Christmas – HUH?

14 12 2007

Recent research out of Britain shows an alarming number of people don’t know the Christmas story. Is this a problem? Why should we expect society to know the Christmas story?



bible-with-question-mark.jpgThe research was undertaken by the impressive Theos Think Tank and shows that only 12% of adults in Britain have a detailed knowledge of the Christmas story.

But what amazed me was that only 36% of Christian church goers reported a detailed knowledge of the Christmas story!


What is going on here? Seriously.


The questions asked weren’t the sort that only tweed suited theologians would understand, we are talking about:


  • Knowing that John the Baptist is Jesus’ cousin
  • Knowing that Jesus , Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s massacre.

Basic stuff really. Now I have a question.. I wonder if this is just the tip of the iceberg? Is this representative of a much larger ignorance of the Bible?


Are we losing touch with the Holy Scriptures?


What was of particular concern for me was to read that only 7% of 18-24 year olds had a detailed knowledge of the Christmas story. So 20 years from now, how will our society look?


Which brings me to the central question of this post:


Is this a problem?


Knowing the Bible stories is actually not that important. Satan knew the stories (Matthew 4: 5-6). It is how the stories affect us that is important.


The Bible isn’t about information but transformation. Transforming us and in turn, transforming society. Are we changed by our encounter with the Scriptures?


So how do we get more people to read the Bible?


Some appeal to our Christian heritage and say that this is ‘who we are’ in some attempt to call people back to our roots. But this is a simplistic take on a complex topic. What is heritage? What makes it Christian? These are difficult questions to answer. So I don’t buy this ‘rose coloured glasses’ argument.usb-bible2.jpg


Others believe the answer is to offer more types of Bibles: the, ‘make them attractive’ argument. This buys into the commercialism of our society: people want to own something new, something different, but doesn’t necessarily mean they engage in any meaningful way.


I wonder if the answer is in getting the message out there that the Bible is a transformative experience? That in engaging with it we are refined and become more fully who God intended us to be.

Tough challenge to encourage Bible engagement…

Any thoughts?




8 responses

14 12 2007

Hi Mark,

Yep, you’re on the money here! Encouraging Bible Engagement is indeed a challenge in my experience. It would be so easy to defer to the traditional methods of dealing with the immense problem – ie. marketing, new resources, advanced technology, appeals to tradition, education programmes etc. – but they all seem to be proving inadequate with this current generation (where they ever adequate?!).

I have been facilitating a small focus group of School Chaplains that have been wrestling with the question of how to engage young people with the Bible. Our discussions have led us to the conclusion that it all rests with us as individuals – are we personally transformed by our encounters with God in the Scriptures and is this spilling out onto the students we meet?

Maybe the loss of ‘Christian’ culture in countries like mine, yours and the UK is not such a big deal. Perhaps it offers us the challenge/opportunity to be genuine agents for transformational change all over again. We’ve got nothing to hide behind anymore. I think this scares some of us Christians witless because we have not experienced true tranformation for ourselves.

14 12 2007

I think Marty is spot on. Few people are looking for knowledge – most think they will get that as/when they really need it. But EXPERIENCE – that’s much more appealing. When they meet someone who is encountering the Bible, struggling to make sense of it, having some success with bits of it and being sucked into wanting more, it’s kinda tantalising. I can’t think of ANYTHING else quite as good as the Word suddenly meshing with something I’m personally experiencing so that I know that God has broken through in a new way to me.
But we can’t expect people to guess that the Bible can do that. They’ll only know if we share those stories.

15 12 2007
tim bulkeley

I agree, the only real way to get people engaging with Scripture is to give them the experience of Scripture engaging with them.

How we achieve that is the question, especially in a world where much preaching fails to engage with Scripture (merely using a few “proof” texts as a sort of magic charm).

The way we are trying to do it through PodBible is to supply the CEV, read by ordinary people, a chapter a day as MP3 files. People listen to the chapter, and get something to “think about”, “pray about” and “do” at the end, to encourage them to process what they heard.

17 12 2007
17 12 2007

I like Marty’s suggestion about being an example of transformative Bible engagement. Modelling has to be one of the best forms of discipleship. That way Bible engagement has nothing to do with entertainment, but is motivated by something far greater – a desire to be more like Jesus and to know God! Telling each other stories about how the Bible has affected us and influenced our behaviour or attitude etc shows that the Bible is relevant to day-to-day reality.
Also, I think there might be common confusion in the Church about how the Bible “works”. Especially the OT, with its unusual and ancient stories. I was talking to someone the other day who told me they just didn’t know where to start reading because of all the confusing parts! I wonder if the way the Bible is taught in churches tends to focus on the minutiae ie the individual stories, at the expense of the over-arching story which ties it all together… So that we are left with a fragmented jigsaw that we somehow try to piece together, or just give up on because it doesn’t “make sense” ??

18 12 2007
Alice MacArthur

Our priest yesterday encouraged us to at least have available or if needed go out and buy a Bible in a translation more recent than the King James version, whose language as stately as it may be, can be a barrier to understanding. Also he pointed out that modern translations benefit from scholarship and more recent discoveries of ancient text.

That said, I do have a problem with those really free translations that depart greatly from the original writings, because I sense that the author(s)’ “spin” can enter into the translation.

My motivation for Bible study began with a desire to learn more about the One who had so captivated my soul. And to understand the cultural context and the tradition from which He arose.

So perhaps one way to get people to study the Bible more is for them to fall in love with Jesus.

Peace and Love of the Season to All

Alice in Phoenix

20 09 2011

Shouldn’t the Bible be used as a tool for churches to TEACH their Parishioners?.. Maybe the problem with the Christian religion is that the Bible HAS BEEN changed from the original teachings. People are getting too smart to believe in a book(the BIBLE) that has so many different versions out there. If I was A Christian, I would ask the Vatican to release the whole version of the BIBLE and let people decide what is relevant in the BIBLE..The Christian Church needs to tell the whole truth to their followers, instead of one lie after another.
Truth brings wisdom,
DAN and JOSEPHINE PEARSON.,., AKA..TDSAJA (Also known as T, U and Who)

21 09 2011

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