If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard the alarmists warning of the imminent demise of the Church. We are in a culture war, they say, and nothing less than the existence of the Body of Christ is on the line. Threats from without, compromise from within—the threats are increasing and the pressure is mounting. We have to do something or the devil will win!
Now I’m no alarmist, but I do believe the Church faces a serious threat today. But the greatest threat to the Church does not come from liberal theology, secularism, materialism, any political movement, or even Islam. No, the greatest threat to the Church today is that most people who call themselves Christians have no idea how to read the Bible.
Far too many Christians never pick up their Bibles; and what’s worse, when they do, they misunderstand it and have no clue how to apply what they read to their lives. We are biblically illiterate. We think “God helps those who help themselves” is one of the treasured promises of Scripture. The Rapture has become one of our most beloved doctrines! And when a skeptic confronts us with a so-called contradiction in Scripture, we panic and our whole world comes crashing down.
The saddest thing about our current state of affairs is that it is entirely avoidable. This shouldn’t be happening. We have more access (in America) to the Bible than any culture in history. We have more translations, more publishers, more authors, more supporting materials than ever before! Of all the books in the world, the Bible should be the one book that, by now, we know quite well. And yet it remains a mystery to most.
I don’t believe that the Church is on the verge of extinction because of this. But we are immeasurably weaker. We are easy prey for false teachers. We are ignorant of the promises and commands of God. We don’t know the story of how we came to be who we are or where we are going. We are wispy. Our faith is thin.
The solution is to engage the Bible with our minds—to learn how to read the Scriptures well. This takes work, time, and focus. We can’t just pick up the Bible, open to a random verse, and read until something hits us in the face anymore. We have to pay attention to the other 99% that we usually skim over. We have to learn how to ask the right questions of the text.
Because I’m so passionate about this, and because I love to see people learn to understand the Bible, I offer a class called Understanding Scripture that equips you to read and study the Bible well. But if you can’t take my class (or a class like it at your church), there are still many resources available to you. Two books I recommend are Grasping God’s Word by Duvall & Hays, and How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee & Stuart. You don’t have to be intimidated by the Bible anymore. You can engage with it. You can learn to know it well, and to apply it to your life. Learning how to read the Bible well is the best answer to the greatest threat facing the Church.