Beware of Mechanizing the Bible Study

A look at a special danger that we are facing in our missionary endeavor--the presentation of our message by means of projectors and recorders.

R. L. KLINGBEIL, Pastor, West Pennsylvania Conference

During recent months I have become in­creasingly aware of a special danger that we are facing in a comparatively new phase of missionary endeavor—the presentation of our message by means of projectors and recorders.

That the recorder is an electronic wonder, no one will deny. Far be it from me to depre­ciate the use of this startling invention. As re­cently as 1944 thousands of people paused be­fore a display at the Chicago World's Fair to gaze at a wire recorder. It seemed incredible that the human voice could be carried on a thin wire of stainless steel. Today, recorders of both wire and tape variety are common­place devices in thousands of homes. How happy we are to enjoy the aid of these modern marvels. The recorder and the projector are of invaluable help to many who desire to present God's last-day message in a logical and attrac­tive manner. When skillfully combined, these two instruments can be of inestimable value.

But Bible studies given from tape and film, no matter how ably and pleasingly presented, must needs be supplemented with a personal­ized approach. It is true that God's truth often finds lodgment in the heart without the pres­ence of the living teacher, but how many can­didates for church fellowship are lost because no one has established a personal relationship or awakened a desire and decision by means of a heart-to-heart challenge and invitation.

Indeed, the Word of God on tape and film is made plain by able spokesmen. The recorded presentations are forceful and effective. But because of the necessary continuity, the Bible study is cast into a predetermined mold. Un­less the study can be concluded with a person­alized approach, the entire presentation re­mains general, somewhat artificial, and to a cer­tain degree lifeless.

Too often the one who presents the study on tape turns off both recorder and projector at the conclusion and merely prepares to leave amid irrelevant conversation, without having established a firm personal contact or spiritual rapport. In some cases study after study is pre­sented without a single appeal being made for personal acceptance of the truth revealed. How­ever efficient, forceful, and logical each re­corded study has been, there exists a constant need of what we may choose to call a personal, private adaptation to the needs, prejudices, and attitudes of a particular student. It is usually necessary that we linger in order to restate, re­view, and clarify certain points, meet and re­move objections, or reassure those who are wav­ering.

Reactions by our students to points of truth should always be carefully observed. These will guide the efficient worker in future adapta­tions. In the semidarkness necessary to a film presentation, however, these cannot be observed easily. Would not a short session following the actual study seem wise whenever feasible?

When the voice of the tape has ceased and the attractive pictures have faded from the screen, the teacher of truth should do his ut­most under God's guidance to identify him­self with the message, to adapt the study to the needs of his hearers, and above all to elicit from the student a favorable response. Commit­ments to the truth are necessary all along the way. The worker in the home should ever seek to obtain decisions after the manner of the wise public evangelist, who constantly strives to en­courage men and women to express themselves in favor of truth.

Certainly no Spirit-filled lay worker is willing to assume the role of a passive bystander or be reduced to the status of a mere operator of a mechanical, albeit wonderful, gadget. Above and beyond push buttons, films, and screens, stands the person, the living teacher, a well-attuned instrument in God's hands, who prays and intercedes, and who never fails to invite men and women to be reconciled to God. Let us never become subject to machines, but ever remain their masters by maintaining a living connection with the seeker after truth as we do with God.

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R. L. KLINGBEIL, Pastor, West Pennsylvania Conference

March 1957

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