By Jennifer Johnson
For the past few years I’ve become concerned about the huge lack of biblical knowledge among many people professing to be Christians. Some of this is the fault of the individual, of course; we’re each called to learn and study for ourselves. But the church is also responsible for helping believers to grow, and our current approach to programming has resulted in several generations of biblical illiteracy. (As just one example, a 2005 Barna survey reported that 25 percent of Christians rated themselves as “immature” in their knowledge of the Bible.)
Instead of equipping adults to understand their faith and teach their kids, we divide the age groups into separate rooms and rehearse the same 10 stories in children’s church each year. Instead of intentional, strategic discipleship we settle for whatever we can squeeze into Sunday morning and maybe a few days of VBS. Instead of creating opportunities to learn the Bible, we study books about the Bible in small groups.
“Head knowledge” is not everything (although when a sizable number of Americans think Billy Graham preached the Sermon on the Mount, there’s nothing wrong with some of that); however, Christians must understand who Jesus claimed to be and why it matters. My husband knows my birthday, my hometown, my favorite foods, and my favorite color—not because any of those data points is the sum of who I am, but because he can’t have a real relationship with me without also knowing a number of basic facts. How can we know God without knowing who he has revealed himself to be?
I’m encouraged by Chandler Christian Church’s work, but a church doesn’t have to create its own resources to be effective. Zondervan’s The Story curriculum was used across age groups at a number of churches in 2012, and I love what Harbor of Hope did with their “Garden to City” initiative this year (check it out at gardentocity.com). Derek Sweatman, lead pastor at Christian Church Buckhead near Atlanta, is preaching through the lectionary. Redeemer Presbyterian in New York offers the Gotham Fellowship (gothamfellowship.org), and churches like Red Door in Cincinnati have focused their weekend experience around the goal of families worshipping and learning about God together. (Check out their “Equipegration” program at IamRed-Door.org.)
So you don’t need to start from scratch. But if the pollsters are reporting anything close to the truth, you need to do something in 2013.