Read Part 1.
The central purpose of the church is to exalt Christ. We do that through evangelism, worship, fellowship, prayer and in general, making disciples (Acts 2:42-43). The primary means by which disciples are made is through the transforming power of the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit uses the inspired Word to change lives (Rom 12:1-2). Therefore, it is vital that the local church provide a variety of means by which the life-changing truth of God’s Word is taught and applied to God’s people.
At this point I want to discuss specific means by which the Word of God can be taught in the church setting and conclude with some comments about personal study. I have to say that as a pastor of the same church for over four decades there is nothing that is on my mind more frequently than how to communicate God’s Word to His people in such a way that it transforms lives. I often wake up at night thinking of a family or individual who is not doing well spiritually, praying for ways that they might be reached with the truth of God’s Word.
From Think on These Things, March 2017; used with permission.
I concluded my article titled “Biblical Illiteracy” with these words:
Biblical illiteracy is well recognized today. There are many reasons why not only the general population but also the evangelical church has little understanding and knowledge of Scripture, and I have tried to identify some of these in the body of this article. With all of the attacks on the trustworthiness of Scripture, coupled with general lack of biblical knowledge and apathy toward what it proclaims, it would be easy to despair for the future of the Scriptures.
But God’s Word always accomplishes that which it is sent forth by the Lord to accomplish (Isa 55:1) which is to teach, reprove, correct and train His people in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). We have the promise of Jesus that His Word will never pass away (Matt 24:35). Rather than despair we should make every effort to pass along the Lord’s truth to the next generation (Deut 6:4-9; Psalm 145:4). At this point we need to consider some means to do so. What can we personally, and corporately as the church, do to address the issue of biblical illiteracy?
It is to this subject we now turn.
Read Part 1.
The bad news does not end with LifeWay’s latest survey. Considered the most comprehensive study on the religious views of teenagers ever conducted, a four year effort led by Christian Smith called the National Study of Youth and Religion in 2005 determined that the majority of American teens believe in God and worship in conventional congregations, but their religious knowledge is remarkably shallow, and they have a tough time expressing the difference that faith makes in their lives.
Though the phone survey depicted broad affinity with religion, the face-to-face interviews found that many teens’ religious knowledge was “meager, nebulous and often fallacious” and engagement with the substance of their traditions remarkably shallow. Most seemed hard put to express coherently their beliefs and what difference they make.
Many were so detached from the traditions of their faith, says the report, that they’re virtually following a different creed in which an undemanding God exists mostly to solve problems and make people feel good. Truth in any absolute, theological sense, takes a back seat.
“God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist” who’s on call as needed.1
From Think on These Things, Feb. 2017; used with permission.
Both statistical research and anecdotal observation come to the same conclusion—America, a nation once steeped in Scripture if not always living in obedience to God, has joined the ranks of the biblically illiterate from around the globe. Both theologians and sociologists speak of our “post-Christian” culture, which, while still being fueled to some extent by the capital of Christianity, is now all but coasting on empty.
Albert Mohler, in a short article entitled “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” quotes pollsters George Gallup and Jim Castelli as saying, “Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”1 As a result, Mohler documents that fewer than half of all adults can name the four Gospels, identify more than 3 disciples or name even five of the Ten Commandments. Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is in the Bible.
Tim Miller (DBTS): I do not desire to spend all my time as an educator interacting with this “world” of broader scholarship, developing its foundations and conclusions. There are riches within the biblical text reserved only for those who read it with trust and humility. Nevertheless, I do not want my students to be ignorant of this “world” either. If you are a theological educator, I would love to hear your advice on maintaining a helpful balance.
Read the series so far.
Since the Enlightenment, when unaided human reason was promoted to a place above the authority of the Holy Scriptures, it has been presumed that mankind can, at least in principle, explain himself and his surroundings without recourse to “the God hypothesis.” Although they couldn’t agree among themselves about how to rely on the human mind, they “knew” at least one thing: God—if He or it existed, would have to pass their examinations and fit within their logical formulations.
The Creator would have to become subject to the creature. Of course, their examinations were naively inapplicable, and their use of logic off-target. The god of unbelief is always a straw man.
Pastor Dean Taylor’s church recently decided to continue conducting Sunday evening services. His thoughts below are aimed mainly at the Calvary congregation, but they offer a helpful perspective on why one church is keeping the practice going—as well as some ideas for doing this service effectively. —Editor
I’m speaking of a national trend. Many churches that used to have a Sunday evening service don’t anymore. There is much theorizing about reasons for that. Thom Ranier wrote about it last year. His article, along with the comments, is very helpful in understanding this trend.
Our pastors recently spent time analyzing, discussing, praying about, and planning for our Sunday evening gatherings at Calvary. We believe there is great value in what is provided during our second Lord’s Day gathering. This service is a vital part of our church’s life. We are refining the service’s focus and content and encouraging our people to make the effort to avail themselves and their families of what we prepare and offer. We want to give our people good reasons to make the second trip.