Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Bring Your Bibles"

Someone asked me recently why I so often remind and encourage people to bring their Bibles on Sunday. It’s a good question, especially since we have pew Bibles available. I’ll start with some small reasons and then move to what I see as deeper ones.

1. We have pew Bibles available in worship, but not always in our classrooms. We want people to participate in Bible classes. It’s easier to actually participate in a Bible class with a Bible than without one.

2. When you bring your personal Bible you can take notes in it, or use the message outline and then put it in your Bible for future reference. Also, you can refer to the Bible version you prefer and are used to, which may or may not be the one in our pews (TNIV or NIV).

But these are just practical reasons. There are deeper issues that resonate with me.

1. American Christian worship services increasingly ask people to be passive, to sit and receive. The unfortunate reasons for this is a subject for another essay, but the fact is that there is little opportunity for most people to do anything other than sit, sing, listen to/pray with the pray-ers, and listen to the preacher. I try to preach expositionally (as opposed to topically) about 75% of the time, which means preaching straight from a selected passage of the Bible. I like the idea of people following along in their Bibles, underlining certain words, making notes, i.e., actively engaging.

2. I wholeheartedly agree with noted British evangelical scholar John Stott, who said, “The Word of God grows people.” Christians grow spiritually when they are engaged with the Scriptures. A large and well-known community church in Chicago just completed a three-year study of their 20,000 members as well as other selected churches to find out what helps Christians grow towards maturity and what doesn’t. They found out what doesn’t: simply participating in church programs. And the most important thing that does? Daily Bible reading and reflection.

I want to promote daily Bible reading and reflection. Engagement with the scriptures is the meat of the Christian diet, if you will. There is certainly much more to the Christian life than the scriptures, but without them it is hard to be nourished fully. More and more Christians struggle spiritually because they have little regular engagement with the Bible. That is why I compose and make available West Houston’s daily Bible reading schedule, to help people make scripture reading and reflection a part of the rhythm of their life.

Presently there are dozens and dozens of Bibles, without names, in our Welcome Center that people have left inadvertently. This may be symbolic of our times. I recall an old saying, “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who is not.”

Last but not least: I like the image of hundreds of people walking into the building on Sunday carrying their Bibles. It bespeaks a certain intentionality and seriousness about being the church (assuming it’s not just for show!).

I am going to be more purposeful in helping people engage with the scriptures while I preach. As I say each week, let’s open God’s Word together, open our hearts and minds, and listen to what God wants to teach us!


Blogger andrew said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you. I am so concerned for the lack of Biblical literacy. Not only among the members of the Lord's church but of the Christian world as a whole. You make several good points. Most importnatly our study and lives in general should be those of intent. We should study to learn and not just to read. We should apply to exercise our faith and not just to do good works. We should pray with the expectation that there be an answer and not just to pray as told or requested of us.

Back to the need to have our Bibles with us . . . I cannot tell you how many times I have heard preachers they love to hear the sound of pages turning in worship. One preacher said, to him, it was the sound of "searchers searching". Another preacher said he would rather look at the tops of heads than empty, blank stares.

I have been tempted at times to suggest that we remove the Bibles out of the backs pews so that people may be more likely to bring their own. Truly, it is beyond me why someone would go to services without their sword with them. Through continuous study and application we sharpen it and become more comfortable with what it says and offers to us.

Continue to encourage members to bring their Bibles and always point out the value of having it with them.

May God continue to bless your ministry and the activities of the congregaiton that meets at West Houston.

10:23 AM  

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