This picture is one I took back in the Summer of 1983 when Lisa and I were visiting Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. Next door to Multnomah’s campus was Central Bible Church, both of which were founded by Dr. John G. Mitchell. One of his most memorable sayings was “Don’t you folks ever read your Bibles?” Years after John Mitchell had left Central Bible (1967), they placed Mitchell’s now famous saying into the brick wall at the front entrance of the sanctuary.
I thought of this recently when I was sent a YouTube video from a friend. The video showed a remote tribe (the Kimyal people) in the mountains of West Papua, Indonesia receiving the very first Bible in their own language. This just happened in 2010. Never in the history of the Kimyal people group have they ever had the Scriptures in their own language!
While watching the video, I was touched, moved, convicted and encouraged all at the same time. As the single engine plane comes in for a landing on this remote mountain airstrip, the Kimyal people are all gathered dancing, worshiping and praying.
When the plane lands and the first box of Bibles are unloaded from the plane, these dear Kimyal people are seen weeping and worshiping with tears of joy! I was so moved by their deep love and appreciation for a copy of God’s Word in their own language that it challenged me to evaluate my own gratitude and love for the Bible.
The reality here in America is that we have more Bibles than at any time in our history. We not only have God’s Word in our own language, but we have it in dozens and dozens of various translations. In addition, we have a number of different “Study Bibles” available to us. As a recent advertisement in a Christian magazine showed (picture at left), there are a countless variety of Bibles available from just this one publisher alone.
But here’s the sad irony: although we have more Bibles than at any time in our history, Christians in America are reading and studying it less and less. In an article entitled “Six Major Patterns of Change in the U.S. Church,” from the Barna Research Group, the latest statistics show that the first “pattern of change” is:
“The Christian church is becoming less theologically literate.”
The article went on to say…
“What used to be basic, universally known truths about Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a large and growing share of Americans – especially young adults.
As the two younger generations (Busters and Mosaics) ascend to numerical and positional supremacy in churches across the nation, the data suggest that biblical literacy is likely to decline significantly. The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency.”
A few years ago, an article appeared in Christianity Today that was written by a professor at Wheaton College named Gary Burge. In this article, Burge discussed a study conducted by the Bible and Theology department at Wheaton College. This study was conducted over a four year period of time and it sought to assess the biblical literacy of incoming freshman students. His findings were alarming to say the least.
He discovered through this four year study that one third of the incoming freshman were biblically illiterate.
These students were not unchurched, but were representative of almost every Protestant denomination and every state in the country. Most of the students came from strong evangelical churches and possessed a long history of personal devotion and Christian involvement. These students said that they used the Bible regularly, but interestingly, very few knew many of the most familiar stories in the Bible.
The study conducted by Wheaton should be an eye opener for us. It shows a trend that is appearing more and more across our country. In the Christianity Today article, Professor Burge wrote the following:
“The Bible has become a springboard for personal piety and meditation, not a book to be read. The problem is that the spiritual life has become less a matter of learning than it is a matter of experiencing. Religious certainty is ancho red less to historical and theological fact than it is to compelling spiritual encounters. Thus sermons become more therapeutic and less instructional; and the validity of what we do on Sunday morning is grounded in what we feel, not in what we think.”
Scripture says in Colossians 3:16 that we are to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly…”
As we start a new year, I would encourage you to make it a priority to “read and feed” on God’s Word regularly (if you aren’t already). Whether you decide to follow a “read the Bible in one year” program, or to simply focus on studying certain key passages in a deeper way, the most important thing is that you treasure “God and His holy Word,” and allow it to transform your life.
I hope you will take the time to view this brief video of the Kimyal people in West Papua, Indonesia. Let it challenge and motivate you to a deeper love and commitment to God and His most precious Word!
I leave you with these quotes…
“If you can find time to do anything other than stay alive, you can find time for reading…It’s all a matter of determining priorities, deciding what you should do with the twenty-four hours God gives all of us each day.” (James Sire)
“God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age. The man who will know God must give time to Him.” (A.W. Tozer)
“The Bible was written to be read. An unread Bible is like food that is refused, an unopened love letter, a buried sword, a road map not studied, a gold mine not worked.” (Irving L. Jensen)