Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
I fear there has been a separation in many Christians' minds between the study of Scripture on the one hand, and what is "practical" on the other hand. When you look for a worthwhile Bible class, a "practical" one, what do you look for? Do you look for a study of one of the book so of the Bible, say Romans, or Jeremiah, or John, for example? Most likely, what is considered "practical" is a study with a catchy title, or one that appeals to a particular felt need.
Now, don't get me wrong, I teach topical Bible studies, and will continue to do so from time to time (although my favorites are always the verse-by-verse, in-depth, exploration of the Scriptures). There is a place for the systematic approach to understanding and applying the Scriptures. In fact, the systematic (topical) approach is very helpful in many cases. That is not my concern.
My concern has to do with how we see and understand the Scriptures. Do we understand St. Paul's words (above), and does our understanding of them form and shape how we teach our children, how we make difficult decisions, how we live? Are the Scriptures good moral stories, or do they reveal the truth about life to us? Are the Scripture just a guide book for daily living, or do they reveal our sin, so that we would see our Savior--in everything.
I fear that the church has failed its hearers in this regard. We teach the Bible stories early on, but then when it's time for Confirmation instruction, the Bible is put to the side, for the most part. We end up teaching our kids that the Bible is just a bunch of stories, and doctrine is simply about knowledge, and then you will move on to the "practical" stuff when you get into high school. Statistics tell us that many of these kids never make it to Adult Bible Class. Why, because the Bible isn't practical, or applicable to the lives. At least that's what they think.
But St. Paul's words are true, and all of Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
Now, this isn't easy, and I'm not trying to criticise our faithful Sunday School teachers or Confirmation Instructors. I fear the church as a whole has missed this point, by and large. A topical, or doctrinal, study is only practical if it unpacks the Scriptures. And why is this? Because in unpacking the Scriptures, Christ is revealed. Parents that read from the Scriptures and ask related questions during family devotions are parents that are teaching their children the the Scriptures--God's Word--is the lens through which they see life.
St. Paul is correct, and the Scriptures are "practical." If we can just figure out how to teach that to our children, that would be great. Hey, let that be our prayer! Amen.