I don’t even recall why I purchased the Bible, but shortly before the start of World War Two, a person was selling Bibles and religious books, and I bought one,” a woman in a former communist country explained to me.
As the war raged and the communist forces gained more power, she wondered what would happen if they found the Bible in her house. She had good cause for concern—many individuals experienced persecution for no other reason than that they possessed a Bible. She was not a practicing Christian, and for her the Bible she now owned was a mysterious Book. Instead of risking potential problems, she decided to bury the Bible in her backyard.
And there the Bible rested, wrapped to protect it, for, after all, she spent a considerable amount of money to purchase it. After several years of the Bible being buried, she, out of curiosity, started digging and found it—surprisingly in good condition. In the privacy of her home, for the communists were still in control of the government, she started reading the Bible. And, as it often happens, through her reading of the Bible she committed her life to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God is indeed powerful and living. And today, this woman still remains a faithful follower of the Lord.
The ignored Bible
Many similar stories have been told, and many individuals are faithful readers of the Bible. Most of us have read studies that point out the fact that Bible reading in most denominations has decreased. That’s including my church—the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As ministers, if we are serious about the Word of God, we need to remind ourselves that a healthy church not only possesses the Bible, but its members read the Bible. In order to reverse the trend of decreased Bible reading, the Adventist Church launched a program called Follow the Bible, during a meeting in Manila, Philippines, in October 2008. Pastors, administrators, and lay representatives participated in the launching of this worldwide Bible emphasis project.1 Often, during the next 18 months, we will update our readers on this initiative.
What about your congregation?
The launching of this Bible emphasis program will not, by itself, increase Bible reading. Our members, both personally and as part of congregations, need to experience the joy of Bible reading. What can we do to encourage Bible reading? Listed here you will find a few suggestions:
1. Make Bible reading a significant part of worship. In some congregations, the public reading of the Word of God has a minor role, and in a few, no public reading of the Bible happens. That’s hard to believe—no public reading of the Bible. Why not make the public reading of the Bible a major part of worship?
2. During the worship service, why not share with the congregation the joy you experience when you read the Word of God? But don’t stop there; invite members to share with the congregation their Bible-reading experiences. You just might be surprised how valuable such a testimony can be. I recall in one of my congregations the positive response as members enthusiastically listened to another member who shared how reading the Bible blessed him.
3. Feature various Bible translations.
While in some languages there is only one translation, in many others there are various translations. Some people like to argue about which the best translation is and even go so far as deciding that only a particular translation should be utilized. The reality? Such discussions have little positive value. Rejoice over the fact that you have several translations available. Tell the members the strengths of one translation; have your members tell their congregations why they like a particular translation. Such sharing will highlight the Bible and more members will turn to it.
Recently, I read an article by David Gibson, a convert to the Roman Catholic Church. The title, “Catholics Discover the Bible,” caught my attention, and the location of its publication surprised me. It was published in the European edition of The Wall Street Journal,2 a paper known more for its emphasis on reporting on business issues than articles about Bible reading. Gibson writes, “But a funny thing happened on the way to modernity: The Catholic Church opened itself to the Word in a way it hadn’t done before.” How about your denomination? 3 How about your congregation? The question is not only how open you are toward the Bible—but, consider, What role does the Bible play in the worship and life of your congregation?
Listed above were a few suggestions on how to make the Bible more central in the life of your congregation and in the personal life of your members. I don’t doubt that you can list more and better suggestions. Engage your members in the process. Ask them. Ask your church boards, councils, and committees to discuss what suggestions they have to make the Bible a part of their lives. After all, it is the Word of God.
1 See the article in this issue titled, “Follow the
Bible: A Journey to Spiritual Renewal,” for
additional information, or visit www.followthebiblesda.com.
2 David Gibson, “Catholics Discover the Bible,”
Wall Street Journal, Nov. 14, 2008.
3 Our readers represent many denominations.