What percentage of people in your church have their own Bible? Most, I guess. Many own more than one. What percentage are reading them at home? Regularly - once a week, twice a week, every day? I guess a much lower percentage.
Living in a digital age is clearly having an effect on Bible reading. I don’t just mean having new devices on which it is possible to access and read the scriptures. I mean new devices that distract from reading them. Our new generation have never not had computers, gaming, multiple channels of distraction. They have so many inputs. They don’t need to retain any information because they can google it at any time.
Don't get me wrong, I love having the text of the Bible on my tablet and use it a lot. But it's not the same. Not only can I not scan forward and backwards for context so easily so the way I approach scripture is subtly different, not only do I have a myriad of ways to check alternate references, maps, diagrams and the like. But, honestly, I have a lot of other things on my tablet too that are an easy distraction. Especially social media feeds from around the world.
What percentage of the people in your church now only receive the Bible in a church meeting and aren’t engaging with it in any other context? Are they even realising what they are losing by not having God’s word penetrating and getting applied in their lives every day? What kind of worldview and ethics are they imbibing in the place of a biblical one? It is impossible to get God’s wisdom and answers for real life today without reading the Bible, so what substitute sources of wisdom and answers are they trusting instead?
There are problems mounting for the current generation. But I also wonder if they weren’t set up a generation before. Any church congregation that got used to receiving the scriptures passively from preachers and teachers rather than interacting with it and learning for themselves are ill-equipped to pass them on. I suspect that many of us have had such a passive experience in our churches for some generations. We have been taught to receive and consume what is dished up to us by others but not to feed ourselves and not to pass on. If the majority of Christians in the older generation are not discipling the newer one, no surprises if the newer one struggles to know how to meet God in the Bible even without the challenges posed by a rapidly changing world and new technology.
How do we re-establish the Bible at the cutting edge of the life of every disciple? How do we make it the foundation stone of all our youth, all our old people, all of our friends? How do we help our people in a rapidly changing world to not be distracted from God’s wonderful fountain of wisdom and life? These are questions worth our urgent attention.
You are my portion Lord;
I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart;
Be gracious to me according to your promise.