Engaging the Text

Recently I listened to a lecture by David Lose, president of Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia. The premise of his lecture was that as our culture was changing, as it always has, the way we function as a church has not.  He notes that culture no longer supports church life like it used to for many reasons. Therefore, we can no longer depend upon school, government, media, sports, etc. to simply reinforce the stories of scripture. He used as his examples, school plays at Christmas, no sports on Sunday, and television shows about scripture stories.

During the same time that the culture was changing, the church remained status quo. We worshipped, conducted catechism and Sunday school, and had our fair share of fellowship events and stewardship drives. When it was convenient, our folks dropped by. But dropping by became less and less. The alternatives offered on Sunday morning became more appealing than Sunday worship. The change was slow – very slow. But there was change nonetheless.

Slowly, our knowledge and understanding of scripture diminished.  Without the support of culture, less participation in church, and increased belief that the scriptures were not relevant to our lives, people put it on the shelf and some even come to assume that they already knew what was in it. What little people did know about Bible stories were more like folklore passed down through people that others assumed knew and accepted.

Today Biblical illiteracy is at an all-time high. In a survey done by Barna, 81% of the callers responded that they were moderately knowledgeable of the Bible. But when asked to name the first five books of the Bible only 47% could.  Half of them thought that John the Baptist was one of Jesus’ disciples. The core book for Christianity is becoming less and less familiar.

Pastors are now instructed not only to proclaim the Gospel in a sermon but also educate the congregation on scripture in an uplifting and joyful message in 12 minutes or less. Not possible. This is a serious dilemma if you truly care about the life of the church and if you care about you own spiritual journey. Without a good understanding of scripture, anything can be taught by a minister and the congregation will take it as the Gospel. Or maybe it doesn’t matter what a minister proclaims as long as it is positive and uplifting. There are plenty of television evangelists that have proven this.

Unfortunately the scriptures are sometimes challenging and confrontational. They speak to our evil ways. They challenge us and at the same time encourage. They confront us and forgive us. They speak honestly to our lives. But how would most know, because they have no idea what is in the book.

The good news is at Christ the Lord we are taking this battle to heart. We have taken a very serious step in the last five years. Adult education is a serious matter here for those who would like to engage the scriptures. We are seeing the change take place. We offer a Bible study (Disciple 1) that covers 80% of the scriptures. I teach a class (Ponderings with the Pastor) that uses lectures from Yale University. We offer a class on Sunday mornings (Luther’s Small Catechism) that explores our scripture and theology. Lay people lead Bible studies that look at scripture from many angles.

As your pastor, I want you to know the word because I believe that God speaks through the word. Soon I will take this to a new level. I will be engaging you in my sermons- not all but some. I will ask you questions. I will seek your insights. I will involve the congregation in the message.

I do this with encouragement from others who have taken my class. I do this because I have looked into the eyes of students who are wowed by what they have learned. The scriptures are coming alive for them and are becoming a support for their Christian life.

To get this started I want to refer you to some websites to introduce you to scripture. You will not have to attend a class at the church. I hope that you will take advantage of these opportunities.

If you are computer savvy, Google Luther Seminary and go to lifelong learning. Scroll down to a box under topics call Bible Press. Then press “Enter the Bible.” This website offers many tools to start you on your journey. There are professors to answer any questions that you e-mail to them. Think of any question that you have ever had. No shame. Throw it out there.  This one website can open up the Bible for you. Next, go to textweek.com and see all the commentaries, insights, and tools to learn about the scripture readings for Sunday.

I have a passion for opening up the Bible to you. I am here to help you with any questions you might have.  I believe you can. I know you can. I hope you will. I pray you will.

~In His Service
Pastor Mitchell

From e-news