This epiphany started when Paula Wong showed us this book….
And here is the book’s description on Amazon…
A personal and journalistic inquiry into the Bible’s disappearance from American life
In The Invisible Bestseller veteran religion writer Kenneth Briggs asks how the Bible remains the best-selling book of all time, while fewer Americans than ever can correctly articulate what it says, much less how it might offer guidance for their lives.
How can a book — one that’s found in courthouses, libraries, and millions of households across the land — be everywhere and nowhere at the same time?
What a massive change that is.
And here is something Paula showed us from that book – something which made us laugh…
Meanwhile, it must have startled most American Bible users to learn that about half of the yearly US sales of paper Bibles (estimated at about 25 million) were printed in China, one of the last bastions of official atheism and a country that has put the clamps on the Bible’s dissemination. Bible publishers have joined the rush to outsource for cost-cutting reasons similar to those of shoemakers, tire manufacturers, and other corporations. It started, back in 1987, with an agreement between the umbrella group United Bible Societies and the Amity Bible Company in China (the sole printer that China allows to print Bibles). By 2013, Amity reported printing a whopping 117 million Bibles for Americans, 12.4 million in the past year.Kenneth A. Briggs, The Invisible Bestseller
And then Paula began to show us that you Christians in America are also turning your Bible into an invisible bestseller…
The ignorance of basic Scripture is so disturbing in our day that Christian preaching that does not seek to remedy the lack is simply irresponsible.D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God
LifeWay, which is the retail and research arm of the Southern Baptists, found conclusions even more bleak:
19 percent of churchgoing Christians read the Bible daily.
25 percent of churchgoing Christians read the Bible “a few times” a week.
40 percent of churchgoing Christians read the Bible “once a month, rarely or never.”
That last number: ouch! Can you imagine these statistics applying to other fields? Executives who don’t care to know the data on their business, car mechanics who don’t read manuals, teachers who don’t read textbooks, or doctors who rarely consult medical literature?Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock, The Way Back
We would be horrified.
Yet when it comes to the primary book informing us about the God of the universe, His remarkable and unfolding plan for our lives, and our eternal destiny, Christians think so little of it that we read it only when it’s convenient.
While America’s evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview’s rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home – biblical illiteracy in the church. This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it.The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem, by Albert Mohler, AlbertMohler.com, January 20, 2016
Scandalous! Wow. It looks like the Mohler Man would sure agree with Drollinger’s warning to you.
So, you might want to reflect on these…
“Bible illiteracy is not a problem in the church. Bible illiteracy is the problem in the church.”Woodrow Kroll, Select Quotes by Woodrow Kroll, Woodrow Kroll Ministries
The rising biblical illiteracy within confessional churches is the most distressing and threatening symptom among us.D.A. Carson, Twitter, August 5, 2016
And here is plenty more, which Paula showed us…
What role does the Bible play in Americans’ lives? A century ago the answer to that question would have been straightforward: It was the most important book in the home, perhaps read daily, and the place where major events in a family’s history (births, deaths, marriages) were recorded. It was then—and is now—the most-bought and most-read book in the world.
And yet biblical literacy is in decline in America. Compared with previous generations, a smaller proportion of today’s population—even among regular churchgoers—reads the Bible regularly; in a survey published in 2014 by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University, only about half of the respondents said they had read scripture in the previous year. The portion of American adults who told pollsters that they believe the Bible is the literal word of God has fallen from nearly 40 percent four decades ago to 24 percent this year; for the first time since Gallup began tracking this subject, more Americans now consider the Bible “a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man” than believe it is the literal word of God. The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen as well. There are fewer and fewer places in the public square where the Bible’s history and importance to American cultural and political life are mentioned.Museum of the Bible: A First Look, By CHRISTINE ROSEN, Weekly Standard, November 17, 2017
Study after study in the last quarter-century has revealed that American Christians increasingly don’t read their Bibles, don’t engage their Bibles, and don’t know their Bibles. …. [A] recent LifeWay Research study found that only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending are reading their Bibles occasionally—maybe once or twice a month, if at all. In fact, 18 percent of attenders say they never read the Bible.Dumb and Dumber: How Biblical Illiteracy Is Killing Our Nation, by Ed Stetzer, Charisma Magazine, October 9, 2014
I say to people all the time that what’s happened in the cultural change in the States over the last several decades is the Bible’s gone from being an answer to becoming the question.How Does Narrative Teach Theology and Ethics?, Darrell L. Bock and M. Daniel Carroll Rodas, The Table, February 25, 2014
Biblical literacy matters because without it you will never know God as he is, you will never know yourself as you are, you will never find and fulfill your reason for existence, you will never have authentic faith to sustain you or living hope to comfort you or unconditional love to compel you to follow Jesus. Without biblical literacy you are just guessing your way through life, and the chances are good that you are guessing wrong.Anne Graham Lotz, Does Biblical Literacy Matter?, Response, Seattle Pacific University, Spring 2007
The bottom line is that too many Christians are simply not reading and studying their Bibles. This goes beyond simple trivia questions aimed at revealing how few facts we know about our Bibles. American evangelicals increasingly lack a spiritual depth. Our lives betray a lack of Christian character. We don’t seem to be very Christlike to a watching world. So what do we do about it?Biblical Literacy by the Numbers Part 2: Scripture Engagement, By Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today, October 22, 2014
And there are indications things may be worse than you think.
As Albert Mohler, a noted Christian intellectual and seminary president explains, it looks like many of you Christians aren’t just disengaged from the Bible — you are becoming resistant to it…
“It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out.” That stunningly clear sentence reflects one of the most amazing, tragic, and lamentable characteristics of contemporary Christianity: an impatience with the Word of God.
The sentence above comes from Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today in an essay entitled, “Yawning at the Word.” In just a few hundred words, he captures the tragedy of a church increasingly impatient with and resistant to the reading and preaching of the Bible. We may wince when we read him relate his recent experiences, but we also recognize the ring of truth.
Galli was told to cut down on the biblical references in his sermon. “You’ll lose people,” the staff member warned. In a Bible study session on creation, the teacher was requested to come back the next Sunday prepared to take questions at the expense of reading the relevant scriptural texts on the doctrine. Cutting down on the number of Bible verses “would save time and, it was strongly implied, would better hold people’s interest.”
As Galli reflected, “Anyone who’s been in the preaching and teaching business knows these are not isolated examples but represent the larger reality.”Falling on Deaf Ears?—Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible, by Albert Mohler, AlbertMohler.com, October 14, 2013
So, it looks like it reveals what you really want…
Many of us want a word from God, but we don’t want the Word of God. We know enough to own a Bible but not enough for the Bible to own us.Living By the Book, By Howard G. Hendricks, William D. Hendricks
Then Paula began to connect some dots for us.
“That Bible crisis amongst the Christians in America,” said Paula, “is a key indicator that they have a love crisis.”
And Paula pointed to your Greatest Commandment …
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So, if that is the focus you are commanded to pursue, wouldn’t you want to pay special attention to your relationship with God?
We have to make sure our heart’s setting is on what God wants for us, what he has instilled in us, and what he wants to develop in our lives.
We don’t mean to become insular and self-righteous, exclusive and judgmental, but if we don’t focus on our relationship with God foremost, then we’re prone to becoming proud.Brian Houston, Live Love Lead
The Bible is replete with examples of men and women who sought to focus their lives on God.A Biblical Philosophy of Ministry Part 2: The First Business of God’s People, By Raymond C. Ortlund, Bibliothecasacra, April 1981
And Paula showed us, from that Damick guy…
Instead of asking whether God expects something from us or has any divine commands for us,we judge religious expectations by what we want, by whether a religion fits into our lifestyle. ….And usually it goes beyond subjectivity – which is trying to see a truth from different points of view – to the far more variable, trivial, and inconsequential world of opinion and preference. It’s not about truth any more. It’s about what I want.Andrew Stephen Damick, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy
So, here is another crazy question our team is now considering…
If Christianity is the story we are in, what if your God is disciplining you Christians in America for pushing him away?
You see, if Christianity is the story we are in, as you Christians are pushing the Bible away, then you are also pushing your God away.
And that is relational betrayal.
To see this more clearly, consider the following observation from your noted Dr. Haddon Robinson, author of what is one of the most influential books on preaching among American Christians…
God speaks through the Bible. It is the major tool of communication by which he addresses individuals today.Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching
And look at this, from a noted Orthodox Christian…
Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, writing in eighteenth-century Russia, has this to say about our Orthodox attitude towards the Holy Scriptures: “If an earthly king, our emperor, wrote you a letter, would you not read it with joy? Certainly, with great rejoicing and careful attention. You have been sent a letter, not by any earthly emperor, but by the King of Heaven. And yet you almost despise such a gift, so priceless a treasure.” He goes on to say: “Whenever you read the Gospel, Christ Himself is speaking to you. And while you read, you are praying and talking to Him.”
We are to see Scripture as a personal letter addressed specifically to each one of us by God. We are each of us to see Scripture reading as a direct, individual dialogue between Christ and ourselves.How To Read Your Bible, by Bishop Kallistos Ware
And this also caught our attention…
Listen to what these Early Church leaders said about engagement with the Scriptures:
Origen (AD 185-254): The Word of God is in your heart. The Word digs in this soil so that the spring may gush out.
Jerome (AD 342-420): You are reading? No. Your betrothed is talking to you! It is your betrothed, that is, Christ, who is united with you. He tears you away from the solitude of the desert and brings you into his home, saying to you, “Enter into the joy of your Master.”
Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock, The Way Back
John Chrysostom (AD 347-407): Listen carefully to me: procure books [of the Bible] that will be medicines for the soul. At least get a copy of the New Testament, the apostle’s Epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If you encounter grief, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take from them comfort for your trouble, whether it be loss, or death, or bereavement over the loss of relations. Don’t simply dive into them. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind. The cause of all evils is the failure to know the Scriptures well.
And then Paula showed us these…
If you want to understand the Bible, you’ve got to learn to read – better and faster, as for the first time, and as if you were reading a love letter. Just think of it: God wanted to communicate with you in the twenty-first century – and He wrote His message in a Book.Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible, By Howard G. Hendricks, William D. Hendricks
My listener, how highly do you value God’s Word? … Imagine a lover who has received a letter from his beloved. I assume that God’s Word is just as precious to you as this letter is to the lover. I assume that you read and think you ought to read God’s Word in the same way the lover reads this letter.Søren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination/Judge for Yourselves
So, many of you Christians across America are basically telling your God…
“Sorry, but I’m not very interested in what you have to say to me!”
Are you sure you want to do that?
What if… well, look at these passages Paula Wong showed us…
My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations.
Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.
As for you, O house of Israel, thus says the Lord God: Go serve every one of you his idols, now and hereafter, if you will not listen to me; but my holy name you shall no more profane with your gifts and your idols.
They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction.
Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
Seriously. Have you considered the possibility that as you push your God away, it fits with this…
[I]dolatry was one of the main reasons God judged the nation. The parallel in a non-theocratic country is this: God will judge the nation due to the idolatry of the believers in the nation. One of the manifestations of idolatry is the distancing of one’s heart from the one true God who has revealed Himself in the Bible – and that void, resulting from the distancing, being filled with other things. Mind you, it is not the other things that fill one’s heart that are necessarily sinful in and of themselves, rather it is the distancing from God and the lack of obedience to His precepts that connote the sin.The Book of Lamentations As It Applies to America, BY RALPH DROLLINGER, Capitol Ministries, MAY 1, 2014
And as we thought about all this, and struggled with how we could find forward, Paula showed us this, from your Damick guy…
For nearly everything else in life, whether it’s technology, health care or even the Super Bowl record of your favorite football team, we demand seriousness, detail, and accuracy. Yet we as a culture are ignoring a basic yet obvious truth: If there really is a God, then who He is and what He might want from us are more important than anything else in the universe.
The nature of Truth is that it is true no matter what anyone says about it. In the face of Truth, there is no opinion. Most people already believe that deep down, but they may not apply it to the question that matters most, namely, “Who is God and what does He want from me?”Andrew Stephen Damick, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy