Bible illiteracy doesn’t have to define this generation of American Christians.
Growing up in Sunday School provides a person with unique memories that probably seem odd to those who didn’t attend Sunday School as a child. A large part of my Sunday School experience involved singing song accompanied by energetic hand motions. Every now and then, one of those catchy song gets lodged in my head for hours at a time. One of those songs is “Read Your Bible Every Day.” It goes like this:
My Sunday School teachers used this song to teach my classmates and me about the importance of studying God’s Word daily. It’s a simple message, really – reading your Bible consistently helps you grow as a Christian. Just as any relationship requires dialog and facetime, so too does our relationship with God. Listening to Him speak to us (through His Word), and responding to what He says (through prayer) grows our relationship with Him.
Unfortunately, we can all relate to just how difficult this simple message can be to live out. Life gets busy, and reading our Bible gets cut from our daily schedule.
The Reality of Bible Illiteracy
In modern America, reading the Bible and praying every day has become a rarity, leading to previously unreached levels of Bible illiteracy. Shocking stats abound – not even 50% of American adults can name the four gospels, over 50% of graduating high school students think Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife, 60% of Americans can’t name half of the Ten Commandments. The numbers go on and on.
Why the spike in Bible illiteracy? Studies find that though they respect and revere the Bible, Americans don’t actually read it. So as shocking as Bible illiteracy stats among Americans may be, more eye-opening are the stats on how often, or more precisely how infrequently, American Christians crack the cover of the Holy Scripture. Ed Stetzer of Christianity Today explains the situation well:
“Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word. We claim it’s God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren’t reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.”
Remember that these aren’t statistic on the Bible reading habits of unbelievers. They describe self-proclaimed, Bible-believing, Church-going Christians.
The Consequences of Bible Illiteracy
At Palmetto Family, we are deeply involved in promoting a positive moral culture in South Carolina. Unfortunately, the growing trend toward biblical illiteracy by Christians and non-Christians alike makes it progressively more difficult for individuals to discern which values are best, and has led to consequences easily identified. Just a quick comparison of acceptable societal behavior from the good-ole days when Bible literacy was high to the modern day sheds light on what Bible illiteracy has wrought.
Bible illiteracy has also lead to unfortunate consequences within the Christian community. It’s no wonder Christians are confused about sexuality, abortion and other hot-button issues. How can Biblically-illiterate Christians be expected to stand for what God teaches in His Word?
The Remedy of Bible Illiteracy
It’s easy to point fingers. But remember Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:5:
“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Changing the tide of Bible illiteracy won’t be accomplished in a single day or by a single person. However, each of us plays an integral role in this arduous task.
Start by becoming Bible literate yourself. Study God’s Word, love it, meditate on it. Insert the Bible where it belongs in your life and in your conversations with others. Teach your children about its importance. Don’t go a single day without teaching the young ones in your family to value Scripture more than anything else. Here are a few tips.
- We recommend that devotions (a quiet time to read the scripture and pray) be enjoyed in the morning at a set place, a set time and with a specific Bible. There is no better way to start the day than to begin it with the Creator. A regular place, time, and copy of the scripture will help develop the habit.
- We also recommend that you take advantage of modern technology. An alarm clock, an alarm watch or a smart phone alarm set for every morning at a specific time will force you to make the decision to, in essence, say yes or no to God’s Word. Some of the better smart phone applications, like Bible Gateway or YouVersion, will alert you and allow you to set up a reading plan so that “losing your place” is nearly impossible. If you stick with the plan, you’ll be guaranteed to read the Bible through in a year, the New Testament in a year, or whatever pace you choose.
After you’ve solidified a plan to grow in your Bible literacy, take up the task at church. Lovingly “cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Teach Sunday School, lead Vacation Bible School, volunteer in the youth group. Be the example God has called all Christians to be.
Bible illiteracy doesn’t have to define this generation of American Christians. But it will unless Christians read their Bible and pray daily, because that’s the only way they’ll grow, grow, GROW.
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