Many Professing Christians Know Little of the Bible—Here Are Five Ways Churches Can Address Biblical Illiteracy
A study released early this year revealed that while 70 percent of Americans claim to be Christian, only 10 percent of Americans hold a biblical worldview as reflected in their lifestyle, indicating the extent of biblical illiteracy in the church today.
The study, conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute, also found that 46 percent of adults of the general public claim to have a biblical worldview but their behavior and lifestyle do not reflect such worldview.
Many people who profess to be Christians know little about what the Bible teaches. Their worldview is influenced by principles and beliefs that do not agree with what the Bible says.
According to George Barna of the Barna Group, it is important to know how many Christians actually hold a biblical worldview because “peoples’ behavior is driven by their beliefs—we do what we believe.”
Our beliefs dictate our actions and decisions.
“Everyone has a worldview. The critical question is which one people have embraced,” Barna said. “If we want to transform our culture then we will need to change the choices people make that produce that culture. And in order to change those choices we must identify the beliefs that led to those choices.”
Biblical illiteracy is a problem in many churches today. Answers in Genesis researcher Avery Foley wrote in a blog that biblical illiteracy has become an “epidemic” in the American church.
However, the problem can be addressed. It would take the combined efforts of pastors, parents, Sunday school teachers and others to help more people, especially the youth, know more about the Bible.
Foley gives five recommendations on how churches can fight biblical illiteracy.
First, never assume that people in church already know the gospel and other basic spiritual foundations—even if they grew up in church and have attended the services all their lives.
The research mentioned above is evidence that not all professing Christians have a sound grasp of the gospel and Bible truth. It is important to incorporate the gospel in the sermons and Sunday school lessons.
“Many professing Christians don’t even understand the basics of the gospel message, let alone other doctrines,” Foley wrote. “Weave the gospel into your sermons or teaching moments.”
Second, teach the entire gospel. Many people tend to focus on just one aspect of the gospel, such as Jesus’ death on the cross. The whole gospel must be preached.
“Teach the whole gospel from beginning to end—including the bad news about our sin nature that begins in Genesis,” Foley said.
Third, don’t introduce biblical accounts as “Bible stories.” Doing so gives people the impression that the accounts recorded in the Bible are not historical but are merely stories that are either not true or not to be believed completely. It also waters down the Bible’s authority.
“Teach the accounts in Scripture as real history, just as the Bible itself does. And help people to understand how these accounts teach us theology and doctrine,” she said. “They don’t just teach us to be brave like David or forgiving like Joseph-they teach us things about God and his plan throughout history.”
Fourth, teach the entire Bible, both the New Testament and the Old Testament. Sometimes people like to dwell on the New Testament because it is easier to understand compared to the complicated records about the law, feasts and sacrifice in the Old Testament.
However, the Old Testament gives “foundational concepts to the New Testament teachings about Christ and what he did for us. The Old Testament is part of our Bible for a very good reason, and we need to teach it,” according to Foley.
Finally, encourage church members to ask questions to encourage them to learn more.
“Christianity is a reasoned faith with answers to the skeptical questions of our day,” Foley said. “Encourage your young people to ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, tell them that and promise to follow up—and then do! You’ll both learn something!”