Several weeks away from the blog, mostly because of the Formation Church Trainees conference. I love working with your leaders passionate to grow in grace, love, character and servanthood. Why does God let me do this stuff? I guess because he wants me to grow in his grace, love character and servanthood too.
Last week I went to a consultation of agencies thinking about how to get the Bible back at the heart of churches that have started to drift away from it. I was hit with by two comments:
1. A minister said that a consequence of putting Bibles in every chair in his church meant that people no longer brought their own Bibles to church. And having stopped pouring over their own Bible in church were possibly becoming less and less familiar with them at home. He was worried that a mindset was developing of "I get my Bible input in church once a week"
2. The question was posed about what affect digital media is having on Bible reading. We live in a culture where a new generation has never not had 24/7 multiple channel entertainment and games consoles and where engagement with text is rapidly decreasing. Perhaps more worryingly, the ability to google any information on the spur of the moment creates an understanding that information doesn't need to be retained or meditated upon, because it is always available. People are very used to approaching information alone, for the sake of knowledge, rather than as part of a worshipping community for the sake of obedience.
Add together these two things and the reality is that it becomes harder and harder for people to have an authentically biblical worldview. The Bible doesn't work its way through the whole of everyday living, to penetrate ethics, relationships and decision-making. A young Christian said to me recently "but I do my 10 minutes Bible a day, that's all I have time for, what more do you want?" Becoming a Christian means an additional 10 minute a day Bible responsibility.
If its true that people aren't receiving the Bible in such a way as it works through their entire worldview, how can we change that? I think it is possible that the current generation aren't passing that on very well because we have been used to being passive receivers of Bible ministry from others, rather than active self-feeders on the Word. The very people who ought to have the deepest, longest, most thrilling Bible worldview in many churches - and therefore be the best qualified to pass it on - don't and aren't. There is a work to do with our longer standing members. Ask yourself "how many of the over-40, long-standing, disciples in my church are actively working at passing on biblical truth and worldview to a younger believer?"
But there is a work to do for younger and newer believers too. We have to contextualise our Bible handling for their generational needs. By which I mean if there are societal factors that make it hard fro the Bible to get into their blood stream we may have to facilitate their learning and experience of the Christian life in new ways. I suspect I am already too old to figure out what all of those should be, but someone needs to.
Every time I preach or lead I try to say something direct and bold about either what the church is, or what the Bible is and why we trust it, read it, live it and preach it. In our day both church and Bible are open to being dramatically misunderstood - as social club and book of wise advice respectively. I have had some people recently register shock when I have said that we have to obey the word, because they had never heard their own church tell them that God speaks authoritatively in the Bible. I have had similar reactions from people who have been long-term lowest-common-denominator church goers, who have wrongly assumed for years that church is about their comfort zone, rather than being a community of disciples for making disciples to the glory of God.
I think in our introductions, and in all our Bible applications, it is time to be bold and direct. Otherwise our congregations will drift further and further from having a thorough-going biblical DNA in every member.