The Dangers of a “CliffsNotes” Approach to Studying the Bible

Chris Collins talks about how dangerous it can be to replace our time in God’s Word with other things. While those things may not be bad, we must dig into scripture so that we can enjoy the fullness of studying and knowing it.

Here are some of the main points:

For us, CliffsNotes looks like skimming the Word of God to find a verse to use in our service in between songs. It sounds nice, fits the liturgy really well, but we have no intention on actually digging into that verse for ourselves, for our heart, or for our people’s heart.

For us, CliffsNotes only looks like reading a blog – just reading a blog and then chalking it up as your time with God. That was my quiet time. Check. Done. CliffsNotes looks like only retweeting quotes and scriptures from amazing theologians – men and women who have amazing beautiful things to say about God because they’re drinking deeply from the Word of God and all you’re doing is sipping from it. You’re retweeting it, hoping your sphere of influence can see how godly you are.

CliffsNotes looks like us listening to sermons and then reciting clever lines, when all it is is something that you’ve remembered, not something that you’ve mined for in the Word of God. Something that’s embedded deep inside your own heart.

In many ways, a worship pastor living a “CliffsNotes-only” lifestyle becomes a parrot that just recites words of others, but you actually haven’t enjoyed the fullness of studying and knowing the Word of God for yourself.

If we’re honest with ourselves, more of us have iPhones and magazines on our nightstand than the Word of God – if I just polled us, which I’m not going to. The sad truth is that it’s easier for us to study the stage presence of a guy like Chris Martin or maybe the musical nuance of the new album from Hillsong than it is to study the Word of God. We like doing those things. Those things are flashy. Those are things that people see, but we just can’t find time to dig into the Word of God.

Here’s why it’s a sad truth: because none of those things that I listed off – none of those things will ever do what the Word of God will do for us.

“All scripture is breathed out by God, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God – woman of God – may be complete, equipped for every good work.” That’s the Word of God, that’s 2 Timothy. I’m gonna read it again.

“All scripture is breathed out by God, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man or woman of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Guys that’s what 2 Timothy has to say about how we should view the Word of God as worship leaders, and if you didn’t notice, your job description is in there. You are teachers. You may not know that about yourselves but you get on stage and you sing songs and you say things and you teach people things. You are a teacher. You are going to reprove your folks. You are going to have to correct your folks, and I know some of you came with, “How do I do that? I’ve got this situation…” but you’re gonna have to correct folks, and you’re gonna have to train them in righteousness. Why? So that they can be complete. How? He gave them all of his God-breathed scripture to do it.

But we don’t find ourselves in it. All of those things, that job description, is affected by our lack of, or fullness of, our interaction with the Word of God.

Chris Collins

About Chris Collins

Chris is the Director of Worship at The Austin Stone Community Church. He oversees the execution of the vision set by the Pastor of Worship, Aaron Ivey, on all worship ministry fronts. He is husband to Adrianne and has four kids: Reece, Gavin, Caitlin, and Oliver.