Some time ago, a survey by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life revealed that each day, more than 3 million people get religious or spiritual material from the Internet. Today’s numbers are no doubt much higher.

Other statistics around that same time indicated that more people had gotten religious or spiritual information online than had gambled online, used Web auction sites, traded stocks online, placed phone calls on the Internet, done online banking or used Internet-based dating services.

“Religious or spiritual information,” of course, can mean just about anything and can encompass all kinds of doctrine, some of it sound, much of it probably questionable.

The point is that people are exposed to mountains of ideas, issues and information every day. What better place than church for them to process all of that and evaluate it in light of biblical teaching?

That’s possible if our churches are places that encourage people to ask questions and think for themselves. It’s not when our goal is indoctrination instead of education.

It’s easier, of course, when someone in authority—usually the pastor—tells everyone what they are supposed to believe. But this is neither biblical nor historically Baptist.

Healthy churches equip people not only to know Bible facts but also to know how to read, understand and apply Bible truths for themselves.

Which does your church do: tell people what to think, or teach them how to think?

Jan Turrentine is curriculum editor for Acacia Resources, publishing arm of the Baptist Center for Ethics. Her new Weblog, Under the Acacia Tree, appears at

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