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Discerning Links Between Biblical Literacy and Faith Development Larry Perkins, Ph.D. Professor of Biblical Studies; Director of the Northwest Centre for.

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Presentation on theme: "Discerning Links Between Biblical Literacy and Faith Development Larry Perkins, Ph.D. Professor of Biblical Studies; Director of the Northwest Centre for."— Presentation transcript:

1 Discerning Links Between Biblical Literacy and Faith Development Larry Perkins, Ph.D. Professor of Biblical Studies; Director of the Northwest Centre for Biblical and Theological Literacy Ministry Lift 2013. 1

2 Key Question Should biblical literacy be an essential strategy for churches to use in evangelism and discipleship? 2

3 Premise Where the people of God have highly-developed biblical literacy, there you will have vibrant, orthodox kingdom life. 3

4 Definition Biblical literacy is motivating people and developing their capacity to read the Bible with sufficient understanding so that they can explain its basic meaning and apply that meaning to generate life-changing conversion and discipleship. 4

5 Definition “Literacy” defines the capacity to read a text with sufficient understanding to grasp its meaning and thus have the opportunity to interact with the truth of that meaning. 5

6 Encouragements to Biblical Literacy in the New Testament 1. Reverencing God’s gift of his revelation – “yearning for the wordy milk” (1 Peter 2:2-3). 2. Use of OT quotes, allusions and illustrations in NT documents – writers expected their audience to know and recognize these references. Provide hermeneutical guidelines. 3. Encouragements to read Scripture (Matthew 13:51-52). 6

7 Encouragements to Biblical Literacy in the New Testament 4. The language of discipleship – μαθητ ῆ ς – a learner. 5. Jesus’ great command (Matthew 28:19-20) “obeying everything I have commanded.” Teaching is central. Early church leaders needed the capacity to teach (1 Timothy 3:2,9). 6. Paul’s instructions to Timothy about reading, teaching, etc. (1 Timothy 4:11-12,13; 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17). 7

8 Encouragements to Biblical Literacy in the New Testament Literacy in the first century A.D. – 10 – 25% of the population. Was reading a necessary qualification for elders? Paul writes letters – does he expect the recipients to have capability to read them” (Colossians 4:16) Paul’s own use of manuscripts (2 Timothy 4:13) The case of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:30) and Stephen (Acts 6-7). Early Christian leadership was literate (2 Peter 3:15-16). 8

9 What Bible did They Read? Initial Scriptures were Jewish Scriptures – accessible in Hebrew or Greek in Palestine. Emerging Christian documents (Luke 1:2-3) – many “narratives/accounts (δι ή γησις)” Paul’s writings – early collection (2 Peter 3:15-16). Matthew’s use of Mark’s Gospel material in his Gospel. Transmission of traditions – initial oral (1 Corinthians 11, 15). 9

10 The Function of Biblical Literacy – Important Adjunct for Spiritual Maturity Oral and text-based instruction occurred in the early church. Use of the “codex” to enhance the use of biblical materials – perhaps a Christian emphasis. No discipleship occurred without some knowledge of traditions about Jesus, however obtained. Biblical literacy (or Gospel literacy) was essential for becoming and remaining a Jesus follower. 10

11 The Function of Biblical Literacy – Important Adjunct for Spiritual Maturity Role of the Holy Spirit in such processes is recognized (Romans 12:7 (teaching); 1 Corinthians 12:28 (teachers); 1 Peter 4:11 (word)). John 16:12-15. Paul’s pattern for spiritual maturity – Ephesians 4:20-21 “you have learned the Messiah.” 11

12 State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical Churches in Western Canada in 2013 Does our encouragement to biblical literacy match what we seem to discover from the NT in the early church? If not, why? Consider the concern expressed in “Hemorrhaging Faith” by Rick Hiemstra – correlation between biblical literacy of Christian parents and young adults continued involvement with Christianity. 12

13 State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical Churches in Western Canada in 2013 Jeremy Postal (Faith Today, September 2012) urges church leaders to “engage Scripture” in order to encourage Young Adults to retain connection with the church. The supposition is that this is not happening to a sufficient degree and this is one factor that causes discipleship to limp. 13

14 State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical Churches in Western Canada in 2013 How do people develop biblical literacy today? Bible College/Institutes/Christian University Church programs Youth programs Small groups Sunday Preaching Catechism Adult Bible Study electives Women’s groups People know about the Bible, but do they know the Bible? 14

15 State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical Churches in Western Canada in 2013 Some survey results. FEBPAC Church Leaders – 20% response. Half of those responding serve in churches larger than 250 people. 15

16 State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical Churches in Western Canada in 2013 1. 72% said that “developing biblical literacy within the congregation was an explicit part of their church’s mission and vision. This means that for at least 25% of these churches, biblical literacy is not a missional priority. 2. Approximately 70% said that the regular preaching of God’s word was the primary means for developing biblical literacy. 3. Only 55% make learning to read the Bible with understanding a priority in training new disciples. 4. Small groups carry the weight for Bible Study in these churches (85%). 5. Only 50% put emphasis on developing the biblical literacy of small group leaders. 16

17 State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical Churches in Western Canada in 2013 6. Less than 1/3 of the congregations promote any kind of annual Bible reading program. 7. Only 20% offer any kind of intensive workshops to teach people how to read their Bibles with understanding. 8. About 6% have a vision for using literacy training with the Bible as a text for outreach into their community. 9. 80% of the respondents assume as an operating principle that everyone in the congregation can read. 10. Only 9% of respondents indicated that periodically they try to evaluate the average level of biblical literacy in their congregations. 17

18 State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical Churches in Western Canada in 2013 11. Church libraries are not seen as vehicles to promote biblical literacy (only by 33% of respondents). 12. Only 21% of respondents indicated that their congregation had a “well-developed strategy to help people enhance their biblical literacy.” 13. 25% of respondents indicate they are training people to access specific online Bible study tools and resources. 14. 25% still offer adult Bible electives on Sunday mornings 18

19 State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical Churches in Western Canada in 2013 What might this small sample of responses indicate? That biblical literacy, while it may be part of a congregation’s mission, is not a priority in terms of discipleship programs within Evangelical churches. That most church leaders assume that people in the congregation can read and understand a text, when the assumption may not be true for perhaps one third of the people in the pew. That only 25% of congregations offer any systematic training in how to read the Bible with understanding. 19

20 State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical Churches in Western Canada in 2013 What might this small sample of responses indicate? There is little vision to use literacy training for the community as a means to promote biblical wisdom. The weight for developing biblical literacy among adult believers is placed upon small group ministries, but the training of such small group leaders to read and understand the Bible for themselves only occurs in 50% of the congregations. This begs the question “to what degree small groups can in fact carry this expectation.” 20

21 State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical Churches in Western Canada in 2013 I conclude that most church leaders discern little connection between biblical literacy as we have defined it and evangelism and discipleship. So churches give little attention to systematic means of developing biblical literacy within the congregation and their surrounding communities. If there is a correlation between biblical literacy and robust, dynamic discipleship, then our congregations are tending to ignore a primary means of developing effective, mature disciples. 21

22 Practical Steps Church Leaders Can Take to Elevate Biblical Literacy in a Congregation What happens when we ignore the development of biblical literacy in our congregations? Studies suggest: Discipleship wanes. Christian leaders are not developed effectively. Youth tend to disengage with the church over time. 22

23 Practical Steps Church Leaders Can Take to Elevate Biblical Literacy in a Congregation What happens when we ignore the development of biblical literacy in our congregations? Studies suggest: The connection between God’s program and our human lives becomes weakened and diminished. We no longer see ourselves in the context of God’s frame of reference. God’s heart for mission fails to inspire us. The ability of individual believers to function effectively within “the priestly kingdom” is diminished. 23

24 Practical Steps Church Leaders Can Take to Elevate Biblical Literacy in a Congregation Develop a definition of biblical literacy (or Gospel literacy if one prefers) that has a focus or orientation that you as a Christian leader can endorse, model, and promote. Preach and teach the importance of biblical literacy. Seek to locate biblical literacy as one of the means by which your congregational vision can be achieved, linking it with evangelism and discipleship. Consider developing and offering once or twice a year a workshop in “Reading your Bible with Understanding” as one means to give visibility to this important skill and also modelling this “yearning after the wordy milk” of the Gospel. 24

25 Practical Steps Church Leaders Can Take to Elevate Biblical Literacy in a Congregation Consider promoting some sustained Bible interaction once or twice a year across the congregation by coordinating a preaching series with small group studies, youth program and children’s ministry. This might be a study of some Psalms or one of the shorter New Testament books. It will develop good unity and create a bit of buzz and excitement in the congregation. Put some emphasis in the small group leadership development on developing their ability to teach the Bible, by enhancing their ability to read and understand the Scriptures. Periodically have someone offer a testimony that speaks to the impact of biblical study on their spiritual life. 25

26 Practical Steps Church Leaders Can Take to Elevate Biblical Literacy in a Congregation Use your church’s website to enable people to link with reliable, online resources to help them develop their biblical literacy. 26


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