Tuesday, January 6, 2009

On our watch

In his "Commentary," 14 October 2005, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. informs us,

"Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: 'Americans revere the Bible--but, by and large, they don't read it. And because they don't read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.' How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it's worse than most could imagine.

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can't name even five of the Ten Commandments. . . .

According to 82 percent of Americans, 'God helps those who help themselves,' is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better--by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one's family. . . .

A Barna 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. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble."

This is on our watch. What can we pastors do about it? Here are a few obvious ideas. Please help me by adding your own:

1. Memorize the Bible together, as a church. One verse per week in your service. It can be fun, and it provides a moment of connectedness and participation together. It says a lot to guests about what your church is passionate for.

2. Gather a small group of eager men and go deeper. I believe every man should be able to think his way through the argument of the book of Romans, for example. That can happen, with great effect, in a small group.

3. Read the Bible in every worship service. Is this too obvious to say? I don't think so. And end the reading with the faith-filled declaration, "This is God's Word." That solemnizes the moment in a gentle, non-spectacular, factual way. It's a tactful way of saying, "Okay y'all, now we've got to deal with this for what it is."

4. Preach from the Bible, and from the Bible only. Again, does this need to be said? One thing's for sure. The Bible is fascinating, disturbing, offensive, sweet, alarming, comforting, stretching, shocking, controversial, caressing, strengthening. No way are you and I that interesting. Let's put the Bible front and center and let it be itself and do its thing, whatever the impact. Submerging the Bible for the sake of our cool personas isn't really cool at all. It's a way of avoiding risk, chickening out.

5. Approach church problems and opportunities with explicit reference to the Bible, chapter and verse. Some may expect us to preach from the Bible but will be surprised if we lean hard on the Bible when everything is on the line. A corporate experience of realigning ourselves with the help of a specific, powerful and relevant verse of Scripture at an important moment in a church's journey can be unforgettable.

6. Saturate your church's children and youth with the Bible faithfully and enthusiastically, week by week, year by year, and they will still be drawing strength from it fifty years from now. They might not remember our names, but we will still be there in their lives, speaking the Bible into their hearts and minds and consciences.