The church needs to hear this blaring alarm and stop, drop, and pray.
“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6–7, NASB95)
It’s no surprise that our society is becoming less and less familiar with the Bible. It’s often regarded as archaic, superstitious, and contentious, something relegated to a less enlightened time. When the Bible is cited, it’s akin to quoting Shakespeare’s pithy sayings. As a vestige of yesteryear, the Bible can be brought to bear to lend some sort of fading gravitas but often those quotes are butchered and misapplied in service to one's own aims, such as “money is the root of all evil” or “do not judge.” More often than not, these quotes are introduced into conversation by those who know virtually nothing about the Bible or its message, let alone give glory to its Author.
The greater problem is that the church is becoming less and less familiar with the Bible. There are actual surveys that document a growing biblical illiteracy among churchgoers, but I speak here more anecdotally. As I have led Bible studies in the community, those who belong to a wide variety of local churches and who appear to have a lively faith are unaware of basic Biblical knowledge. Even those in positions of leadership in local congregations show themselves to be unfamiliar with accounts such as Rahab’s role in the siege of Jericho and Nathan’s rebuke of David. Nor do they know their way around the Bible.
What has most recently alarmed me and piqued my curiosity has to with a recent conversation that was related to me. A woman who regularly attends a large seeker-sensitive church expressed ignorance of basic doctrine. In fact, the word doctrine was unfamiliar to her. She didn’t make a connection between what a church does and what the Bible teaches. But what was really strange was her comment that she read through the Bible every year. I can see people being ignorant because they don’t read the Bible, but how does this make sense?
What sprang to mind was a time when I attended a conference at a retreat center. It was the early days of wi-fi and evidently something had gone down and needed to be rebooted. The strange thing was that my electronic device showed a strong connection yet no data was loading. Perhaps that woman was connected to her Bible through reading but there was something keeping her from apprehending the Word inscripturated. She seemed to be regenerate, so it wasn’t a matter of lack of ears to hear or eyes to see.
Even when the Bible is preached, it can be hollowed out. My granddaughter and her family visited a popular church in our area one Sunday and enjoyed the service and the sermon that had to do with Christian character. I asked her if the pastor talked at all about Jesus in the message. Evidently, he did not. I asked her parents and they affirmed that was the case. So even if the Bible is being taught it may be misused as some sort of self-help manual or collection of inspiring stories. How can you teach about the fruit of the Spirit while neglecting the Spirit who unites us to Christ for spiritual life, growth, health, and maturity? In another case, a woman told me how encouraged she was by the teaching of a popular preacher. I probed to see how Jesus fit into the picture. Again, the Bible was preached but Christ was absent. Wherein lies the encouragement in that?
Something is amiss. If people are not being fed the whole counsel of God, if they are not assimilating the Word of God to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace, they will grow weak and listless and be stunted in their maturation. Their walk with God will suffer. The work of the church will be impeded. The battering floods and winds of cultural assault will threaten their stability because of lack of a firm foundation on God’s Word.
A recent survey suggested that an alarming percentage of evangelicals do not believe in the sinlessness of Christ. That is a brazen attack of the enemy on the gospel itself. Is that doctrine being undermined because it’s not being taught or because people are not taking hold of it for one reason or another? Does something need to be rebooted?
The church needs to hear this blaring alarm and stop, drop, and pray. We need to cry out to God for the wisdom He promises to those who ask for it. We need to implore Him who is able to do incalculably more than all we ask or think. We might not have answers but God does. Even in the answers we do have, only God can effect change. Only God can reach to the intertwined causal core and straighten things out and make them work properly.
“O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name” (Daniel 9:19, NASB95).