My wife and I have four children, with our oldest in college and youngest in elementary school.
Helping them develop their own walk with God is on our minds—a lot! So are questions about why so many young people are walking away from faith, and why parents often have a distant relationship with God.
I’m called to guide my own family, and help other believers walk with God. I’ve seen all kinds of programs, books, and solutions offered. All sound wonderful, but seem to fall short.
And there’s plenty of explanations about why young people are drifting from faith – it’s culture… it’s media… it’s parenting styles… it’s ineffective youth ministry.
I kept coming back to an answer that was so obvious… I almost missed it. The Bible.
It’s no secret biblical literacy is on decline. Every major researcher on faith trends seems to be reporting it.
The Bible is our only unchanging lifeline to our faith. Its words are the truest, and most transferable expression of God.
Only this book levels the playing field for anyone to approach God.
In many ways, the words are the closest we can get to our Creator, and the only way faith transfers from one generation to the next.
Bible related products, apps, and topical books are not the answer. We have access to bazillions. Cartoons won’t build our faith, movies won’t renew our minds, and seminars won’t feed our hearts.
The Bible text is alive. So why do we settle for being once-removed from the source? Why aren’t we meeting God through His word?
Too many Christians either haven’t been engaging with the Bible, or are engaging with it in ways that don’t deepen their walk with God. As a result, the Bible doesn’t have a place in normal everyday conversations.
People don’t read the Bible because they don’t like the Bible.
But… People don’t like the Bible because they don’t read the Bible.
Lately, I’ve seen a brighter and brighter spotlight placed on the Bible. To me, this marks either an attempt to finally have the Bible erased from our culture once and for all—or a genuine hunger for God. I trust the latter is true, but we all play a role in the outcome.
Here are 8 reasons we don’t read the Bible. (And I have an antidote for this at the end of the post!)
1. The Bible is optional
After all, we have TV, internet, and plenty of “wise” voices touting answers. The faith message has been oversimplified with trite expressions:
Love God, love people.
Why do I need to read that dusty book when I have a four-word synopsis?
Many people see more verses of scripture on Facebook memes than in their Bible. And to them, Facebook replaces the Bible.
2. Many church leaders don’t expect us to read the Bible
I didn’t say leaders don’t want people to read the Bible, they don’t expect it.
How can we tell? Are you expected to bring your Bible to church?
When our kids were babies and toddlers, we didn’t expect them to feed themselves, or even know how. So we fed them little bites of baby food. Eventually we expected them to feed themselves, and even make their own meals.
Expository pastors are content to feed spoonful at a time. Thematic-preaching pastors enjoy bringing a topical flavor-of-the-month. Both have a place, but shouldn't we be encouraged (and expected) to do some self-feeding at home?
College professors expect their students to read the textbook outside of class. But many pastors don't expect the same of their flocks.
3. All we hear is mission and vision
An unintended consequence of church branding and mission statements is constant preaching of vision, and funding for mission.
In a growing number of churches, vision has replaced discipleship. The A-B-C's (Attendance, Baptisms, Cash) are measurable… spiritual growth (and Bible literacy) is difficult to assess.
Even when “discipleship” is programmed, there’s not an emphasis on personal Bible reading. (See #2)
4. Google faith
We can google a Bible verse, or blog about a verse, any time we want. So why read what's around it?
100 million people have downloaded the YouVersion Bible app. I celebrate that fact.
My question is, with accessibility to scripture climbing by the day, why is faith and Bible engagement declining?
Since we can always google the Bible when we “need” it, we rarely read the book.
For some, even thinking about that leather-bound book triggers memories of personal failure. And who wants to be reminded of that?! If you've ever tried a 365-day read, you know what I'm talking about.
For others, disappointing and confusing experiences reading the Bible have triggered resignation (keep that book away from me).
6. Your parents don’t read the Bible
I’m talking to your kids, now.
If you don’t read it, your kids won’t, statistically speaking. If you’ve given up, they may never begin.
7. Bible bullies
Sincere believers are often told, overtly and covertly, that they are not smart or educated enough to truly understand the Bible.
Sounds like something Martin Luther railed against 500 years ago! (This year is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the reformation, by the way.) He went on to translate a version of the Bible in their language so more people could read it.
Like others before and after, he was persecuted for giving such a “lofty” book to lowly people.
Today, some bestselling authors actually tell their followers that without the benefit of their education and knowledge of “historical context” they can’t possibly understand the Bible.
So why try?
8. Paul predicted you wouldn’t read it.
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. (2 Timothy 4:3)
Okay, The Apostle Paul didn’t predict you wouldn’t read it. But he predicted many would find more entertaining alternatives.
One reason to read the Bible - Faith Restarts
Moses instructed families to teach the law to their families every day. But he knew that everyone needs a fresh restart now and then.
That's why he instructed the Israelites to read the entire book of the law to the entire congregation every seven years.
Joshua triggered a restart reading as soon as they crossed the Jordan River. (Joshua 8) King Josiah ordered a restart when the dust-covered book of the law was discovered in the temple. (2 Kings 22) Ezra and Nehemiah instituted some restart reading sessions when they rebuilt the temple and the walls. (Nehemiah 8)
We all need faith restarts - fresh opportunities to recharge our faith batteries.
With my own family, with friends and their families, and in churches, I’ve helped people recharge their faith and rediscover the wonder of the Bible… by reading it!
But with a few twists and some guidance.
Once again, we’re power-reading through the entire Bible in 60 days! It's possible, rewarding, and surprising.
This is not Bible study, it's Bible reading.
We begin June 5th. I'll guide you through a big-picture, edge-to-edge reading with daily insights and a proven plan.
This isn't one of those challenges where I throw out a big goal and walk away. I'm with you daily for 60 days, to help you stay on course, and enjoy the journey.
Join us here today! http://eepurl.com/cPPJoD
Jeff Anderson speaks and writes about walking with God and leading your family into deeply rooted faith. He’s the author of two books, Plastic Donuts and Divine Applause (Multnomah/Random House). www.JeffAndersonAuthor.com
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/artisteer
Publication date: May 30, 2017