ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Religion and Philosophy»
  • Christianity, the Bible & Jesus

Bible Illiteracy in the Church in America

Updated on August 15, 2014
lambservant profile image

Lori Colbo is an online media writer who's passion is writing on her Christian faith. Her other passion is being Nana to 12 grandchildren.

The alarming news

Charles Spurgeon once said, "A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” A Bible that is falling apart is a well used Bible. But it is a distressing fact that Bible illiteracy has become a pervasive problem in the American Church. Although 25 million Bibles are sold in the U.S. each year, apparently many are simply décor for the coffee table, props for church, or for the occasional chance to break in a new dust rag. Spurgeon said it was the same in his day - "...we have no book that is so much bought, and then so speedily laid aside, and so little used, as the Bible." Bible illiteracy has led to spiritual malnutrition resulting in a distorted, unbiblical worldview, bad theology or outright false teaching, and a compromised or carnal life.

If you are a statistical kind of person take a look a the startling realities of Bible illiteracy, determined by a study by LifeWay Research:

  • Nine out of 10 homes in the U.S. have a Bible. Yet...
  • Only 16 percent of church goers read the Bible daily. And...
  • Twenty five percent don't read it at all.
  • Thirty seven percent of those who attend church regularly say that reading and studying the Bible has made a significant difference in the way they live their lives.

There is really no reason for believers in the Unites States of America to be Bible illiterate. Bible's of every size, shape, translation (although there are some bad translations out there), and form are available. Modern technology affords people special apps with the Bible on it, and there is Kindle. There are websites, such as Bible Gateway and Blue Letter Bible in which you can search the Bible, read the Bible, and dozens of commentaries thrown in for good measure. There are Bibles on CD.

Reasons some Christians don't read their Bibles

This all begs the question, why do so many Christians in America today decline to read their Bible's regularly? Here are just a few reasons, many are interconnected:

The Bible is boring:

They have wrong motives for reading it; have grown lukewarm in their faith and love for Jesus; They may have hard hearts; or Bible reading has become a duty.

The Bible makes no sense: The Bible is inspired by God's Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible must be spiritually discerned, and it is the Holy Spirit who teaches and enlightens us (1 Cor. 2:9-13). The nominal Christian does not spiritually discern the Word because He is likely not walking in or seeking the Spirit. He looks at the Word of God through the lens of his own understanding.

They don't understand the importance of it: Here again there seems to be a problem with understanding what the Bible is, why it was sent to us, and how it can be useful in our lives. Indifference could play a part. Indifference is a very dangerous, and foolish attitude. CS Lewis said, "The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference." Indifference to the word is indifference toward God. And this is heartbreaking.

They take it for granted: I cherish my Bible a great deal, I read it often (but I could stand to read it much more), and I cling to it as God's word of truth, but if I am to be completely honest, I felt convicted when I saw a video of Chinese underground brothers and sisters weeping and kissing the Bibles they received for the first time. In contrast, most Christians in the U.S. have at least two, and likely three or four in a variety of translations, sizes, colors and print. Many have notes, cross references, and concordances. I would be horribly ashamed to have a Chinese brother or sister who had never laid hands on a Bible come to America and see us lazy Christians willing away the hours watching Youtube music videos, fiddling on our phones, watching TV or DVD's, while our three dusty, like new Bibles sit on the coffee table being neglected.

This woman finds reading the Bible boring. Why do you suppose that is?
This woman finds reading the Bible boring. Why do you suppose that is?

Why is it important for believers to read the Bible regularly?

Why is it important for believers to read the Bible? Why should we take it so seriously and what can it do for us? The best way to answer these questions is to see what the Bible has to say about the Bible:

2 Tim. 3:16-17 All Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped for every good work.

This is probably the most comprehensive verse providing us with the answer to the questions above. First of all, the Bible is important for the Christian because it is God breathed. It is His word. Breathing indicates life. That's the most important reason. Notice it says all Scripture, not just parts of it. The rest of the verse tells us how the Bible profits us - for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, and equipping the saints for service.

Rom. 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Here we see once again the Bible is for our instruction, but it goes on to mention endurance, encouragement and hope. Have you ever gone to the word and come away encouraged and hopeful by some promise or instruction? I have.

Psalm 119:9-11 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your Word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

I love this verse. We see that God's word is so precious to this psalmist that he has stored it in his heart so he will remain pure and not sin against God. This person is fully devoted and surrendered to God which has given him an insatiable hunger to know God's word, God's heart, and to keep himself clean before the Lord.

Is 55:1-For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

God sent His word to us so that as it works in us we will bear fruit, thus accomplishing his purpose and reason for sending it. He didn't send it just so we could read it and go our merry way. His word is meant to accomplish something in our lives if we apply it.

"...but you shall  meditate on it day and night? (Josh. 1:8).
"...but you shall meditate on it day and night? (Josh. 1:8). | Source

What the Bible says about the Bible

Eph. 6:13-17 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins gird about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

This familiar passage as we all know is speaking about spiritual warfare. Notice here that Word of God is an offensive weapon, whereas everything else listed is armour. It does you no good to have yourself covered up with armour without a weapon, because the enemy will still beat you down. The sword of the Spirit is the weapon used to attack the devil and sending him home with his tail between his legs. Jesus used the Word of God many times to combat His enemies. In the wilderness He used the word to satan and triumphed over him. He used the Word when setting the pharisees in their place.

John 8: 32 And you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Acts 17:10-11 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

The first two verses establish that the Bible is truth. The Berean's knew this and that is why they didn't take Paul's or anyone else's word for it. When they heard the teaching and preaching, they went home, opened their scrolls to make sure they were getting the truth.

Ps. 19:7 he law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of theLord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Josh. 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

We are meant to meditate on God's word day and night. God is telling Joshua here that if he reads and meditates on the God's word regularly, and obeys it, then God's will and plans will prosper and succeed.

Reading the Bible does have its challenges

In all fairness, we do need to concede that Bible study can be challenging. Even people who have been reading the Bible regularly for many years come across passages and stories that are very difficult to understand.

People who read and meditate on the Bible with regularity do open it sometimes and yawn. Sometimes you open it and you feel or get nothing out of it (it's the same with prayer). You might look at a verse or small passage and have to read it again and again, but you still draw a blank. Sometimes we can read a great truth, promise or picture of how magnificent God is and just not feel it with any depth. These times are often followed with unemotional, going-through-the- motions prayers. It can be very discouraging. This is a time to get out a notebook and write down what the passage means, what it says to you. Then pray and ask God to hide it in your heart.

"...it did not fall for it was founded on the rock" (Matt. 7:25).
"...it did not fall for it was founded on the rock" (Matt. 7:25).

The house built upon the rock

Therefore, everyone who hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock (Matt. 7:24-25).

Believers in Jesus Christ who regularly read their Bible, meditate on it, and apply it to their lives, will live the abundant life and stay strong in their walk when the winds of life buffet them.

"...the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house and it fell. And great was it's fall" (Matt. 7:27).
"...the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house and it fell. And great was it's fall" (Matt. 7:27).

The house built upon the sand

But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall (Matt. 7:26-27).

A sandy foundation in this context would be a foundation built on anything but the Bible. A spiritual house built on something other than the Bible will fall to pieces when testing comes. Once again, Jesus addresses this in the parable of the sower.

Read, discover, grow

There are many more passages that tell us about the value and necessity of God's word in the life of his people. If we read we will discover who God is and how we can know Him and grow. But I will let you read it and discover it's wonders yourself.

“Blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 11:28).

Dust On the Bible - Hank Williams Sr.

Bible Study Reference Tools

Concordance - This a book that has every word in the Bible listed with the corresponding verse. I recommend Strong's Exhaustive Concordance.

Bible Dictionary - These give definitions of words in the Bible. They are not exhaustive, but depending on the one you buy, the basics plus some will be found. I use Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. There is an Old Testament section where the original language was Hebrew, but the words are in English followed by the Hebrew word. The New Testament section represents Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, the languages common in 1st century Israel. Hebrew and Greek words often have more than one meaning, so it will give you every definition that is used in the Bible with the corresponding verses.

Bible handbook - Erdmans Handbook of the Bible is a classic. This is a great little reference book for new and seasoned Bible readers alike. This book is filled with information formatted in an easy to read style. It gives you brief cultural and historical information from the Old and New Testaments with lots and lots of pictures, customs in Bible times, maps galore, brief synopses of Bible books by the chapter (again, with lots of photos) and so much more. A must have for your library.

Devotionals - These are little books that share a verse or passage and then stories or commentary by the author. They come in such a wide variety of styles. See my hub Great Devotionals Past and Present. But I do recommend Daily Light the most.

Commentaries - These are books that explain the meaning of verses and chapters in the Bible. There are many great ones. For the new person, I would recommend a one volume commentary titled Believer's Bible Commentary. It's very user friendly and easy reading.

© 2013 Lori Colbo

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Hello Hxprof, you may be right regarding being shocked awake. That's not the best feeling is it. I pray for revival in my own soul and for the church.

    • profile image

      Hxprof 3 years ago from Clearwater, Florida

      Well written piece lambservant. The church is in a sad state (overall) because so many Christians don't read and study the Word. The dangers of not reading/studying for ourselves you've pointed out here, and include being easily mislead by false teachers, of which there are many now. It may be that Christians (all of us) will have to be shocked awake by God.

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Graceinus, thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your comments.

    • profile image

      graceinus 3 years ago from those of the Ekklesia

      Most so called christians like the idea of letting the one behind the pulpit spoon feed the bible to them. Most (so christians) are to lazy to study the word of God for themselves. If they would do so they would realize just how much false doctrine comes from behind the pulpit. If they continue to be lazy, then they'll also continue to be blind.

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      That is cute DS. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Deborah Sexton 4 years ago

      I did too and was so proud when I recited it all the way through. When my dad asked if I knew what it meant, I thought and than nodded my head "yes" LOL I didn't have a clue

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Thanks deborah. I thought of that one too. My son had to memorize this psalm at age 5. I memorized it just listening. God's word is so beautiful, and so perfect as it teaches us. Blessings.

    • profile image

      Deborah Sexton 4 years ago

      Lambservant

      I know you have a lot of comments on this hub, so don't feel you need reply to this

      I wanted to show you how Psalm 1 reiterates the scripture you gave in Joshua 1

      Joshua 1

      8. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

      Psalm 1

      1. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful

      2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

      3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

      4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      thanks for writing back Deborah. Sorry I misinterpreted your tone. That is one hazard of the written word is that we cannot hear the tone of voice or see facial expressions and body language. So glad you weren't offended. I have read the Amos passage and I agree wholeheartedly.

      Your three reasons are spot on. So many of the Christian's I know come to the Bible studies religiously and to church on Sunday. But they admit, they never crack it open at home. This hub was about private study of the Bible. I think the Bible is clear that we are to read it and meditate on it day and night so that we will obey it (Josh. 1:8). Having said all this, I know many do indeed study their Bible regularly.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Blossom, I am glad you found relief from your guilt, ha ha. My current Bible I found out last week, is missing a page - half of John 15, one of my favorite passages. I found another page in the OT half torn - have no idea how that happened. The poor Bible is starting to get loose in the binding. But I hate breaking in a new Bible. When we meet the Lord, should he ask about our reading of the word, I don't think he'd like to hear, "Oh, my old one bit the dust and it was just too hard to break in a new one." A Bible is a Bible, but the ones with all your notes and underlines sure are meaningful. Blessings Blossom.

    • profile image

      Deborah Sexton 4 years ago

      In this scripture from the KJV of the Bible it says there will be a famine of God's Word. To bring a famine there has to be more than one cause.

      The verse does say "but of hearing the words of the LORD."

      Here are three reasons off the top of my head.

      1. The ministers of some churches may not be preaching the true word/doctrine

      2. People may not understand the word (won't have the ears to hear or the eyes to see).

      3. People won't gather together for church and worship/lack of interest and/or don't believe in God

      Here's the verse

      Amos 8:11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.

    • profile image

      Deborah Sexton 4 years ago

      lambservant

      I think your hub is great and I had absolutely no anger, and wasn't offended in the least. I am a very candid person so if I had felt offended I would have said so. I was stating it as a fact because apparently the people who did the survey spoke of it as being true throughout America.

      In my world all of the people I go to Temple or group with reads the Bible.

      We not only read the Bible, we have group where we study together, pray and meditate together, and worship together.

      I don't think people who do these "studies" should stereo a whole country because of it.

      I am Jewish and we are first taught to subdue our egos. I would never jeopardize my relationship with God by getting offended at someone for such a trivial thing or without cause.

      It's hard to know someone over the internet because a person only sees what we type, but if you knew me you would know it takes a horrific thing to offend me. But, I reread what I said and I can't understand why you think I was offended.

      I used to go on the forum here and the only person who ever offended me was someone who made fun of my dead mother because she is dead.

      At that she didn't get much of a reaction from me and later she wanted forgiveness and I gave it.

      I like to teach Biblical interpretations (I am a licensed ordained minister) and sometimes people get angry at me because I believe differently from them. But it is what I do (teach) in order to obey God.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I love that Spurgeon's comment! Now I don't feel so bad about the state of some of my Bibles. Great write!

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Thank you Larry.

    • profile image

      Larry Wall 4 years ago

      Well done. You gave an objective analysis of issue involving religion without stepping on anyone's toes or challenging their belief system. Keep up the good work.

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Deborah, thank you for stopping by and I appreciate your comments. I think everyone understands that studies such as these do not cover everyone, that it is usually a cross section. I wrote this hub because I know so very, very many Christians who rarely read their Bible. I know this because they tell me. This is heart breaking. I sense anger in your post. I am sorry if you are offended, it certainly was not intentional. Nonetheless, I stand by everything in this hub. God bless you.

      Faith, that is why I love Spurgeon's comment about a Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn't. I found one of my earliest Bible's last year. The cover was off and many pages about fell out. The flood of emotions when I found it and looked through it were pretty strong. Like you, it is hard to break in a new Bible. The emotional ties to an old one are pretty powerful. But then a new one is a fresh opportunity to make and jot down new discoveries. Blessings sister.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      God bless you for this Lori! I know for a fact that if I go one day without reading my Bible, my attitude changes for that day ... I just cannot explain it. I would not want to know if I went a whole week without it, for it is the active and living word of God, powerful and effective. It gives me strength, His word, to get through this day and face any challenges in a Christ-like manner and know when to rebuke satan. The Word of God is powerful and can break through any strongholds that the enemy may have on us. My Bible is literally falling apart. My husband bought me a really nice new one, but there is just something special about that one that is falling apart, as it reminds me of how God was there with me through many trials. When one truly meditates on the Word of God, He will reveal His truths to us. If one is not saved by the blood of Jesus, there is no way to ever understand His word. If one prays and asks the Lord to reveal whatever through His Word, I believe He does and powerfully. It is funny that sometimes I have read the same scripture over and over, but it is not until a certain time in my life, that the same scripture all of a sudden takes on a powerful meaning.

      God bless you. In His Love Always, Faith Reaper

    • profile image

      Deborah Sexton 4 years ago

      There is no one who can say this is fact. They can only say that out of the group they studied this percentage did this or that or knew this or that. They didn't study everyone. I can bet that not one person who reads your hub was studied in any way.

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      sorry you had such a bad experience. It is a fact that the Church is made up of human beings and we sometimes hurt each other. Good for you for keep up at home. Thanks for stopping b Crafty.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 4 years ago

      Great Hub! There is one church in this area that actually teaches from the Bible. I enjoyed learning when I attended that church. I went with my children 4x a week. Unfortunately, about 95% of the people who went to the church did not read the Bible, nor could they understand it. I was asked to leave the church by the secretary because my son has Autism. She called him "bad". She couldn't recite a verse if I held it up in front of her. Yet, she felt she was an expert Christian when she singly decided that my child didn't belong in church.

      So, anyway, I've tried six or seven other churches around here and they all focus more on entertainment. The one church that did about 5 minutes of Bible reading was an hour away.

      For now, we study the Bible at home. I haven't really found a church where our family fits in. Most have cliques that I can't stand.

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Ooo, I missed some typos. Hope I got them all.

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Thanks for the affirmation Bill. I felt it was too long, which I tend to be anyway, but I feel so passionate about it I want to say as much as possible.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      LS,

      Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! The challenge is there, and yet you address ways to overcome them. In all, that eliminates the excuses we have for ignoring God's Word.

      I had to laugh when I saw your picture of the dusty Bible. Not too long ago I was in a house where the dust covered the Book so thick I could have written my name in it. It's not really funny. It's rather sad, but it was something I identified with. Keep at it!