Influence on public life aside, Christians need more of the Bible.
Kenneth A. Briggs is a longtime journalist covering religion who is out with a new book, The Invisible Bestseller: Searching for the Bible in America. The theme is the vanishing of the centrality of the Bible in American life, and more importantly, in the church. This is but a further step of decline in what the Barna Group wrote about in its 2010 survey, citing six megathemes of the church’s direction. Number one on that list, “The church is becoming less theologically literate.” Theological literacy begins with the Bible, and Mr. Briggs work serves to highlight the sad and startling fact that among professing Christians, the Scriptures are simply not read very much.
Evangelicals should pay heed to what Briggs notes when asked about places he expected to find the Bible, but didn’t. “In the mega-type churches – the churches that were really heavily loaded with the visual and the audio and the rest of the electronic stuff, the music – I was really stunned by what I saw as that alternative version of Christianity being delivered through those means.”
Christians cannot grow spiritually beyond their knowledge of Scripture. We may have relational ministry, we may have worship teams, we may have what some view as crass “theotainment”, but if we do not have a deep and growing relationship with reading the Bible, we will not have conformity to Christ. No amount of community can make up for our lack of attention to the written word of God. Our pedigree means nothing. It doesn’t matter who started your church, or what association or coalition we are part of. If a personal engagement with an open Bible is not part of our faith, we will be spiritually anemic. My sense is that Briggs’ book is part investigative reporting, part lament. He is saddened, as all christians should be, by the erosion of the Bible in not only our public discourse, but in our churches. Take, and read.