Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible

“It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out.” That stunningly clear sentence reflects one of the most amazing, tragic, and lamentable characteristics of contemporary Christianity: an impatience with the Word of God.

The sentence above comes from Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today in an essay entitled, “Yawning at the Word.” In just a few hundred words, he captures the tragedy of a church increasingly impatient with and resistant to the reading and preaching of the Bible. We may wince when we read him relate his recent experiences, but we also recognize the ring of truth.

Galli was told to cut down on the biblical references in his sermon. “You’ll lose people,” the staff member warned. In a Bible study session on creation, the teacher was requested to come back the next Sunday prepared to take questions at the expense of reading the relevant scriptural texts on the doctrine. Cutting down on the number of Bible verses “would save time and, it was strongly implied, would better hold people’s interest.”

As Galli reflected, “Anyone who’s been in the preaching and teaching business knows these are not isolated examples but represent the larger reality.”

Indeed, in many churches there is very little reading of the Bible in worship, and sermons are marked by attention to the congregation’s concerns, not by an adequate attention to the biblical text. The exposition of the Bible has given way to the concerns, real or perceived, of the listeners. The authority of the Bible is swallowed up in the imposed authority of congregational concerns. Read More
Mark Galli, formerly with the Episcopal Church, is now with the Anglican Church in North America. Galli's original article was posted in November 2009, five months after the formal establishment of the ACNA. To what context was Galli was referring in his article--the Episcopal Church or the Common Cause Partnership, the network of churches from which the ACNA was formed, Mohler does not say. While it might be tempting to conclude that the situation has improved since he moved to the ACNA, we really do not not know that to be the case.

For Anglicans giving a central place to the Holy Scriptures in our worship services not only entails the public reading of the Scriptures and the preaching of expository sermons but also the use of translations of the Bible that are understandable to the congregation and the use of a liturgy that employs not just biblical language but embodies biblical teaching. Biblical language can be misused to teach ideas that are not consistent with what the Bible teaches. This has been particularly a problem in the Anglican Church.

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