot Apostasy in the Church
This dependence upon Bible teachers to spoon-feed us God’s Word has not only resulted in massive spiritual developmental issues in the church, it has created what I call “Elite Christianity”.
Elite Christianity – or elite Christians – are those who have become elevated in the body to those ones who know how to do it better.
- They know how to teach God’s Word better
- They know how to write worship songs better
- They know how to play and sing better
So, we have created a stage for them, and they do what they do best, while we sit back and enjoy, as Christian consumers.
Please understand, I am not saying that listening to Bible teachers or using Bible study materials is wrong, I myself offer several Bible studies. But I believe they should be supplemental, and not the only way we study God’s Word.
1. The danger of elite Christianity is the importance of the Bible is devalued
The danger in our dependence upon these elite, celebrity Bible teachers to feed us God’s Word is that we begin looking to them as almost infallible in their teaching.
Rather than being wise Bereans, we’ve become avid consumers.
“These [Bereans] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” Acts 17:11
As our culture has become saturated with these elite, celebrity Bible teachers, the actual importance of the Bible has decreased in value.
Many of these teachers spend more time entertaining us with stories of their personal encounters, or events that have happened in their life, than teaching God’s Word.
Others spend much of their time sharing extra-biblical revelation; claiming that God spoke to them or revealed something new to them that no one else has ever known before.
Things you can’t even find in the Bible.
It is disturbing that stories and extra-biblical revelation make up more of a sermon or teaching than God’s Word, even more disturbing is that we prefer this over our personal time in the Word, one-on-one, just me and Jesus.
No third party.
No voice of human, fallible, fallen man speaking in my ear, telling me what I am reading and what to think.
2. People listen more to commentary than the voice of God
What if I told you that you could understand the Bible, even deeply understand the Bible, without listening to a Bible teacher or attending a theological university?
What if I told you that you don’t need biblical commentary to understand God’s Word?
While there is a place for Bible teachers and commentary, the danger in becoming too reliant on it is that we stop listening to the voice of God.
When our diet consists more of blog posts, written commentary about God’s Word, podcasts about God’s Word, and sermons, and less actual reading of God’s Word without human voices filling our ears, we become spiritually malnourished.
Even more dangerous is that this creates a perfect environment for false teachers.
Elite Christianity elevates devotionals and commentary about God’s Word above God’s actual Word, as consumers grow dependent upon what is easily digestible.
Dear sister, you don’t need the regurgitated meat of the Word, you need to chew on the actual meat and digest it yourself!
3. People are less connected with their local church, even disconnecting
Elite, celebrity Christianity has given birth to the mega-church and a culture that Paul spoke out against in 1st Corinthians.
“Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.'” 1 Corinthians 1:12
Instead of following Christ, we are following Christian celebrities and the elite in the body of Christ.
- Elite pastors of mega churches
- Elite Bible teachers
- Elite worship leaders
- Elite Christian bloggers and authors
Fallen man who is fallible, broken, and flawed.
And as we create followings around these elite Christian celebrities, we become more connected with their community than we are with our local church.
Barna research shows that the number of young people leaving the church has increased to 64%. (source)
As God’s Word is being preached less and less from the pulpit, and as more and more pastors preach pop-psychology, pseudo-science, and self-empowerment / self-help messages, we see a growing disinterest and disillusionment with the church.
Of course we do!
There is no power to save, deliver, and transform in psychology and science!
There is no salvation in ourselves – if we could save ourselves there would be no need for Jesus Christ!
We have moved away from the very bedrock of our faith and begun to worship humankind, science, and academia; and this goes hand-in-hand with the culture of Christian elitism and celebrityism.
Because as people leave the local church, they very often still remain connected to these elite Christians, as it gives them a sense of still being connected to God and their faith.
God designed the local church to be His body, a source of encouragement and accountability for our spiritual growth and maturity.
“…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
Dear sisters, I am gravely concerned for the body of Christ in our culture! I am deeply burdened by the amount of deception I hear in preaching and read in articles and blog posts. I am grieved by the number of Christians who are disconnecting and “deconverting”.
But this is the natural outcome of elite Christianity. History is there to remind us.
Read more posts in this series: