By Paul Leavens
It’s a sweet sound to hear Bible pages turning when the preacher announces his Scripture text worshipers look it up together. Unfortunately, that sound is increasingly rare today.
It’s not that the Bible is unavailable. Since Gutenberg rolled the first copy off his printing press in 1456, billions of Bibles have been published. According to the International Bible Society, the entire Bible has been translated into approximately 400 languages and dialects, and other Scripture portions into about 1,900 different tongues.
Ninety-two percent of Americans own at least one Bible. I personally own eight different English translations I have received as gifts, and copies of the ancient Greek and Hebrew that my seminary professors from yesteryear probably wish I consulted more often than I do.
Most of us have access to a Bible at home, at church, in a library or bookstore. But the bigger question is, Does God’s Word have access to us? Do we read it consistently and thoughtfully? Do we weave it into our conversations and consult it in our day-to-day decisions?
Because I travel I often I open the desk drawer in the hotel room to see if it contains a Bible, and many times lately the drawer has been empty. Every year the Gideons organization distributes more than 63 million Scriptures worldwide—more than a million copies a week—and still some desk drawers are empty.
No Bible in a hotel room? I can handle that. But I can’t accept it when there’s no Bible in a sermon. Most preachers I know, including myself, aren’t smart enough to come up with our own insights to talk about for 25 minutes on Sunday morning. And even if we were, our manmade ideas wouldn’t meet anyone’s spiritual needs week after week.
God’s Word is the spiritual milk, meat, and bread that will nourish our souls. God’s Word is the architect’s blueprint that will show us how to build on a solid foundation. God’s Word is the road map to guide us on our journey. God’s Word is the lamp to light our way.
I’m thankful for new Bible study tools. A preacher can project Scripture onto a screen to illustrate his sermon. Scripture is displayed on laptop computers, printed in Christian magazines, and explained by talented speakers and authors. Strangely though, in spite of the Bible’s wide availability, biblical illiteracy is on the increase. According to a Gallup poll, only 37 percent of Americans read the Bible once a week, and Gallup notes that “ignorance about its contents is widespread.” Yale theologian and professor George Lindbeck says, “When I first arrived at Yale, even those who came from nonreligious backgrounds knew the Bible better than most of those now who come from churchgoing families.”
A biblically illiterate church? That’s an oxymoron. It’s like a starving man who surveys the menu, critiques the restaurant’s furnishings, and chats with the waiter instead of consuming the meal.
Let’s be people of the Book again! Let’s study it when we’re alone with God. Let’s talk about it with our families and small groups. Let’s carry it to church and hear it proclaimed from the pulpit.
Dr. Paul Leavens is minister of the Christian Church in Lindsay, 120 N. Frazier Ave. To contact him, call 559-562-3743 or visit www.lindsaychristianchurch.org.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.