I cease to be amazed at how few Christians actually read their Bible. It is no longer read in the Church or the home, or at least not read often or well.

I received a kind letter from a lady this week who is a reader of our theological quaterly, the Reformation & Revival Journal. She laments the absence (and silence) of the Scripture in her evangelical church. It is assumed, she notes, but not read. The children, she writes, are biblical illiterates, learning little moral lessons, and therapeutically oriented helpful insights, without much biblical foundation. The adults prefer pablum and easy lessons to hard thought. She further laments that even pastors are now doing their Bible study with computer technologies that lead them to do simplistic word studies which lead to proof texting and distortion. Our of this context pastors (she cites real life examples) are giving the results of this type of work to their flocks.

For nearly twenty years I have watched Bible reading steadily decline in America. The evidence is clear. Churches no longer read texts from the Old Testament, the Gospels and the Epistles each week. It takes too much time. Seeker churches downplayed Bible reading (and other such ritual). Most church services have to get in and out in not much more than sixty minutes. There is, therefore, very little time for things like reading. The fruit of this direction now spills over into most all churches that are non-liturgical. Evangelical educational curricula has increasingly moved away from seeking to make sure that students know the Scriptures well. And most families have little or no time for public Bible reading at meals. The result is that we have more and more Bibles to read and spend less and less time reading them. The results of this shift are immense. The outcome will only lead to the kind of darkness that preceded the sixteenth century awakening to the Word of God.

What good is having a Bible (or many Bibles) if you do not read it (them)?

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  1. Ray October 6, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    Amen to that!
    When I tell pastors that I preach from the Word every week in an expository manner, many of them actually ask me, “And your people don’t complain?”
    We may not be as large as many of the churches in the land, but I feel very confident that the people in my congregation are searching the Word to see if what I say is true!
    Truth be told, many are STARVING for the Word to be preached, much to the astonishment of many in the CGM world.
    If pastors would put down their entertainment wands, and pick up the Word of God, we would see change begin where it is needed most, behind the pulpit, and then extending into the Body as a whole!

  2. Brandon Withrow October 7, 2005 at 9:05 am

    CNN reported that a group in Australia “translated” the Bible into a text message language (SMS), so it read: “In da Bginnin God cre8d da heavens & da earth.” Maybe that will help…
    “Can you read me now?”

  3. Gene Redlin October 7, 2005 at 12:09 pm

    The main obstacle to Bible Reading is Christian Books. This is particularly true among evangelical pastors. They are so engrossed in reading good Christian books they fail to read the base document.
    The best most powerful pastors I know are those who read NO Christian books at all. There are still a few around. I can point you to them.
    They know the word cold, they know what Gods says and they aren’t confused when watered down theology comes down from delusional ivory towers. (Gay Marriage, Homosexual Ministers, Euthanasia, Abortion)
    Pastors, if you want your people to read the Bible, quit recommending and referring them to Christian Books no matter how good they are. Stand on the mighty word of God and nothing else in 2006 and see if it makes a difference.
    I’m betting it will.
    By the way, I gave up reading Christian Books 2 years ago. I haven’t even read Purpose Driven Life. I’m sure it’s very good. It may even contain some of God’s word. But, why settle for Pabulum when steak is being served across the street. In the teaching or preaching I am often asked, “What Book are you teaching from?” When I tell them I always get a blank look. Teaching from the Bible is a lost art in need of revisiting.
    Pastors, quit reading all those books. Your people need you to lead in this area. They will rise only to the level you do.

  4. John H. Armstrong October 7, 2005 at 2:21 pm

    You often write curious comments Gene. This one really does cross the line both logically and theologically. If you believe what you actually write you should stop reading blogs, and stop giving us your opinions, since these are nothing more than commentaries on Scripture and Christian thought. Furthermore, why listen to preaching at all since all we need is to be found in reading and studying the Bible ALONE? We could save a great deal of hard work if we just gathered and “heard” the Bible quoted and read aloud?
    Your arguments are quite consistent with a distinctly anti-intellectual approach to the mind. I remind serious readers that these types of thoughts actually drive most of the sectarian and cultic movements that have scorched, and divided the catholic and apostolic church even more.

  5. Scott Lamb October 7, 2005 at 2:50 pm

    I hear what you are saying, and if only reading the Bible has brought about spiritual growth for you, I am not one to argue against your own experience.
    But, I would have to agree with John’s comments to you regarding why you are reading blogs. As good as they may be from day to day, the best of them actually contain less wisdom than great Christian books (that have been put through careful editorial work and accountability. Blogs at their best (mine included), are less thought-out than good Christian books.
    Scott Lamb
    (a fledgling Christian book review blog, not to be confused with a well-written book)

  6. Gene Redlin October 7, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    I should be offended at your pejorative comment:
    “”Your arguments are quite consistent with a distinctly anti-intellectual approach to the mind. I remind serious readers that these types of thoughts actually drive most of the sectarian and cultic movements that have scorched, and divided the catholic and apostolic church even more.””
    I have known men of God who’s ministries drifted off course by winds of doctrine they read and accepted in books. So have you.
    If your blogsite was interpreting scripture I would run. You talk about ministry issues and church dynamics outside of my paradigm. So I read it. I look at and write for several blogsites. All political, opinion and comment. I can send you a list. I have written a book on rural economics. I’m not against books, I’m against the substitution of Christian books for Bible.
    I read several NEWS magazines, the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and others every day. I am a voracious consumer of sociological books. I read very little fiction. You don’t know me well enough to discount my intellect as you did.
    I have a library of Christian Books I read in the past. There may be 200 books on those shelves. It did not help my faith much to read those books. I got to the point where I began to recognize the negative effect they were having on my trust in God’s grace and mercy. I was living off other’s experiences in God and other people’s revelations. I was like the foolish virgins. None of my own oil.
    A personal Faith hero of mine is Smith Wigglesworth. He only read the Bible his whole life. He would have been ignorant according to you. I only wish I could be 1% the man of God he was. God give us more Smith Wigglesworths.
    I aspire to a calling centered not in books and other people’s opinions of what the Bible says, I aspire to a calling out of the living word of God.
    I think that’s a worthy goal of any person who considers himself to be a minister of God (Phd or not).

  7. Scott Lamb October 7, 2005 at 3:49 pm

    That is a lot of heat.
    Perhaps private email correspondence would be preferred to such a public forum, with the bullets you are packing. Or, perhaps neither would be preferred.

  8. A. B. Caneday October 7, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    Your blog entry is exactly on target. Churches and ministers simply assume God’s Word rather than feature it by reading it publicly. There are, I imagine, numerous reasons for this. One is likely the church’s caving in to our video-based culture. Public reading is almost a lost art. People are losing the ability to read aloud.
    Thomas McComiskey published a book several years ago on developing the art of public reading of Scripture. Seminaries should nurture and cultivate the art as much as the art of preaching.
    My wife and I visited an evangelical church last Lord’s Day. Scripture was clearly assumed but not featured. Even the sermon assumed some level of knowledge of Scripture, but the preacher openly announced that he would not read any of the Scriptures alluded to because of insufficient time. Besides, he assumed that everybody knew the passage anyway.
    Students that I teach at our college lack biblical knowledge. The vast majority are so biblically illiterate that they cannot answer simple questions that I pose in classes. They, by the way, are upper level students who have already passed through our introductory courses. Evidently, students are not even reading the Bible in their Bible introduction courses.
    We have a serious problem that we need to address.
    A. B. Caneday

  9. Scott Eaton October 7, 2005 at 10:16 pm

    Thank you, John, for this encouraging blog entry. As a pastor of an evangelical church it is a constant source of frustration to me that we assume the Bible instead of actually read the Bible in our worship services. Didn’t St. Paul tell Timothy to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13)? So why is this such a hang up for so-called “Bible-believing” churches. Maybe the poison of “seeker sensitivity” combined with evangelical apathy strikes again.
    Recently I attended a funeral at a Roman Catholic church. It saddened me that I heard more of the Bible read in this church than I ever do in my own. It strikes me as odd that churches which claim “sola scriptura” actually spend less time reading the Scripture than our Roman Catholic friends. Any church that follows a liturgy publicly reads more Scripture than does the average evangelical, Baptist, or non-denominational church. Ironic, isn’t it?
    By the way, with God as our help and strength we are working to change this situation in our church.

  10. Susan Hammond October 13, 2005 at 11:12 am

    I know this is a rather late response, but I think it’s still worth sharing. A little over a year ago now, my husband was looking for a better way to read the Bible than doing so right before he fell asleep at night. He decided to leave the Bible open on the kitchen table, and make it his regular practice to read at least one chapter every morning before he read anything else.
    Though I have many other opportunities throughout my day to read the Scriptures, I have joined him in this practice, though at a slightly later time from his, so that he can have quiet time with the Lord on his own.
    Reading each chapter “together” has opened up wonderful opportunities to edify each other with new or deepened insights that the Lord will give to us. Leaving the Bible open on the table is a silent witness to our commitment to read in this way each day, and also serves to gently remind any who come into our kitchen that the Bible is worth opening – and reading! Actually, I hope the way in which we live our lives does that too!
    Some of my recent studies have taken me into the works of John Wesley. I will close with a comment of his about the Bible.
    “O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God!”
    Blessings to you!

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