We live in a post-Christian America.
It’s true. Whether we want to face that hard truth or not, it is still truth. Slowly and surely, biblical references and content are being taken down in the public sphere. Many are concerned about this. Some would say that Christianity is under “persecution” in American now. I would disagree, but that is another topic for another day (you’re not being persecuted, you’re just not as comfortable). While we should be concerned about the secular world’s rejection of biblical Christianity, I believe there is a much bigger problem at stake here – biblical illiteracy in the church.
The lack of biblical knowledge among secular America should not come as a surprise. As previously stated, biblical content is being stripped away from the public sphere. It should be assumed that the post-Christian America would be ignorant towards the bible. Much more scandalous is the biblical illiteracy that has arose in the church.
We have implemented this system of religion that merely allows us to go to church on Sunday, here a message from the pulpit, hopefully feel good about the message, go home, never open our bibles throughout the week and uncover its timeless truths, and then repeat the process the next Sunday. Many people believe that “God helps those who helps themselves” is a bible verse. The majority of adults think that taking care of their families is the primary goal of life. A Barna Research Group poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. People who are either about to enter the work force or go and pursue higher education sincerely believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were married. Let that sink in. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. This is a problem and it needs our immediate attention. While we revere the bible, we don’t know the bible. So often we hear things like, “Can’t I just love God and love people? It’s not about “theology” and “doctrine.” This statement sounds sincere and it may sound harmless, but in reality is it contradictory. In order to know God, we have to learn about Him. How do we learn about Him? By studying the very thing that He gave us so that we may know Him – the bible.
How do we fix this problem?
First, we establish that the Word of God is the primary building block that defines what we believe about God. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching (or doctrine), for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Secondly, we need to make “scary bible words” less scary. Most people don’t care about theology and doctrine mainly because they don’t understand it. They may have heard the words before, but they were probably never really explained to them. They remained “Christianese” terms. In reality, a lot of Christians already have a general understanding of their definitions. Theology is broken down in to simply two parts. “Theo” meaning God and “ology” meaning study of. Theology is simply the study of God. If you’ve partaken in a bible study then you have engaged in a theological study of sorts. You dove in to scripture to learn more about God. Get this – that makes you a theologian! And the word doctrine simply means “what is right.” We seek to learn more about God (theology) so we can know and teach what is right about God (doctrine). Not so scary is it?
Also, leaders in ministry, we need to start teaching our congregations: A.) that the bible is a book from God, about God and for God, B.) That scripture is not simply about them, and C.) Start teaching them how to study the bible. As a bible college student who is training for ministry, I see the importance of training up the body of Christ. I see the importance of taking what I am learning on how to study the bible and reproduce that in my family and in my future flocks.
And for the church, we need to start realizing that while our pastors are responsible for shepherding their flocks, they are not responsible for spiritually spoon feeding us like children for the rest of their lives. How strange would it look if your pastor was cradling a 30 year old man and feeding him a baby bottle? I’d be pretty freaked out. But that is what’s happening today. Too many come to church seeking their “spiritual yum-yums” but never sit down and enjoy their spiritual steak. Baby food is only good as long as you remain a baby. There comes a time when a man has to have steak. Every believer has a responsibility to study scripture and uncover its great truths.
Want to know a really cool trick? You don’t have to do it alone! An amazing part of being in the body of Christ is that you never have to go through life alone – even in bible study! Some of the greatest growth in my life came out of a season of discipleship where I was able to sit down with a great friend and mentor of mine and go through scripture together. We would meet up at a coffee shop (because we’re hipsters, we can’t help it) and would talk about life, church, and go through a book in the bible and study it together. It was amazing. It’s as simple as that folks. All you have to do is do it.
Lastly, don’t give up. It may seem daunting. There’s 66 books in the bible. It’s not a small piece of literature. But remember – this is the tool that God has given us to reveal Himself to us. Take your time. Don’t rush. Don’t get caught up in learning that you forget to worship the God you’re studying about. While this isn’t an all encompassing list of solutions, I do believe it’s a good start. And remember what a good friend of mine, Jordan Grimsley, once said,
“Biblical illiteracy steals from the glory of God.”