There is No Substitute for Scripture.
Interview with Kerygma author Dr. Carol J. Miller.
Kerygma studies are written by pastors, seminary or college professors, or Bible scholars. Sometimes an author is all three. Common to all Kerygma authors is preparation (e.g. seminary or graduate study), experience within their respective ministries, on-going study of the Scriptures, and continued reading of biblical scholarship.
So, why don’t they just write books that will be read by other scholars? Why not just preach sermons? Why write Bible studies? That is what I asked Kerygma’s authors, in addition to other questions, in order to hear more of their personal stories and experiences with Bible study.
Here are highlights from the first interview with one of Kerygma’s authors, Dr. Carol J. Miller.
Of the 40 studies in Kerygma’s library of resources, the Rev. Dr. Carol J. Miller, an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, now retired, has written 10 of them. I asked Dr. Miller what motivated her to write Bible studies for Kerygma. She replied:
“Sitting at my desk one morning telling myself that nothing happens until you break out of your comfort zone, I called Kerygma. I had written smaller pieces for Cokesbury which were well received. I told Kerygma that I was interested in writing a study of St. John. They said they would like me to do St Luke first!
I had been teaching Kerygma for a few years and I knew what it was. Jim Walther [author of Kerygma’s first study Bible in Depth] was my editor. He always wanted to discuss points in Greek! Most of my Greek had wandered off years earlier. He was very kind!”
Dr. Miller's time as a Bible study participant was limited; she started leading studies as a high school student of seventeen. Putting a lot of miles on her mother’s car, she would round up members of the church youth group and bring them to her house. There, they would discuss a devotional guide for teens published by the Methodist Church.
At the time, she didn’t think of her leadership of Bible studies as a spiritual gift. Dr. Miller said, “As a child, I didn’t think I had any ‘gifts,’ because I couldn’t play the piano. I still can’t play the piano.”
However, as an undergraduate religion major, she discovered that she could write and “could write clearly, simply—but not simplistically. I could keep my eye on the topic at hand.” When she took an introductory class in New Testament, “it was love at first sight. Although I complained every time I turned in a paper, thinking that it was not good enough, I made A’s. I think my professor, Richard Stegner, was trying to tell me something! I wanted to write more and more. I was content to be a learner at this point. I fell in love with the Bible.”
As a United Methodist pastor, Dr. Miller describes her call to ministry as “helping folks to find the Gospel through the hearing and practicing of the Word.” When serving as the sole pastor at a church, she was teaching four classes every week, along with counseling and administration that are part of ministry in a congregation. In addition to leading Kerygma classes each week, Dr. Miller also led new member and confirmation classes.
“There were several years of teaching Kerygma morning and evening with a group of other clergy who took turns leading. The first time we organized a class, we used the ‘the big Kerygma,’ (The Bible in Depth). We had 60+ people for 32 weeks. It is a rigorous study. Our students were mostly factory workers who came to the class without supper. I really admired them. When the 32 weeks were up, the members of the class came to the clergy to ask to do the study again--32 more weeks! I respect people like them, people who make the arrangements necessary to put real priorities first.”
Dr. Miller describes herself as a “teacher by nature. I’ll teach anybody. Just tie ‘em to a pole and I’ll teach ‘em! So, I would be unhappy sitting in a class on the Bible. I need to teach. If you try to make a student out of me, I talk too much. By ‘teach’ I do not mean lecture. I tried very hard to make sure others’ ideas were heard. The greatest benefits in any class are the ideas that come from others.” She would eventually earn a Doctor of Ministry in Adult Christian Education.
Question: Why should the local church encourage & support group Bible study?
Answer: “The Scriptures in very large measure create the Church. If you desire a strong congregation that not only has a good understanding of Scripture, but a good understanding of the Church and of their role in the Church, there is absolutely no substitute for Scripture. The church that I served for 11 years had almost 150 different people who had taken at least one Kerygma class. In addition, there were adults studying Scripture in Sunday school and in summer studies.”
Question: What about the increasing demands on people's time and the difficulty they have in finding time to come to worship, let alone Bible Study?
Answer: “The Scriptures are the foundation for deciding what we do and how we think. This is true for individual Christians as well as every congregation, and for the Church as a whole. Put simply, the Bible is the Church’s book, written by the Church, for the Church.
Protestants must be able to see the content of their faith in and through the Scriptures. For us, there is no promise of love and forgiveness without the Bible. There is no command to love the neighbor and the enemy. Christianity is a living faith with a guide that can make itself heard over the noise of hate.
Without the community studying the Scriptures together, the congregation will not know its mission from God, its’ life together centered in love and mercy. It will remain unaware of its mission as a tool to speak the truth of Almighty God for the life-giving peace of the world. There is no substitute for Scripture.”
In addition to writing a study of Luke’s gospel for Kerygma, Dr. Miller has also written studies of:
- the gospels of Mark and John
- the New Testament books Acts, Galatians, and James
- the Old Testament books Jonah and Ruth
- and studies for Advent and Lent: Light Will Shine, and Hosanna
More about Dr. Carol J. Miller