Toward the end of my time at Emmanuel College, I was invited to attend a nearby church’s revival service. A high-profile pastor was slated to preach and some friends were already planning to attend. I decided to go.

The sermon began somewhere in Genesis and wound up constructing a bizarre theology of spiritual warfare and blessings. The minister (I kid you not) said that God physically drops blessings to Christians from the sky. Demons are in the sky, waiting to intercept these blessings on their way to earth, but they have to release them when Christians loudly praise God. The louder the praise, the more blessings the demons drop.

Puzzled, I looked around to see people nodding and shouting in agreement, as this minister engaged in a carefully choreographed demonstration of the supposed blessing interception process.

I was horrified. Nobody seemed to notice how ludicrous the whole charade had become. I compared this concept to what I had read and studied in the Bible.

It just didn’t add up.

My time in Biblical Interpretation had given me a perspective on how to study the Bible, and I had become acquainted with the term “proof texting.” According to our pals at Wikipedia, it’s the practice “using isolated, out-of-context quotations from a document to establish a proposition…”

Yep. That’s definitely what happened.

My main takeaway from the situation, more than 10 years later, is this: It’s easy to sit under the teaching of a famous preacher and believe everything he/she says without weighing it against the Bible. If you don’t study God’s Word, you won’t know whether someone is speaking truth, or just cooking up their own strange theology with bits of familiar verses peppered in to make it sound good.

Study the Bible, guys.

Really study it.

Learn what’s in there and how to interpret it. Take a class. Take your time. Smart people have spent their careers studying the Bible and have written excellent commentaries to help you make sense of the hard parts.

You owe it to yourself–a Christ-centered individual–and your faith community to know what you believe and why you believe it.