Leaving BSF 2023: Testimony from a former teacher

This is a timeline that I wish I didn’t have to share. But I love helping Christian women find solid teaching resources, and also warning them about the sand traps in most of the women’s “Bible Study” materials offered in our current time. Please follow the article links provided. If you are considering signing up for Fall 2023 at a local Bible Study Fellowship session, this warning is for you.

A Concerning Trajectory

Back in 2015 I was deeply troubled to learn that BSF International, or Bible Study Fellowship, had become infected with New Age teachings at the top level of leadership. I wrote about it in an article titled, BSF, Jesus Calling and a plea from the heart. At that time I contacted some dear sisters in Christ at my local BSF chapter. They had not heard this was happening, and vowed to keep their local study free of any apostate teachings.

Solid beginnings

Up until 2015, BSF had been solid (as far as I knew), offering a full year of weekly studies for men, women and youth, covering seven subjects: Genesis, Matthew, Life of Moses, Romans, John, History of Israel and the Minor Prophets, and The Acts of the Apostles. At the end of seven years, the studies would start over.

BSF was no coffee klatch. This was serious stuff. There was a dress code (no jeans). And there was a strict mandate at BSF: Absolutely NO outside books other than the Bible. I loved it, and wish I could still be a part of it, at least the way it was.

I prayed fervently for BSF to turn things around. After all, my eyes had been opened by God’s grace during my first year of learning in this organization back in 1998. I was part of BSF in Minnesota where I was first saved. When we moved, I joined BSF in Florida, and later in Wisconsin.

No Turning Back

To my dismay, a new study track was launched in 2018 that revealed BSF International was in fact not interested in Scripture alone as authority. I shared a letter from a former BSF leader about this in an article titled, BSF Leader resigns; warns members about 2018 Study.

The apostasy happened again in 2019! See my article at Naomi’s Table titled, “Vision-Casting” ministry? An open letter from a leader.

It’s now 2023, and BSF has become unrecognizable.

I have shared my experiences and my Gospel testimony many times before, including in the A Word Fitly Spoken podcast that I co-host with my dear friend, Michelle Lesley. We started that weekly podcast in 2019 to help women understand biblical truth and how to “walk worthy” in a day and age when the lies of the enemy are infiltrating our culture and even our churches. And that’s where one of our listeners – A BSF Teaching Leader – learned the truth about some false teachings that she had been taught and believed.

In an email to A Word Fitly Spoken, she shared with us her experience as a BSF leader, and how the leaven of the modern Pharisees has now encompassed the unbiblical Enneagram (which is pure sorcery and must be avoided), and includes BSF giving women the green light to teach men and having authority over them, something we ought not do.

Michelle and I are thankful that she has agreed to allow us to publish her letter. And this fall, when we are back from our summer break, this listener has graciously agreed to allow us to interview her for a September podcast episode.

Here is her letter. I have left her name private for now:

“Four years ago I became the Teaching Leader of a women’s class with Bible Study Fellowship and left for four days of Training in San Antonio under long-time Executive Director Susie Rowan.

I was gratified to see that all the training and teaching was biblical and handled according to Scriptural principles. The men’s leaders and trainers were all men and the genders only came together for the opening and closing events. There was always a male leading worship.

The next year’s conference (2020) was online due to COVID 19, and that’s where the trouble began. I was asked to attend a required Teaching Leader Training Course on “Vision Casting.” The course trainer quoted half a line of Scripture and encouraged us to pray and ask the Lord for a “Word” that would exemplify the goals that “we, as the Visionary of our individual classes wanted to cast to grow and expand BSF in our area.”

We were encouraged to be “bold and audacious for God” and, if necessary, open our Bibles and look at some verses that might inspire.

We were given 4 Steps to Cast Vision with our staff and local leadership that encouraged allegiance to the “Vision.”  I’m ashamed to tell you that I went along with this simply because I wanted to be pleasing to the Leadership as the newbie, though I experienced an uncomfortable “check” in my gut.

At the time, I had no real ability to explain why “Vision Casting” was not Biblical; it just didn’t sound right.

When a small satellite class in my area, which I was responsible for overseeing, closed due to lack of interest in providing a children’s program and leadership, my area team told me that I “needed to go down to that class, bang on the podium and cast your vision.” It sounded like bullying to me.

Needless to say, my area team became less and less enamored of me as I was not onboard with living out Susie’s expansion Vision.

That same year my area team let us know that Susie Rowan and three other Bible Teachers (2 men and 1 woman) would, as a gift to us exhausted teaching leaders, be sending out four lectures provided by Headquarters for our class to use instead of lecturing ourselves.

When I asked my area team if the men’s classes would be using those lectures, I was told that I only needed to worry about my own class and that all the women’s classes in their area would be compliant in using these excellent lectures. The Men would concern themselves with the Men. I found out a year later that several Men’s classes used the provided lectures, and I was dismayed that Headquarters would even allow this to be an option.

That summer, to my dismay, I was required to take a “Personality Test” in order to attend the Teaching Leader Training called “Resolving Conflict.” This personality test required me to log on to a website and create an account with an unaffiliated company who would then send me the test and compile my results. The entire time I was taking the test, I knew something was waaaayyy off and I resolved to speak up in my break-out sessions.

The test took about 30 minutes. I stopped answering after the first ten minutes then just picked random answers for the remainder and prayed for wisdom. The next two hours were eye-opening. In a zoom call of nearly 200 people I was the only one who questioned this “test” as the source of Biblical conflict resolution. I told the facilitator, “As I was answering the questions I just kept thinking that I know how my “old woman” who lived out of her flesh would respond, but I’m a new creation in Christ Jesus. So can you help us reconcile the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification in what you are calling “my personality?”

You could hear crickets chirping.

He did not answer my question. So I asked, “what is the source of this personality test? (I later learned it was the Enneagram). “Does the Bible tell us we are supposed to resolve conflict according to our personality?” Again he just ignored me and other participants were eager to gush about just how helpful they found their results to be. We were encouraged to sign our staff members up for this test in order to help us resolve conflict and to “understand what it’s like to be on the other side of me.”

I was stunned. My husband was alarmed and we agreed to pray. We reached the decision that this was going to be my last year. Our plan was that I would turn in my resignation when they asked at Christmas as usual for us to commit for the following year.

Meanwhile, I started googling “is vision casting wrong” and “Christian personality tests” and “has BSF leadership left sound doctrine.” and, I found you. From you, I learned why the Enneagram is unbiblical and why “Vision Casting” is not how godly leaders encourage those they serve. I also learned how Susie was touting Contemplative Prayer and Jesus Calling.

Looking back, I could see so many red flags that I just did not catch. It took months for me to process all that I was learning.

I had to repent of the pride that opened the door to this false teaching. I like being liked. And I struggled with leaving BSF because I love studying and teaching the Bible to women without the fluff. But you helped me to remember that this is best accomplished in my local church where I’m under the authority of faithful Bible-loving pastors who are qualified, and not under the authority of women who have lost their desire to be under the authority of Scripture. I don’t need a large platform. I just need to be faithful in the sweet local church God has provided for me.

Susie Rowan

In November of 2021, we got word that Susie Rowan was stepping down. I was greatly relieved, and after much prayer, my husband and I agreed that I would stay on another year under BSF’s new Executive Director, Hollie Roberts, giving her the benefit of the doubt. We were both certain that Susie was the source of all this extra-biblical teaching. We prayed for Hollie and hoped that BSF would turn the page on this “new-agey” nonsense.

Hollie Roberts

As it turned out, Hollie was not different. She announced that she would be teaching to the men as well as to women. This time, because of your very excellent teaching, I was ready to gently confront my area team and hand in my letter of resignation. I also prepared a letter to send to Hollie because there is no way for me to directly contact her by phone or email.

It was a tough conversation, and I was spoken to as if I was a naughty and confused child. I was told that women teaching to men was a cultural construct, and that if I had a weak or sensitive conscience in this area I should step down. I told them I didn’t have a weak conscience, I had a right Biblical understanding that Hollie and Susie were in rebellion to what is a clear statement of who is qualified and who is not qualified to teach Scripture to a gathering of Christian men.

I also let them know that BSF’s insistence that all their teaching leaders teach using the NIV might be playing a role in how they’ve arrived at a false understanding. They were shocked and ready to listen when I explained that the ESV and NASB have not added to the Bible in their use of the word “assume authority.”

I also let them know that the NIV under Zondervan has removed all the footnotes to make the male and female pronouns appear universally gender neutral. They did their own research and asked me to include that in my resignation letter. I’ve not received a reply from Hollie to date.

All that to say, I’m so grateful, sisters, for all the hard work and effort you have put into your programming. You, along with the abiding Holy Spirit, have helped me to untangle truth from false teaching, given me courage to speak the truth with grace, and to be in my Bible even more!

Thank you thank you thank you!

You are welcome and especially encouraged to share this article with BSF Teaching Leaders and friends who are considering joining a study group.

For more studying:

Please let us know at A Word Fitly Spoken via email if you have any questions about this article, and stay tuned for our upcoming podcast interview with this former BSF teacher.

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10 Responses to Leaving BSF 2023: Testimony from a former teacher

  1. Rebecca Deniston July 26, 2023 at 8:16 pm #

    While vigilance is commendable, discernment is also important, and there are TONS of errors in this article. For one thing, students aren’t barred from wearing jeans to the classes–that’s just for leadership. For another, BSF does NOT promote extrabiblical sources beyond commentaries, atlases, dictionaries, and books about the history of BSF. They certainly don’t promote “Jesus Calling” or enneagrams. While there are TLs and leaders out there who have made mistakes, it’s irresponsible to cast doubt over the whole organization because of them.

    • Amy S. July 31, 2023 at 4:12 pm #

      Hello Rebecca,
      Sharing a BSF leader’s personal eyewitness testimony is not irresponsible. This person was made to take the Enneagram test – as a leader. So while BSF is not promoting it on its website (which no one has stated), leadership does wholeheartedly approve.
      The “no jeans” No extrabiblical books” reference was my own personal testimony as a former BSF leader.
      For info on Jesus Calling, see the link to the personal testimony I sourced from another former BSF leader.
      My purpose is not to cast doubt, but to inform women of what has happened and is happening now. If people still want to take a BSF study knowing these things, then perhaps they will be equipped to know what to look for if it happens in their own groups.

  2. Rebecca Deniston July 27, 2023 at 12:03 am #

    I should add that I was in BSF leadership (CL, Level 2), my parents have been around the program since the late 60s, and I know people who are still in the program. I’m not trying to brag here, but I have to say something because this article does get a lot wrong. Also, it’s very telling that this article doesn’t link directly to anything on the BSF site.

  3. Debbie Hay September 7, 2023 at 10:05 pm #

    Is it true that to be a small group leader you must be of a certain physical size? Not overweight?

  4. Saint October 4, 2023 at 5:09 pm #

    Oh my.  Thank you for sharing this information.  Your answers to Rebecca were also very helpful.

  5. Patti October 9, 2023 at 3:48 pm #

    This breaks my heart. I’ve been in BSF since the mid-70’s. I was disappointed when they promoted the NIV, but did all my studying in my NASB. Some of the changes in things like attire, no more challenges, easier questions seemed okay since they were trying to encourage younger people to get into studying God’s Word. But, I was disturbed when the new director taught to not only the women, but the men’s groups. That is not biblical. I shall be praying about staying in BSF studies.

  6. Laura October 15, 2023 at 7:20 pm #

    I am a former teaching leader who left for similar reasons, including spiritual abuse. Heartbreaking to see what’s become if this organization.

  7. TC December 9, 2023 at 2:40 pm #

    I enjoy doing BSF online. I feel more people can be reached. It benefits me because my vision is poor and it is difficult to see at night driving at night. I work during the day so that is why I can’t do the day classes. I love the group I am in. The ladies I’m in the study with lift me up each week. I’m more accountable doing an online study. I’m more eager to do my homework. It’s so quiet where I live and there are no interruptions.

  8. Patrick Rutten December 18, 2023 at 1:17 pm #

    I have to ask,…because I can’t get a clear answer from anyone in BSF leadership. Is BSF welcoming trans people into groups. Specifically, trans men into women’s groups? I’ve asked and no biblical based response is given. Why isn’t there a hard “no”?

  9. June February 16, 2024 at 12:54 am #

    I just got removed from being a group leader. My TL brought in outside books in leaders meetings. Her lectures have a lot of exaggeration and assumptions in them. I spoke up and was told I was defiant. Area team is not supportive. They did not talk to me or anyone in my group. The TL was very unprofessional when addressing my group. As one lady in the group stated there was no Christian compassion in the TL. My heart is heavy and sad. No one wants the truth

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