The truth about the Truth: part one

11 07 2007

Recently I spoke at a Christian Leadership Conference on the topic of Bible in the church today. It turned out to be a very personal speech on my part. As I opened up and shared my challenges with reading the Bible over the years. I thought I would make it available; and given it is so long, I have cut it into three parts: so here is part one….

I’m here to talk about a very serious issue. A serious issue that is very close to my heart. One that I am very passionate about and hopefully you will pick that up tonight. Something I get really fired up about.

I’m going to take you on a journey tonight. We’re going to look at the issue, we’re going to look at “why” and we’re going to look at “how” we can address it. This is going to be a session where you’re going to hear some suggestions, some answers, some possibilities. Not conclusive but it’s going to be a start. What is it that I’m talking about? We are facing a crisis in the Church. We are facing a crisis in the Church. Christians are not engaging, reading, opening themselves up to whatever language you want to use. They are not engaging with the Bible. Thischurchsign.jpg is a crisis and it is not a crisis just sprung up in the last few years. It’s a crisis that has been there for a very long time. It is not a crisis that is going to be solved – you know, we have a strategic plan that by the end of November next year, we’ll have it sussed. I actually think it’s going to take a generation. It is that serious.

We have in the Church a flourishing lip service. I’ll give you an example. If I was to ask, and I won’t because I don’t want to embarrass you in front of your peers. But if I was to ask you to raise your hands if you thought the Bible was an important book to Christians, I have to guess that there would be at least, well I would hope there would be 100 percent. And when I ask people this question, it is 100 percent who will say “yes, of course the Bible is important to me as a Christian.”

The second question I ask and this is the lip service. “Well, when was the last time you read it? When was the last time you wept over it? When was the last time you opened it and you clung to it? When was the last time you were moved and inspired by it?” And I’m not joking. The eyes looked away. They look down. They shuffled, they get embarrassed.

It’s incredible and I’m about to quote some statistics to back this up. But it is incredible how many will A. say “yes, it’s an important book”, and B. do nothing about it. It’s hypocritical. It is lip service and it’s flourishing in our church. Why do I know this? I’m not speaking to you from a high lofty academic position, it’s because I have been there.

I’m going to take a risk tonight. A risk because I have a fairly senior role in the Church in New Zealand but I’m going to open myself up to you tonight and share personally some of the journey that I’ve been on. I’m not someone who has always had this passion and this love for the Bible. I’m someone who has been hypocritical, has had the lip service. So I know where I’m coming from.

Here are some statistics. The Bible Society undertook some research that displayed only 21% of the more than 2,000 church attending participants read their Bible daily. Twenty one percent. Twenty two percent stated they read it at least weekly with the remaining 57% which absolutely should blow you away. I hope it does, because this is a crisis. The remaining 57% saying they either read the Bible occasionally or hardly ever – 22%. Now similar studies recently conducted in the U.S. stated that only 12%. In this study in the U.S. which is quite large, 12% said they read the Bible regularly. Twelve percent! This is an issued that faces the Western Church and I’ve had the opportunity of doing a little travelling, chatting to colleagues in other western Countries, in the U.S., U.K and even Australia. And this is the problem they face. This is an epidemic.

So why are Bible engagement? Why aren’t people reading the Bible? Why? Well, for many, aalarm-clock.jpg typical day – just cast your mind across your normal day. The alarm goes off. You shake the sleep off and if you’re like me, you’re up with the children. The children mob you and from that point on, it is packed with almost endless activity, driven by lists of to dos, things that need being done. And in the midst of this, it is easy to forget to open the Word.

By why is that? Well busyness is actually not the reason. We have got to dig a little bit deeper. Let me put it this way. I will ask a show of hands now. Who here thinks they have to eat food? Who here cannot survive without food. We cannot go a day without eating food. Therefore what do we do on a daily basis? We eat. We cannot go a day or regularly without getting into this (Bible). So what do we do every day. We don’t read it. So it isn’t just about the busyness, but it’s about what sort of priority we put on these. How important it is. How seriously we take this, this document, this book.

Now I said I was going to share some of myself. I became a Christian when I was 15 years old. I had a fairly dramatic conversion. Actually it is ridiculous to use the word ‘fairly’. It was a very dramatic conversion. I haven’t got time to share it tonight. But basically God said, “It’s your turn”. And he grabbed me out of a non-Christian home. I had never been to Church. I had no experience of Christianity. I was caught shoplifting. And God turned me around. Literally on the spot. And I remember at 15, going to a Church. It was a Baptist Church. I remember being taken aside and saying, “This is the Bible”. And I remember just saying “What is this for?” as a new Christian and being told, “Mate, get into this. This is your food now.” And I did. I couldn’t keep away from it. I remember there was a group of us. I remember just constantly opening and reading it; having it under the pillow when we slept at night. I was madly in love! Madly in love!

I discovered this new God. I discover this new life as the Holy Spirit filled me moved through me. I just could not keep my eyes off this and then, I started studying Theology.

hearttohead1.jpg Now this is not an anti-intellectual rant. But what happened? As I completed Theology the Bible went from my heart to my head. There’s no problem with that except that it never returned. It was something I was in love with and it became solely something that I studied. There is nothing wrong with that, if you are able to hold the Scriptures in both. I could not.

I was 20 years old. No one told me this. I didn’t have the mentors to keep the Bible in my heart somehow; and so it slipped from my heart to my head. And this is a confession: It stayed there a really long time. And what’s the problem with it being in my head? It just became another reference. In a suite of other concordances and commentaries and all the the other things that you access in Theology and Pastoral Ministry that followed that, it just became another resource. And I’ll talk more about that later.

Part two coming soon!

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13 07 2007
The truth about the Truth: part two « brownblog

[…] The truth about the Truth: part two 13 07 2007 The second part of my talk on the crisis facing the church (for the first part click here)…. […]

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