These days more Christian leaders are decrying the decline in Bible reading. “The problem in the church today…” they thunder, “…is biblical illiteracy!” Guilty “Amens” go up from the congregation. It’s a great line, but I’m not so sure it’s the real problem.
I am sure that Bible reading is decreasing; the research on that is clear. But is the solution to learn more about the Bible? I agree, it doesn’t look good if a high percentage of church-goers believe the Sermon on the Mount was a message Jesus delivered on horseback. Or that most people can name all four Beatles but not one of the twelve Apostles.
But it seems to me the real issue is not that Christians need to bone up on their Bible factoids. Rather, it’s that Christians need to discover what Bible engagement is; that’s what’s missing in the church today. The question is, what exactly is Bible engagement?
On a practical level it means there are different ways to take in the Bible’s message—reading, listening, discussing, watching, acting, drawing, etc. And on a philosophical level it means there are different outcomes that can result from connecting with the Word of God.
My observation is the outcome most Christians seek from reading the Bible is more biblical knowledge and truth, both of which are important. But the outcome that makes the Bible come alive is a sense that we’ve experienced the presence of the living God as we read and attempt to obey his Word. That’s what Bible engagement is all about.
So my challenge to Christian leaders who are genuinely concerned about the decline in Bible reading is this: stop telling us we’re biblical ignoramuses, and start encouraging us to meet God in his Word. Because ultimately, true Bible engagement is real God engagement. And that’s our deepest need.