May 2015

To read or not to read, that is the question

In a general discussion about life, the universe, and the church one of my more evangelical colleagues said (almost) everyone in his congregation read the bible (almost) every day. The ‘almosts’ were added as an afterthought when queried by an Anglican colleague. Apart from general scepticism that ‘almost’ everyone did read the bible as frequently as he suggested, the next thoughts from the rest of us were (in no particular order):
1) I wonder how many people in my congregation(s) actually read the bible frequently.
2) I know most people in my congregations don’t read the bible frequently.
3) Heck, I don’t read the bible as frequently as I should.

This lead to a discussion on use in Sunday worship (‘pew’ bibles verse video projection or nothing) and then onto which translation was best – and a bunch of ministers can argue about the best translation question for hours with much heat but surprisingly little light.

Research a few years back (2005 by the Lausanne Global Mission Movement) suggested that most folk in UK churches don't look inside a Bible from Monday to Saturday. The same report did show however that the URC came fourth in the roll of frequent Bible readers by denomination. But it was still less than 30% who read the bible at least once a week. There weren’t any figures on use every day, my guess is that it would be relatively small.

On the other hand if we took a poll on how many people sometimes felt guilty about not reading the bible as frequently as they ‘should’ it would probably be in the high nineties.
The days are long gone when the only book in many homes was the bible, and the bible and bible stories were used in school to teach literacy.

The problem is that the bible and the stories, poems, and discussions contained within it are supposedly central to the Christian faith. If 70% or more Christians hardly ever look in to it, what does that do for our faith? How are we encouraged or challenged? It means that for the majority almost the only time they come into contact with the bible is on a Sunday morning, and other statistics say that most regular church goers are only in church twice a month.

We are at a stage where – if we are lucky - we hear a few bible readings, a few times a month in church, for a few minutes. And this is supposed to be one of the legs on which we as Christians stand. It means there is a lot of pressure for ministers/preachers to come up with the goods on a Sunday as almost the only way God’s Word is read, heard and (ever so briefly) thought about.
I know most of us are busy, and there is so much to engage and entertain us. Much of it is good. But in the end, you can only watch repeats of Top Gear so many times, or wade through the varying acts of Britain’s Got Talent.

If our faith is truly important, is it truly that hard to read half a chapter from a gospel 3 or 4 days a week? Putting aside excuses of boredom, tiredness and busyness, it could be that deep down we are afraid that God might actually talk to us.
And we might have to respond


May 2015