This Q&A segment looks at the congregation’s role in understanding the Bible.
Q: What can congregations do to help increase biblical literacy?
A: The first and simplest answer is, “Read the Bible.” Read it more and read it as if it matters. Most congregations spend more time on Sunday checking the sound system than reading the Bible. The amount of time spent on every activity in the major worship service of the week will demonstrate what the people or the staff consider most important. The stopwatch test will show that most churches consider listening to contemporary Christian music more important than reading the Bible. The occasional admonition, “You ought to be reading your Bibles,” will never overcome the message given by how we spend worship time.
So, read the Bible in church—out loud.
Many liturgical churches will read four separate paragraphs of Scripture in every service, compared to many evangelical churches that read only one verse. What does that teach the church about the value of Scripture? Are we afraid it will be boring? It will be boring if we approach it as such. Read Scripture responsively, in unison, arranged in reader’s theater format, dramatically. Carry it into the congregation to read. Read it like it is important . . . because it is!
Another thing congregations can do is to help the pastor preach biblically by providing resources. Provide a commentary budget—the Bible faculty at our Nazarene colleges, universities, and seminaries will be glad to make recommendations. Invest in Bible software and train pastors and teachers in its use. Compliment and encourage your pastor when she or he preaches messages that help you understand how the Bible applies to your life. Provide programming that focuses on the Bible: talk about how we got the Bible; learn how to study the Bible; provide studies of books of the Bible, both in Sunday school classes and in small group Bible studies, etc.
Remember that biblical literacy is not the mastery of Bible trivia. It is ultimately Scripture forming us into Christlikeness. Every means of enhancing, increasing, and deepening our encounters with the Scriptures is how we increase biblical literacy.
Roger L. Hahn is professor of New Testament at Nazarene Theological Seminary.
Holiness Today, Jul/Aug 2018