The more I do lectureships in the twenty-first century and the more e-mails I get from our website, the more amazed I am at the ignorance level of people in the matters related to the Bible and religion in general. People believe and do bizarre things when their ignorance level is high. I have heard it said, "If you don't believe in something, you will believe in anything," and I believe that is true. A recent study in Great Britain showed that more people believe in ghosts than believe in God, and my experience in lectureships in England and Scotland support that study (see our May/June 2006 issue, page 31).
The problem is that many churches no longer consider education to be a high priority. It has been my observation in the nearly 40 years that we have been doing lectureships that education programs and opportunities have been reduced by most congregations. This is seen in a number of ways:
¤ shorter class periods.
¤ elimination of VBS programs.
¤ reduction of special programs like retreats and rallies.
¤ elimination of midweek Bible study.
¤ class topics being chosen that do not involve Bible knowledge.
¤ an increase in the number of sermons that are designed to motivate and praise God, but do no Bible teaching.
¤ the removal of Bibles from pews and a de-emphasis of Bible knowledge in children's classes.
¤ increased reliance on materials that focus on social problems and secular solutions to those problems.
It is important to understand that sometimes any of the things listed above might be appropriate to special needs within the congregation, but this should be the exception and not the rule. When a person does not understand the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testaments, all kinds of misunderstandings of social issues are going to take place. Knowing the difference between apocalyptic biblical books, poetic books, historical books, and wisdom literature is vital if we are going to get a biblical handle on the issues of our day.
A recent study by the Barna Research Group indicates that this is a problem across Christianity in the broadest sense of the term Christianity. The Barna study makes the following observations:
¤ fewer church leaders claim Sunday School is their top priority than in 1997 (from 22% to 15%).
¤ fewer churches offer Sunday School for children under age six or for junior and senior high school students (6% in all cases--20,000 fewer churches).
¤ there was a drop in the number of churches offering a VBS program (15%--38,000 fewer churches since 1997).
¤ there has been a drop in the prevalence of midweek programming for children (10%--about 20,000 churches.)
(Barna offers a free service at www.barna.org.)
The Barna study involved Baptists, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and United Church of Christ, but our experience is that the data is conservative as far as what is going on in most churches in today's world.
As a public school teacher of chemistry, physics, Earth Science, and mathematics, I was always incredibly frustrated when school ended the second week of June. I had been working with my students every day for one hour a day ever since August, and we had spent over 190 hours together learning the subject matter I was supposed to teach. I worked hard and covered more material than any other teacher of my subject in the school system, and yet I had so much material that I wanted my students to know that I had not been able to get in!
How long would it take your kids to get 190 hours of Bible instruction with the present rate of teaching that they are getting? Realize that the Bible is made up of sixty-six books. If you spent 190 hours on each of the 66 books that would be 12,540 hours. If they got two full hours a week (which no congregation I know does) it would take some 120 years to get the same time I have to teach physics or chemistry in the public schools.
The typical reaction to discussion like this is to maintain that there are not enough teachers to do this and kids will not show up for that kind of instruction. With the present lack of emphasis of many Christians on Bible knowledge, that is undoubtedly true. It is vital that we begin by educating the Church on the importance of Bible knowledge. If the leadership of congregations believe that Bible knowledge is vital to meeting the needs of the membership, they will convey that to the members. Demonstrating why we need to have Bible knowledge is important. Showing how to use Bible knowledge is vital. Demonstrating tools to help understand the Bible is critical.
Education is a key to solving most problems we face in today's world. This statement is true from a secular and religious standpoint. Kids living in a ghetto are much more likely to get out of the poverty cycle if they become educated than they are by any other method including professional, athletics, and crime. People confused about their purpose in existing, their self worth, ways of solving the hard problems in life, or the building of relationships and meaningful lives will only find answers when they have an informed basis to make decisions. Religion can be defined as man's attempts to reach God. Relying on others to do this is a major error, and our culture is dominated by people who want to tell others what or what not to do religiously. The Bible says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We are also told to "work out our own salvation" (Philippians 2:12), but we can only do that if we have a working knowledge of what can make us complete.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec06.