Sunday, June 30, 2013

the next beth moore

If you spend any time around women’s retreats or conferences, you will know that the most frequent compliment women pay to a young speaker is “She’s the next Beth Moore.”  What they mean is that they believe the speaker is gifted, and that is a kind thing to express. But I confess that I hope there will not be another Beth Moore. I hope there will never be another like her again.

I spent the past year teaching through Exodus. It was with no small amount of intimidation that I wrote and taught the portion covering the construction of the tabernacle. Any woman who knows anything about women’s Bible study knows the definitive work on the tabernacle was done by Beth Moore. It was her first study, and it was also the first study I ever participated in. Having just traded my career for new motherhood, I signed up for a summer Bible study at my church, desperate to get out of the house.

I had never heard a woman teach like that. Not ever.

Like thousands of other women, I felt awakening in me a compulsion to know this God who reveals Himself to those who earnestly seek Him in the pages of Scripture. I was hooked. Eventually I began writing and teaching my own studies, always mindful of the debt I and so many others owe her.

a sense of urgency

So when I began writing the tabernacle portion of my own study, I got down my old copy of “A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place” for the first time in years. As much as anything else, I wanted to avoid unintentionally plagiarizing, but I also wanted to be reminded of the reverent approach Beth had brought to the teaching. Re-reading her words, as well as the clumsy answers scrawled in the blanks by a sleep-deprived new mom, brought back the memory of that newborn urgency I had felt seventeen years ago – that sense of my deep need to know the Bible better, that sense that I was able, and that someone (a woman!) was finally showing me how.

That urgency never left me. The longer I teach, the more convinced I become that Bible literacy must be reclaimed among the body of believers, specifically among women. We don’t know our Bibles like we should - if there is one thing that keeps me up at night, that’s it. Most days I know I’m not alone in my conviction, but I imagine that two decades ago there were many days Beth Moore felt like she was. I imagine there were many days she felt like she was shouting into the wind.

many builders

And that’s why I pray there will never be another Beth Moore. I pray that the field of equipped women teachers will never again be as vacant as it was when she burst onto it with her Texas-sized hair and her preacher-sized passion. I pray that every community and church and living room would be so populated with women championing Bible literacy that our eyes would cease wandering the horizon for the next big thing. Like Moses handing over the instructions for the tabernacle to the able hands of the builders, I pray that Beth’s faithful instruction would result in many able literacy-builders, eagerly constructing a meeting-place between God and women in the pages of His Word.

I pray that her work would bear so much fruit that she would teach herself into obsolescence. I pray no less for myself.

Do you teach the Bible? Work tirelessly to eliminate the possibility of another Beth Moore. Sisters, don’t look to replace her voice: look to replicate her vision. Let us commit that no one voice will ever again be as loud because the need will never again be as great. Let the cry for Bible literacy be raised not through the amplification of a single voice, but through the harmonization of many voices - each with her own style of teaching, her own contribution to make. I am not the Next Beth Moore. I hope you aren’t either. May Christian women know such bounty of sound female instruction that the Next Beth Moore need never arise.

19 comments:

  1. Amen, sister, amen. I do have to admit I was hoping this was a entry announcing that you were going to film one of your studies. And how I would definitely want to be there for that. But you successfully reminded me, as you always do, of my need to dig in deep into God's Word on my own.

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  2. I will confess that I've been rather negative about Beth Moore in the past, primarily because her hermeneutical approach has some pretty big flaws (in this one lady's opinion). But I failed to see her success as a positive thing, in that so many women were simply drawn to a woman teaching them the Bible with skill and passion - the whole Bible, not just Proverbs 31. I believe she was the foremother, so to speak, of other women like you and Kathleen Nielson (who's my personal favorite for both style and more solid theology) and Nancy Guthrie and Elyse Fitzpatrick and, as you say, most importantly, the many faithful women who can now stand up and say that they are Bible teachers to the women in their own churches. And for that I am definitely thankful to God!

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    1. I agree with Rachael. What alarms me more than some of Moore's hermeneutics is the near fanatical approach her supporters take. I had the audacity to review a study of hers and received nasty, cruel hate mail from both men and women alike. I was told by complete strangers to repent of my sin. I did a study where she looked at Abraham and Sarah, and I was shocked at some of the silly applications she came up with. But one dare not criticize her; not ever. And that disturbs me. Moore had no impact on me. The woman who had the most impact on me was not a "famous" Christian teacher, but a tireless woman, unknown in the halls of evangelical fame, who taught solid, biblical theology. The best thing I've seen in recent months is Keri Folmar's study on Philippians.

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  3. This is so true! Thank you.

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  4. Wow, what a good word. Thank you for this!

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  5. My wife and I have learned much from Beth Moore, but I am with you in hoping that there will be no need for someone to come along as her successor. rather, I hope that there will be so many who teach God's word well (and I must say that I agree with Rachel Stark in seeing that even Beth Moore has some areas where it can be improved) that no single person will stand out as an anomaly.

    Cheers,
    Tim

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  6. well said, Jen...as with any teacher/pastor/author, she (and her theology) will always have flaws. Any good teacher/pastor/author will always admit to that. I'm often surprised to see believers get so bent out of shape when a t/p/a speaks out and has differing position on "rib issues". The in-fighting and knit-picking are what makes unbelievers run-n-hide from Christians. Sigh. Crazy. Discernment is a wise prayer request to our God who knows that no t/p/a will know it all or get it all right. Despite our human-ness, He can use us...even with big hair and silly illustrations.

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  7. When I read this, it made me thankful for TGC women's conf (and that I live 15 min away from the conf site). Every woman theologian (all of us!) should mark calendars for the next one http://thegospelcoalition.org/2014 or make it a point to get the FREE media of speaker sessions.

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  8. When I first watched a Beth Moore video I thought, "Whoa, I don't think I can watch this lady." From her big hair to her bigger accent, I was stunned. But there are those blessed teachers that lead you from a place of watching them, critiquing them and even learning from them, to the very throne room of Jesus. I never felt she was trying to draw people to herself, and if so, only so she could take them by the hand and say, "Beloved, let me take you to see Jesus. He's right this way." Her love for Jesus is contagious and that is something to say! She loves Jesus and other so much- and that is fulfilling all the law. Aside from her accent or hair or style or technique, may we be encouraged in LOVE.

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  9. Agreed! Beth Moore's passion for the word has been an encouragement to me to spend more time reading the Bible for myself, allowing God to do as He promises, becoming a light for my path. I've attended numerous conference and heard hundreds of speakers, attended and lead Womens' Bible studies and most of all I cherish my time alone in the word with a journal reflecting God's faithfulness. Let us spur one another on in love.

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  10. This was great and encouraging! Thank you for your perspective, your voice, and your charge to women in the Church who love the Lord God, His Word, and who have a passion to end biblical illiteracy among our Christian sisters.

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  11. Are you familiar with Inductive Bible Study? A systematic method of observing what the Scripture says through asking 5 w's and h questions, marking key words and making lists; Interpretation - allowing the scripture to explain the scripture through context and cross references and finally Application which is the goal--applying what was observed beginning with belief then obedience? Want to know more here's an excellent class to get you started: http://precept.org/events/details/5134

    This method of study had transformed my life and is currently growing disciples of the Lord everywhere.

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  12. As much as I admire Beth Moore and Kay Arthur, they are dispensational and it took me years to untangle what was good from what was just wrong in their teaching.

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  13. "Sisters, don’t look to replace her voice: look to replicate her vision. Let us commit that no one voice will ever again be as loud because the need will never again be as great. Let the cry for Bible literacy be raised not through the amplification of a single voice, but through the harmonization of many voices - each with her own style of teaching, her own contribution to make."
    I couldn't agree more! I cut my spiritual teeth on Beth Moore studies and the like...but God has called me to my own mission field of teaching women to dig into God's Word for themselves now. I am so thankful for Beth's vision to press on and go before, but I COMPLETELY agree that our generation and those following need to so know Jesus through His Word Himself that they no longer pursue the "Beths" but the One and Only Word made flesh!!
    I love your heart and though I am new to your material and blog, my heart beats like yours. I will be praying for you , sister, as you press on to your own call in the Body!

    Mariel
    marieldavenport.com

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  14. Though Beth's a gifted speaker and her enthusiasm for God's word are wonderful, we still do well to realize she uses scripture sometimes out of context, or to "fit in" with her illustration, to make her own point. The problem with this is that "her own point", though emotionally moving and always a good point, may not be the same point God was making when He wrote the verse and therefore hides His point. His purpose for writing a verse is realized by studying it in context, always. For ex:In her Esther study, Est.8:8 the King tells her to “do whatever seems right to her”. In Hebrew language this is literally “what seems right in your eyes”. When my husband tells me to do what's right in my eyes that show he trusts my decisions, it's a compliment. Beth says it's kind of like when she makes her husband irritated by nagging and then he finally gets exasperated and just says,'Whatever!!!', that the king really meant, “'Knock yourself out. Do whatever you want, I don't care that much'. People self-centered like King Xerxes say, 'That's why I don't like to get involved, give people an inch & they take a mile.” Moore totally changes the meaning from the Hebrew, where the King was honoring Esther by listening to her. Moore's interpretation, however,fit into her lesson. Her fervor is wonderful & sincere, but we, as teachers, mustn't respect our own clever lessons over what God is saying in His word; rather our purpose must be to make His word known.

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  15. Jen, I've been awake and reading since 4am, it's now almost 7, and I'm so glad I've stumbled upon your blog. I was reading Clair Smith's blog about her favorite things and she mentioned your book, Women of the Word, as a favorite. I checked out the amazon link and read some comments. Your teaching and honesty resonates loudly with me. Then I read this post. "A Woman's Heart" was also my first Bible Study ever. I was just married and was invited to a small group of 4 women to do that study. It layed a foundation for me of unspeakable joy in His word. I've done several other of her studies and many others, and have been teaching women these last two years and writing my own studies. Your encouragement for Bible literacy is my delight. Thank you for blessings me today.

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  16. I hope there's never annother Beth Moore as well. I hope that because she teaches contemplative prayer, ecumenism, and extra biblical revelation. Her vision about Cathlics being saved Christians is down false teaching based off an extra biblical vision she had. It saddens me to see a respected Bible women's Bible teacher praising Beth Moore. Please use discernment when endorsing Bible teachers. Many women admire you and trust your opinion and will follow them based on your endorsement. https://carm.org/beth-moorehttps://carm.org/beth-moore

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    1. Hello Unknown,
      I'm sorry you read the piece as some sort of unqualified endorsement. Love her or hate her, you can't deny she has dramatically impacted the landscape of women's Bible study. That was my point, and it's not hard to discern. Perhaps the next time you leave a negative comment you could leave your name as well? Warm regards, Jen

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