Imagine, for a moment, a small, curious, and energetic child. What if you told that child, daily and emphatically, “Go ride your bike,” but never actually taught her how? Well, maybe you at least showed her the bike. Maybe you even bought her several different models of bikes. You probably told her about all of the wonderful rides you had on your bike and explained, with patience and genuineness, how important it is for her to ride her bike. Perhaps you even rode your bike in front of her.
If that child ever manages to figure out that bike, it will be little thanks to you.
I submit that this is how Bible study is all too often treated in our churches. We who are trained in how to study the Scriptures have a responsibility to do more. Church members are told to read their Bibles but are seldom instructed how to do so. We poke fun at coffee-mug-verses that are taken to mean something they never meant, but we neglect to teach church members how to pay attention to history, genre, and cultural context. We long for Christians to be saturated in all of Scripture, yet we don’t teach them how to navigate difficult Old Testament texts. We plead with our fellow believers to go and make disciples, yet we don’t equip them to progress very far in discipleship themselves.
Inadequate revelation from God is most certainly not the problem here. As the author of Hebrews states, “in the last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son.” The Son is the perfect and final revelation of God, and the written Word of God is how we see the Son today. Our God is a God who wants to be known. Bible study is the means to this end— knowing God and being able to make him known to others.
If revelation is not the problem, then the problem must lie with Christians who have a shallow understanding of revelation. Unfortunately, this is often a result of people simply neglecting to look to the Divine. Stiff pages of Bibles lost on bookshelves are a sure sign of Biblical illiteracy. Nonetheless, church leaders and seasoned believers ought to do everything in our power to help our brothers and sisters not only see the importance of Bible study but also learn how to study the Bible well.
If Bibles are lost on bookshelves because their owners just don’t understand how to read them, then we are the ones who have failed. Your fellow church members need to learn good hermeneutics so that they might know and follow Jesus better. If you know what “hermeneutics” means, they need to learn from you.
Biblical illiteracy is the diagnosis of far too many of our congregations. I believe that this ailment, this crippling of Christ’s body, limits Kingdom productivity ten-fold. The cause of this is not only laziness or a failure to emphasize the importance of Scripture but a failure on our part to teach believers how to study the Bible. If you are graced with the education, training, and resources that equip you to study Scripture well, share with the believers in your life who have not. Teach them how to know Jesus and to make him known by teaching them how to study his word.