A couple months ago I attended a Willow Creek Association seminar called Reveal. Reveal is the result of research that heard from 118,000 people from a diversity of Christian churches. The research was concerned with one thing: What causes spiritual growth?
I was not surprised to learn that reflection on stricture, prayer, and service were all catalysts to spiritual growth. But there’s more. When participants in the research were asked the question, “Below is a list of benefits a church could provide, please indicate how important it is to you for your church to provide each benefit?” they indicated “Helps me understand the Bible in depth” as being the most important. The Bible won out over other benefits such as “Provide compelling worship services,” Provide strong programs for children,” and “Helps me develop relationships that encourage accountability.”
To some of us this comes as no surprise. But what I find interesting is that many of the research participants also indicated they were dissatisfied with their church’s ability to help them achieve in depth understanding of the Bible. Similarly, they were dissatisfied with how relevant Bible teachings were incorporated into weekend services.
People want more Bible. Despite what some will say, most people that would find themselves anywhere near a church on a Sunday morning genuinely want to have a deeper knowledge of the Bible and have a strong desire to have it applied to their lives in relevant ways.
I think that most people are frustrated with their ability to interact with the Bible in any meaningful way. I would even argue that some have a debilitating fear of the Bible, even though they would love nothing more than to confidently read it for themselves.
Reveal’s findings also suggest to me that many churches—although affirming the importance of the Bible—have failed to follow through with this conviction. Perhaps the allure of creating finely-tuned programs has replaced less than glamorous just-give-them-the-Bible tactics. Or maybe churches just lost faith in the Bible. Maybe we’ve forgotten its captivating story.
Regardless of why people are dissatisfied with their church’s ability to help them understand of the Bible, I have witnessed first hand people’s hunger to have a deeper knowledge of scripture. Recently, our senior pastor issued a “Bible Reading Challenge.” Surprisingly, over half the congregation has signed up to read the Bible in a year. I myself didn’t even think a Bible reading challenge would be so well received.