“I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly in order to receive the answers. One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared to really enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer shall we receive it. That is because in the Bible God speaks to us.” — Dietrick Bonhoeffer
I remember reading an article from one of my favorite bloggers, Kevin DeYoung a few years ago in which he wrote about the importance of teaching the Bible. While he is advocating the idea that churches need to be teaching more, a position which I totally I agree, I think the problem is deeper. Our churches and church leaders often do not agree with the statement of Bonhoeffer. Mainly, the Bible alone (emphasis mine) is the answer to all questions.
While I know there are many good churches focused on the Word, there are plenty who are not. I may be guilty of making a broad brush criticism of churches but here is what I have seeing on a regular basis:
- Pastors are pushed to provide marriage advice, child-rearing tips, financial planning etc and while these are valuable topics, rarely are they taught from the Scriptures – beyond an opening verse.
- Children’s ministry is rarely more than a glorified babysitting service so parents can have a 60 minute break to hear the previously mentioned topics.
- Youth groups are fun times full of dodgeball, pizza and music, but with just a hint of a Bible verse.
- Small groups are times where everyone gets to share their opinion of a passage – one they just read together and spent all of 10 seconds thinking about.
Teach the Word.
I realize a venue which reaches adults may not make a lasting impact on pre-schoolers and I would expect a youth group to have a higher energy level than the Senior Adult Sunday School Class, but I maintain, each venue of our churches needs to have the Word taught – not just referred to – but taught.
I have heard way too many messages about the Bible which don’t ever open it to teach something from it. This isn’t just something I witnessed firsthand, but I’ve noticed this in various Christian media outlets. The Word is mentioned in a positive way, but often not taught.
We have more English versions of the Bible available to us than any previous generation. We have study guides, reference materials, charts, graphs, dictionaries and encyclopedias galore. The amount of free resources found online is staggering. Yet I think we face a level of Biblical illiteracy unprecedented in the last 200+ years.
Do people study the Word on their own? I don’t mean just read, but as Bonhoeffer states “to be prepared to really enquire” of it. Seeking out God’s answers from His Word takes some effort, from both the hearer and the teacher.
The hearer or the person wishing to be taught, needs to come to study (service, event etc) with some interest in hearing what God has for them. Of course, I don’t expect a 4 year old to have made this leap (but some do!). But if we have created an atmosphere where the attendees know they are going to hear something relevant for their life taught from God’s Word, then we’ve won half the battle! If you come to church expecting something from God’s Word, there is a good chance you are going to hear it!
The other half of this equation is what DeYoung was getting to. We church leaders need to make a point to teach the Word. Sure, Sunday morning comes to mind, but anytime there is any function going on in church, can’t we use that as a Bible teaching opportunity?
So we have to ask ourselves if we agree with Bonhoeffer. Is the Bible alone the answer to our questions? Is God’s Word relevant to our life and can it be applied to life beyond Sunday morning?
I say whole-heartedly YES and a thousand times YES.
Let’s come to our services expecting to learn something from God’s Word and let’s make a point to teach the Word in whatever venue we lead. Be creative with it as much as you need to reach your audience, but teach the Word.
Blessings My Friend