“So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Not too long ago a friend of mine posted on social media airing his disappointment with how “biblically illiterate” our nation has become. He could not understand how people could not know about the basic stories of the Bible. Stories about Noah and the Ark or Jonah and the Whale were some of his examples. He was even more amazed that some of this unfamiliarity with God’s Word came from church-going individuals.
It got me thinking about what we can do to help those who lack the basic understanding of who God is and what He has done for us.
Unfamiliarity with God’s Word
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
–II Timothy 3:16-7
The technology age has drawn people away from communication through the written word. People do not write anymore, they type. People no longer turn a page, they swipe left. Unless you are an avid reader who must have the physical book in your hand, then it must have been years since you picked up a book, much less a Bible.
With the popularity of the smartphone and tablet, there is an expression that goes around, “There’s an App for that.” And certainly, there are multiple applications for the Bible. The best part of having in an application form is, you are not stuck with a version, as with a printed form of the Bible. I think one of the biggest turnoffs to those who have a desire to read the Bible; it’s the language in which it is written; it’s hard to understand. However, there are versions that take out the traditional King James Version language you may have grown up with.
Versions like the New Living Translation (NLT), New International Version (NIV), and English Standard Version (ESV) have simplified the terminology but hold onto the original meaning behind the words. The version I use on this blog is the ESV unless otherwise noted. In a Bible app, you can easily switch between versions and find the one that you are most comfortable reading.
After selecting a version, most applications also have Bible studies, from the simple to the complex, that you can begin to read. The stories my friend was alluding to; Noah can be found in Genesis, as well as stories of creation, Abraham, and Moses; Jonah has his own book, and his story is amazing and a child’s favorite. That does not mean that an adult would not enjoy reading it as well.
The basic idea is to read. You can read cover to cover, but a couple of books in, you could get lost with some of the detailed content of genealogies, building the temple, and the laws. Read Genesis and Exodus for sure; then you can move over to Joshua and continue from there. There are stories that for everyone; Biblical truths that withstand the test of time. Nothing is old or outdated. The same God who was with the men and women of the Bible is with you today. Only we have the added benefit of the Holy Spirit, the part of God that indwells in us that gives us understanding.
Unfamiliarity with God’s Work
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
When people have an unfamiliarity with God’s Word, then they will most likely have an unfamiliarity with God’s Work. If you don’t know what the Bible says, then how can you expect to use the power that is given to you. Think of it this way; If you don’t read the owner’s manual, then how will you ever know the full capability of the device. Reading God’s Word teaches us about God and the immeasurable love he has for us. As we read the true stories of Joseph, David, Peter, and Paul we can see how God worked in each of them and how His power was on display in their lives.
God is with us, and He loves each of us. The same love He gave Abraham, Ruth, and Solomon, He extends to us today. The more we learn about it, the more we will see it working around us. The more we see His love in action, the more we will witness the wonders His love brings. Then we will begin to appreciate things a more; a sunrise or sunset, the birds flying and chirping about, the voice of a child, and the colors of each season, they all become more vibrant.
How We Become Familiar
“That they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” –Acts 17:27
It all begins with having a personal relationship with Christ. This means that, just like a friend, you get to know them. David knew the Lord, Moses, and Abraham really knew the Lord. The disciples really, really knew the Lord, they walked with him; face to face. The closer these men became to the Lord, the stronger they became in Him. The more they witnessed His work, the more they wanted to know about Him.
The best example of this concept would be the relationship you have with your spouse. There was a time you did not know them, then you were introduced, or perhaps you met by chance. You became intrigued by them. So, you began to see them more, talk with them more, learn more about them. (The key word here is ‘more’) Each experience and each fact you learned to draw you closer to them. Then you fell in love, got married, and now you live your life together.
It is the same with God. Someone introduces you to Him, you get to know about Him, you share experiences with Him, you fall in love with Him, and you share your life together with Him.
You would think that it would get old; That there is going to eventually be a moment when you know everything about a person, but I am proof that this is not the case. I am knocking on the door of 20 years of marriage, and there is not a week that goes by that I do not learn something new (or a change of sorts) about my spouse.
There is also always something new to learn about God. One of the beauties of reading God’s Word is that you can read the same passage one day, then come back to that same passage a month, or a year, down the line, and you will get something completely different out of it. It’s like a peanut butter cup, one day you will taste the chocolate, then the next time you eat it, you find yourself enjoying the peanut butter more. The point is that it never gets old.
The Opportunity We Have
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” -Romans 10:14-15a
I have worked many jobs in my life. I have been a manager or trainer at most of them. The one thing that I have found is that the best employees to train were the ones who had no experience at all. When someone has experience, they will tend to want to do things their way. While a new perspective can be a positive sometimes, most of the time I found it gets in the way of training them the way the company wants things done. They feel that the way they did things at their old job is the way it should be done.
An uneducated Christian does not have years of preconceived ideas about who God is, what he can do, or worse, what he cannot do. If someone has diplomas and degrees in Theology or Religion, then they have been taught what the Word says. There is a difference between what you learn in a classroom and what you learn in the school of hard knocks. I am not trying to discount those who have degrees and doctorates. Without them, we would not have pastors and other teachers. My point is that you learn more from experiencing God’s power that learning about God’s power. Life experience is more beneficial than a formal education when it comes to learning about God.
I applied for a writing job not too long ago. It was to write a blog about Fatherhood. As most of you know, I am the father of four children. Three boys and a girl. So, I have a tremendous amount of experience when it comes to fatherhood. The client kept on asking me how I would go about writing articles. I continued to narrow down the field to a specific premise. But he wanted more, he then asked me about my education. When I reminded him that I had four kids, he said that he was looking for someone with a Children’s Psychology degree and declined me the job. How is a person with a degree and no kids going to succeed over someone who had raised four kids through life experiences?
To educate a new Christian, or even a long-timer, you must draw on their personal experiences to help them relate to different people in the Bible. If they have a loss, you can introduce them to Job. If they feel persecuted, show them stories of Paul and Peter. If they feel unloved, shine the spotlight on Jesus himself. There is someone for everyone.
The stories most of us grew up with sit on the shelf collecting dust because we treat them as stories. Well, these events are not stories; they are history. These events happened. To real people. Real people with real lives; men, women, teenagers, husbands, wives, employers, and employees. Each with their own life event that you and I can relate to. All we need to do is read about it.
We can’t look at scriptural unfamiliarity as a negative. We must turn it into a ministry opportunity. It was amazing to me to see the old bible histories come to life as I grew up. The histories I read as a kid are now applicable. To be able to use them now to give illustrations to those who have never heard, or have forgotten, is pretty awesome. Read about them, learn about them, and live with them; then teach what you learn to others.