Bible Study Fellowship – and HE will MAKE YOUR PATH STRAIGHT

While this is not the last blog I’ll write on the topic of Bible Study Fellowship, this is the final post in what has turned into series on the topic. I’ve stated previously that I don’t intend to address certain (or any) aspects of BSF in detail. If you’re interested in knowing about the eight year-long classes that BSF offers or you want to see who is on their Board of Directors or what the organization espouses as truth, visit their website.

Over the years, God has used BSF (sometimes speaking through the teaching leader, sometimes through other women in my discussion group, and mostly through His Word) to challenge, encourage, motivate, admonish, direct, comfort, correct and strengthen me. I’ve grown to appreciate the strengths of the systems and curriculum created by BSF — systems and curriculum that has been designed with the desired purpose of connecting people with God through His Word. Period.

Those of you who know me will not be surprised to read that, as I grew to love and appreciate this organization, I also began to identify issues and challenges and (my opinion) places where the system might be tweaked for greater impact.  I began to see BSF with a critical eye. At first that criticism wanted to find expression in grumbling and complaint — Have you noticed that often the first outlet of criticism is neither helpful or Christ-like? When I denied myself the “right” to express or harbor this critical spirit and asked God to remove any wrong thinking from me, my vision began to change. SOME of the things that I’d found unbearable early on faded completely in their import and other things…well, other things came into focus as opportunities.

With this new clarity, I was at a point of soft crisis personally. My nature is to insert myself into the middle of things like this (when I see great potential in and have great admiration for someone or something — and that is coupled by a clarity around thing that need to be “fixed” — I can hardly keep my hands out of it). I started considering how I could “help.” Now, I don’t apologize that I am wired to see things the way I see them as well as to respond and engage the way I do. I am convinced that God created me and intends to work through me according to my gifts and skills and talents. HOWEVER, I do have to sometimes apologize for HOW I engage. Understanding the difference between these two is an ongoing growth area for me. (Welcome to humanity.)

I am rather engaged in my life and ministry with Wycliffe Bible Translators — a role filled with a significant measure of challenge, one to which I know I’ve been called for  a (long) season —  and that busyness ensured that I did not act quickly. Eventually I came to a place where I sensed that God was not going to let me insert myself in the “fixing” of BSF. To shorten what could be a much longer story (quit grinning), I’ll simply say that God wanted me to pay more attention to HIM and less to the structures and systems of BSF. In addition, I sensed his admonition to me to pray for those in leadership in BSF, and to trust Him to do what He wanted to do however He wanted to do it. By God’s grace, I did listened.

It was in the months/years following this giving-up of my desire to do something that my joy in studying in BSF began to increase significantly. Amazing what happens over time when I let go of my “right” to criticize and then my “right” to control. When I choose to trust, to love, and to support.

This past October, Bob Creson (President of Wycliffe USA and my “boss”) asked if he could recommend me to serve on a board/committee/council thing to which he’d been invited. Presidents get a lot of invitations to serve in these types of things, many of which they have to decline. Occasionally an invitation comes along that Bob needs to decline for lack of personal capacity, but he sees a high enough value in it so ask someone to represent/replace him in the opportunity. The organization who’d extended this invitation was Bible Study Fellowship, International. Without knowing anything about the purpose of the group, I said YES. Bob was asking and it was for BSF. Seemed like a no-brainer to me.

A short time later, when I spoke on the phone with Bob Duggins (who was coordinating the group on behalf of Susie Rowan, the Executive Director of BSF) and found out the purpose of this Global Advisory Council, I was far more surprised than I should have been. The BSF Board had identified areas as having significant potential for impact but which also would require change in the BSF “system.” They were asking this Council to serve in an advisory capacity for Susie and her team in thinking through possible ways forward. In a letter from the Board on the BSF Int’l website you can read for yourself the kinds of things this group of leaders is considering.

How extraordinary of God to orchestrate this opportunity for me to participate in a small way in the process of exploring ideas and considering options for the next season of influence for Bible Study Fellowship, International. BSF’s leaders (both in their Board and their Executive Director and her team) are godly women and men who are seeking to hear God’s voice and divine God’s plan for this organization over which they’ve been given stewardship for this season. I’m not sure whether I’m more (simultaneously) humbled & excited about the opportunity to serve this organization I’ve grown to love and respect or about the way that God has used this journey to teach me anew that when I acknowledge Him in all things, He straightens out the path before me in His time and His way.

It was on my trip to San Antonio to participate in this first meeting of the Global Impact Council that I took the walk and found the rock. Now that story is more complete. You see, it was in the context of the rest of this working that God demonstrated His amazing, gracious love with the perfect gift of a stone.

2 thoughts on “Bible Study Fellowship – and HE will MAKE YOUR PATH STRAIGHT

  1. Lynn says:

    I was in BSF for four years. The lectures and study notes were excellent. Over time, however, I began to have a problem with the rules and regulations. The teaching leader seemed to announce a new one each week. For instance, we were told to stop clicking our pens and zipping our Bible covers shut when the lecture ended, as this was distracting to those who were still writing. We could not sit where we wanted to in the sanctuary (during lecture). Prayer requests had to be approved in advance by the small group leader, and could only pertain to ourselves or our immediate family. My friend was not allowed to submit a prayer request for her neighbor, who was newly widowed with three small children.

    I asked to switch to the day class for the last three lectures of the year (not including sharing night). I had just changed jobs and was required to attended a training class on Tuesday nights, the same night as BSF. I didn’t expect or want to be placed in a new small group with only three sessions to go. All I wanted was to sit quietly in the sanctuary during small group time, then listen to the lecture and pick up my study notes. Unfortunately, switching classes so late in the year was “against regulations.” There are no words to convey how devastated I felt at missing those last three classes. For me, BSF was never the same again. I returned in the fall, but only for a few weeks. I felt that I didn’t belong there anymore. A popular question is “what would Jesus do?” I know He would have welcomed me into the day class, and I know He would have allowed my friend’s prayer request for her neighbor.

    • Shaelan says:

      I truly can understand the “letdown” that Lynn has felt. I am in leadership and continue to feel the disconnect and discontent about the rules/regulations BSF imposes on group members. I am sure that I will be reported to my Teaching Leader or Headquarters because I do accept prayer requests outside of one’s family circle. I think that you could have shown up as a visitor at another location and listened to the lecture afterwards. Since I did not personally know the “rule”, I decided to attend an evening class. This was w/o me notifying the “other” class that I was coming. I showed up, informed the Class Administrator that I was considering attending an evening BSF class and would it be okay to visit this evening. There was no problem. I signed a visitor sheet and was directed to the sanctuary to wait until the lecture. One of my group members brought one of her friends to our class just to “scope out” if she might like to attend BSF in the future. Just think if I had said, “No, you cannot bring your friend to our Bible Study. It is against BSF rules/policy!” I don’t know if it is again BSF rules or not, it is the non-Christian message that it would have sent to the visitor. I would not have had a problem with you attending your 3 remaining sessions at another location. This is one of the many reasons that I sense that I may have to step away from being in Leadership. It feels like a touch of “legalism” or something. I can’t quite put my finger on it but something is definitely “off” from what I experienced several years ago when I was attending another BSF study in the 90’s.

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