There are a lot of successful bible study series these days, but the most successful ones have been authored and led by women. Consider the following:
- Beth Moore. Very articulate. Petite. Engaging speaker. Master's degree in biblical exegesis. Promotes biblical literacy, and, in her words, "Doesn't do the Southern Baptist political scene." She has authored and led numerous bible studies, and often holds simulcast teaching venues throughout the year. Very well known throughout the denominations.
- Liz Curtis Higgs. Grew up Moravian in a rural area. Down-to-earth. Not petite. College party girl and radio personality turned Christian writer/teacher. Best known for her book, Bad Girls of the Bible. Excellent speaker and eloquent writer.
- Elizabeth George. Former schoolteacher, bible study teacher, and curriculum developer. Non-denominational. Best known for A Woman After God's Own Heart and A Woman's High Calling.
- Kay Arthur. She and her husband began as missionaries, went on to co-found Precept Ministries. Her "Precepts for Life" radio and television program reaches nearly 100 million people. Big proponent of inductive biblical study. Has been criticized by fellow evangelicals for her speaking engagements in United Methodist Churches.
- Ann Graham Lotz. Daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham. Very sought-after speaker, well known for her revival series, "Just Give Me Jesus." Has weathered the criticism of being a female who teaches women AND men. Got in the middle of controversy in 2001 when SBC President James Merritt was asked on "60 Minutes" if Lotz could preach from the pulpit of the church he was serving on a Sunday morning, Merritt said, "I would personally not have her." He went on to say that where the household and pulpit were concerned, men are to lead. However, I think Anne is listening to God rather than the Rev. Merritt.
I personally have little problems with any of these folks. I've been to a Beth Moore study, and they are not "Baptist-y" - it's mainly just basic biblical knowledge. In fact, I know the church I serve has used the above resources for several studies.
Now a few years ago, I would have said, "Absolutely not. That stuff's not Methodist, Lifeway sells it, and we're not Baptists." But I soon realized the void wasn't being filled, that we were coasting way too long on DISCIPLE Bible Study, and then someone I know flat-out asked me: "Where are Methodist women leading and writing bible studies? Why do the Baptist have all the great women's bible studies?"
Well... where are the Methodist female evangelists today, in the tradition of Anna Howard Shaw, Belle Harris Bennett, Georgia Harkness, and Sarah Crosby? I have no problem with the United Methodist Women/Women's Division doing a study on Israel/Palestine peace relations. But if we are a denomination that is losing membership and increasingly biblically illiterate, should we not be in mission with our own in teaching basic biblical principles that would (incidentally) guide us in matters like Israel and Palestine?
I'd say we better give thanks for Beth Moore, Liz Curtis Higgs, etc., for filling a void that we Methodists obviously haven't. I can take care of the minor doctrinal issues that might arise once in a while. The trade-off for basic biblical grounding is well worth it.
Belle Harris Bennett, a laywoman from the old Methodist Episcopal Church, South, lead Bible studies and raised money for the Church, preached against racial prejudice, and aided in the training of missionaries. She died in 1922. T.M. Eugene wrote this about her:
Bennett's ministry tended to the Reign of God on earth in very practical ways. After learning of a woman whose attendance at school was endangered because she was pregnant, Bennett immediately wrote the institution's president suggesting that the school start a child care program. She well embodied a sentence from a letter she wrote in 1918: "It takes a heart life - a lived experience - to interpret the Word of God." - from For All the Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations for United Methodists, p. 154
"It takes a heart life - a lived experience - to interpret the Word of God." Now that's Methodist - I don't care who you are!
Don't let the Baptists have all the fun.