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Do you read the Bible?

Inspiration can strike in the most unlikely of places. Recently, I was in the bathroom at a friend’s house and my attention was caught by an old framed article on the wall. These friends have a vast collection of vintage and repurposed items around their home so the fact that it was written more than 100 years ago did not surprise me. Nor that it might be considered unusual bathroom décor. It didn’t even shock me that the author was Bishop J C Ryle, the first bishop of Liverpool, after all my friends are Christians. What grabbed me was the topic of the article, it began…

READER

Do you read your Bible? To have a Bible is one thing, to read it is quite another. I dare say you have got a Bible. But do you read it?

Ok, Bishop Ryle, you have my attention. It continued…

I am firmly persuaded that the Bible of many a man and woman in Great Britain is never read at all. In one house it lies in a corner, stiff cold, glossy, and fresh as when it came from the bookseller’s shop. In another it lies on a table, with its owner’s name written in it – a silent witness against him day after day. In another it lies on some high shelf, neglected and dusty, to be brought down only on grand occasions. In another it lies deep down at the bottom of some box or drawer, – among the things not wanted, – and is never dragged forth until the arrival of sickness, the doctor, and death. Ah, these things are sad and solemn. But they are true.

I am firmly persuaded that many in Great Britain who read the Bible, do not read it aright. One man looks over a chapter on Sunday evening, – but that is all. Another reads a chapter every day to his servants, at family prayers, – but that is all. A third goes a step farther, and hastily reads a verse or two in private every morning before he goes out of his house. A fourth goes farther still, and reads as much as a chapter or two every day, though he does it in a great hurry. But each and every one of these men does what he does in a heartless, scrambling, formal kind of way. He is glad when the task is over. He forgets it all when the book is shut. Oh, what a sad picture is this! But in the multitudes of cases, oh, how true!

And finally, it ended…

Ah, reader, it is a painful thought, that there should be so much profession of love to the Bible among us, and so little proof that the Bible is read. It is an awful thought that many have the Bible, but do not read it; and many who do read it, but do not read it aright! Now what do you do?

Challenged much?

I could certainly identify with so much of what he was saying – albeit not the bit about reading to our servants! Clearly, struggling to read the Bible and read it well is not a new problem. But it is definitely a growing one.

As you know, we are passionate about trying to reverse this trend, even in the face of a decline in reading generally. But to do this effectively we need to be clear about the obstacles we face.

This summer we began collecting data about what people think gets in the way of their Bible reading using a survey at summer conferences/festivals and via social media. The survey is still live and when we close it early next year I am really looking forward to analysing the results – they should make interesting reading (well for us slightly geeky types anyway) – but it’s about more than that. It is about generating a genuine conversation around this issue.

I hope that from this conversation we will start to recognise that:

  1. There is a real and widespread problem.
  2. The causes are multifaceted and not limited to the obvious.
  3. There is no quick–fix solution.
  4. We won’t be able to move forward effectively without first understanding and addressing the barriers to good Bible reading.

I will be writing a series of blogs over the coming months looking at the results of the survey and some of the obstacles – inviting you and some guest bloggers to respond/engage. We are keen to hear from Christians in different contexts and with different experiences across church traditions, generations and locations.

Will you join this conversation? Maybe you know someone else you would like to invite to join in too?

Feel free to comment and watch this space for other blog pieces in this series.

Finally, if you’ve not yet filled in the ONE MINUTE survey yet, here’s the link http://svy.mk/1OrLPvx

 

 

Lindsey Holley

Executive Director, Biblica Europe

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