3 WAYS to help laity love the Bible
by Jeren Rowell
The Bible obviously occupies a central place in our faith. This may be especially true for pastors because, outside the Bible, we really have nothing much to say or do. But I wonder to what degree the Bible truly shapes the lives of our people? How we are teaching our people to be people of the Book?
I was with a congregation recently that, under the guidance of their pastor, have given themselves to Bible reading at a level most of them had not experienced before. Even as an outsider, I can see it making a difference in their community. Preaching there is a delight because the people are so responsive, and I think it has a lot to do with their engagement of Scripture.
I am eager for our people to learn to read the Bible in deeper ways than tweetable quotes. So, pastor, what are you doing to help your people learn to
read, know, and love the Bible?
FIRST of all, pastors can only truly teach what they know and live. It begins with ourselves. What is the current state of your own immersion in the Scriptures? I sure hope you are studying the Bible carefully in order to preach and teach (though I do not take this for granted). But, beyond study, is there a rhythm of meaningful personal engagement with the Scriptures in your own life? Is the Bible precious to you?
SECOND, preach the Bible. Should go without saying, right? Yet I have been subjected to many sermons where a text was announced, a text was read, then the Bible was closed, and the text was practically ignored for most of the sermon.
There is a way of showing your people through biblical preaching how to read the Bible. Show them how the text is located in the context of the larger
story of God. Show them how scripture interprets scripture and how the life of the church guides us in the hearing of Scripture.
Don’t nervously try to help the Bible by bringing in all manner of media that is so often beside the point. Preach in a way that will inspire people to keep their Bibles openduring the sermon. I’m not necessarily talking about note-taking, outlining, or other particular tools that may be helpful. I’m talking about nurturing an atmosphere of anticipation where we know and believe the Spirit is actually at work in the reading, hearing, and proclaiming of the text.
THIRD, teach your people how to use supportive resources wisely.
There are all manner of devotional helps, and many are very good. Most of them also, of necessity, remain quite at the surface of things. Teach your people that
these are supportive and helpful tools but never should replace the joy of simply reading the text, lingering in the text, prayerfully waiting in the text.
Obviously this raises all sorts of other issues, such as the fact that most of us have no margin from which to linger in Bible reading. We want a
quick, Facebook devotional post, and on with it! I hope your people can see and sense in you the priority of faithful Bible reading.
Recently I heard an interview with N.T. Wright that focused not on academic study or pastoral life but on his personal life. I was struck by the simplicity of his answer about his own spiritual practices. He named prayer, reading the Bible, and receiving communion as the practices from which everything else in his life rises.
I want this to be true in my life, in your life, and in the lives of the people we help grow in Christ. In all that will scream for your attention this week, start with the Bible, major in the Bible, and teach your beloved people to love the Bible.
JEREN ROWELL serves as the district superintendent of the Kansas City District.