Americans are becoming more biblically illiterate than ever. The Barna Group reports that fewer than half of us can name the four Gospels. Sixty percent of us couldn't name five of the Ten Commandments, and fewer still could name two or three of the disciples.

The now-deceased but ever-respected Michael Spencer warned that this illiteracy was only part of the free-fall that is seeping into evangelicalism. Spencer warned in 2009, in the widely read "The Coming Evangelical Collapse": "Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith."

Spencer was right. We have managed to busy ourselves with issues that have us flailing about in shallow waters, rather than investing in the disciplines of our faith. We find it sexier to participate in a march advocating prayer in schools than to actually spend time praying. We'd rather sit at Starbucks discussing the Bible than to spend time reading it.

Bible Study is like homework, right? And everyone knows, homework is, like, so B-O-R-I-N-G.

Unless, you happen to be Beth Moore.

Linda, my sister, has long been a fan of Moore's. Over the past decade, if Moore was within a day's driving distance, my sister was in the audience. To be honest, Linda's rabid devotion for all-things-Moore annoys me. My sister waited four months before ordering my most current book. If Moore releases a new book, Linda has it ordered within four minutes. Hundreds of thousands of women share my sister's affection for Moore and her teaching ministry, but as usual, I'm late to the party.

I gave up on women-only Bible studies in the 1980s. I'm not a huge fan of fill-in-the-blank workbooks. I'm loathe to whittle big issues down to four words or less. I wrangle publicly with hot-topic issues like gay marriage, war, and the poor. As a rule I don't like uniformity or conformity. If a pastor asks the congregation to repeat something together, I'll be the woman singing a Janis Joplin tune aloud instead.

But I came off my last book tour convicted that I needed to spend less time writing about people who live out their faith, and more time living mine out.

The first thing I signed up for was the women's Wednesday morning Bible study. They were studying Moore's 2005 study When Godly People Do Ungodly Things.

Thankfully, I was delighted to discover Moore was not the woman I'd stereotyped her to be. I had wrongly dismissed Moore's popularity to her being pretty, and perky, with bigTexas hair. What I had not counted on was that Beth Moore is neither simplistic nor over-wrought.

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Her studies present the Scriptures in a straightforward fashion. She often concedes that there are different ways of considering the matter. "There is a big difference between a head full of knowledge and the word of God literally abiding in us," she warns. She's funny but never demeaning (which can't be said for many these days). "Everyday temptation and intentional demonic seduction are as different as a snowball and an avalanche." Anyone who has experienced the two, and survived, knows the truth and wry humor of that statement. Moore's workbooks have the same general theme in that they repeatedly point people to the Jesus who can and will, given the chance, completely transform their lives. I'd go as far to say she is the female Billy Graham, unabashedly falling on her face in prayer in front of the masses.

Moore has her critics, to be sure. As a Southern Baptist (LifeWay publishes her Bible studies and books), Moore adheres to a conservative theology. Yet whatever she thinks about gay marriages or physician-assisted suicide isn't something she discusses. Moore is intentional about not wading into murky political waters. She makes every effort to avoid the trap that Spencer warned us about, a trap I've fallen repeatedly into—that of believing in a cause more than a faith.

As Sarah Pulliam Bailey reported for CT in 2010, Moore did not attend seminary so what she knows about the Bible she learned "boots on the ground." The Army Major's daughter has steered clear of impropriety of any sort, be it sexual or financial. Her self-taught methodology is cause for concern for some—including Halee Gray Scott, who wrote about Moore's theology for CT—who belittle her references of "hearing from God." But Moore is quick to point out that her hearing from God is not an audible thing, but rather the result of being in relationship with a living God.

Why should we dismiss people when they say they have heard from God as being intellectually wacky? Isn't it the whole point of a believer's study of hermeneutics and theology to hear from God? Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed that it didn't matter how well-trained a theologian was, or how much preparation one put into a sermon; if God didn't come and grasp the people, all that study, all the preparation was useless. How does one have faith without expecting to hear from God?

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In his letter, Paul urged Timothy: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). The Greek context here for the word study is spoudazo. It means "to do one's best, to spare no effort, to give it your all."

It seems to me that Beth Moore is attempting to do that very thing. That is what has earned her the respect Paul was speaking about—including, finally, my own.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide? (Zondervan, 2010), and is a contributing blogger at Patheos. She can be reached at or via Twitter @karenzach.