I recently polled my Instagram followers, asking them three questions: “Is it important to you to be a ‘biblical Christian’?”, “Is it important to challenge leaders whose worldview is ‘unbiblical’?” and “Have you actually read the whole Bible?”.
Seventy-five per cent answered “yes” to the first question, 87 per cent said “yes” to the second, and yet only 51 per cent replied “yes” to the third.
So of my polltakers, 24 per cent of them find an important part of their identity in a book they haven’t read. And 36 per cent are ready to correct unbiblical teaching without having given the source text a once over!
Other, more official statistics tell a similar story. Lifeway Research found that only 32 per cent of churchgoers have read the Bible cover to cover at least once (with a mere nine per cent reading it daily).
The point of this is certainly not to shame anyone – spiritual disciplines are hard to cultivate. But perhaps we do need to change our relationship with scripture. And that starts with reading it.
Historically speaking, we are in an incredibly privileged position. If you’re reading this right now, you are, at least, literate (not something which could be said of many of our ancestors). You also have access to the Bible in your own language, probably in multiple translations. And, crucially, you are very unlikely to be beheaded or tortured to death for reading it.
In the past, Christians were without access to scripture, meaning they had to take the word of their priest as gospel. Today we can fact check the sermon in real time, yet it seems like a good portion of us are happy with blindly believing the preacher. If Church history teaches us anything, it is that an uninformed congregation is vulnerable to abuse. Reading the Bible ourselves offers protection from the danger of predatory power structures.
But why do we want to wear the adjective ‘biblical’ as a badge, rather than read the book gathering dust on our bedside table? Perhaps it’s about belonging. We know that saying we’re a ‘biblical’ Christian is a password to inclusion in the evangelical community. In fact, we might say ‘biblical’ when we actually mean: “an evangelical interpretation of key verses”.
As a worship leader, I’ve seen firsthand that every denomination believes the Bible is God’s word. It’s not like there are ‘non-biblical’ Christians. There are Christians who differ in their interpretation of scripture, but that doesn’t mean they hate the Bible.
every denomination believes the Bible is God’s word. It’s not like there are ‘non-biblical’ Christians
Reading scripture regularly and in its entirety is important. But we also need to remember the fundamental reason why we read the Bible. For me, it is to establish a connection with the living God.
It is the place where I first met him, and it’s the element of my spiritual life that shapes and forms me. When I spend time with scripture, my soul shifts towards Jesus. It inspires me – as a songwriter for sure, but also to become more like Christ.
And I want that for the Church. We should aspire to be known as biblical, not because we’re ready to battle for it in theological debate, or because we have the bumper sticker on our car, but because we look like Jesus.