Ok. This is going to be tough. I need to come clean on this. Some of you who know this blog may have guessed already, that yes, I’m a Bible nerd.
I get passionately excited about the Bible. Kind of strange? Maybe. Maybe not…
I’m holding my own bible as I’m writing. It was given to me by my parents nearly twenty-five years ago. It’s been with me all over the world and the bond between us is close. Inseparable. As I flick through the well worn and thumbed pages, I come to realise that the words in this book are more powerful than any words written anywhere else or in any other book.
These very words have saved people from death. These words have reformed hardened criminals, brought healing to broken homes and hope to those just too poor to know where their next meal will come from.
These words have inspired movements for justice, changed societies, brought down tyrannies and raised up men and women of integrity, whose same purpose is to live out those very words.
For every harmful act done in the name of those words, a thousand, maybe more, have been done for the good of all.
That’s why I’m a Bible nerd and I love God’s word.
I love reading the scripture text, closely. Intimately. Letting every word soak into my soul because I’m being feed, I’m being nourished.
I love the Bible because it is a book of books. Sixty-six works collected into a living library of revelation, spanning 1500 years. Yet every word equal in breadth, depth, and power.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12.
I love seeing how one passage connects to another, how the big themes of life are spread out before us in all their many shades and colours. Love, death, hope, joy, peace, justice all grounded in the lives and words of ordinary people, touched by an extraordinary God.
I want to understand how they came to be, what they meant to those that first wrote and heard them. I want to know more of what they mean for me, today.
These words should change me too and lead me to the same author.
But there’s a problem.
A lot of Christians, way too many, don’t really know and comprehend the Bible. The Bible for them are the words that a pastor or priest uses on a Sunday. Words packaged nicely into a self-help sermon or a piece of liturgy. People aren’t aware of how the Bible can be used, misused and misunderstood or that it can really speak to their deepest doubts and fears.
We’re in a time of Bible illiteracy.
In many Churches, we try to worship God with all of our heart, soul, strength. But of our minds?
No, we don’t seriously study scripture. We may read it for devotions, personalise it as a word ‘just for me.’ But do we seriously study it, to understand God better? Do we have our faith deepened?
No, instead the intellect is too easily downgraded because it’s dangerous. It questions, it doubts, it can upset the status quo and cause division. It can be proud and self-serving. The intellect can undermine the very foundation of faith itself.
That’s why many churches, protestant especially, are anti-intellect and intellectual because it’s based on a fear. The fear of losing faith.
And it’s a tragedy that’s so unnecessary.
It’s a reason why the Church is no longer the prophetic voice it used to be in society. People just don’t think Christianity has anything useful to say anymore.
How wrong that is.
Worship with our Minds
We don’t worship God with our minds enough. We’ve defined faith as an experience and a relationship. These aren’t wrong of course, they’re wonderful. But it’s not the whole picture because sooner or later many will drift away from going to church because the teaching and preaching are no longer ‘speaking to me.’ It’s not answering the tough questions.
Why did my husband leave me?
How can I trust the words of the Bible to be true?
Why hasn’t God healed me?
Does God really answer prayer when the world is full of horror?
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Difficult questions deserve decent answers and we need our minds to answer them, drawing on a deep understanding of scripture and the purposes of God. Answers that aren’t cliched or pithy and that honour our God-given minds.
Step forward the ‘Bible nerd’.
Most congregations have them, hopefully, a good number. If you don’t know who they are, seek them out. They’re likely to be more introvert (that doesn’t mean shy), enjoy reading and excited about knowledge of all kinds. They may have a particular area of study that they’re passionate about. They’re often the ones who can offer a surprising insight into a passage you didn’t expect. It’s because after many years they’ve taken it all in and thought about a lot of things.
Those that are passionate about scripture have a special calling to the church. Some may be teachers or preachers. Some may be encouragers and builders up of faith. Many will have a pastoral gift because their practical experience of the world combined with knowledge grows into a God-given wisdom.
They need to be called forward and given the opportunity to express their gifts because the life and health of a church need them, let alone the rest of society.
Good Teaching and Spiritual Maturity
I believe that there’s a direct correlation between good teaching and the spiritual maturity of a church. I think Paul realised this as well when he implored the Corinthian church to move on to solid food.
I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed you are still not ready. 1 Corinthians 3:2
If a congregation isn’t stretched and challenged by God’s word and its application for today then it’s a church that is missing out on its full calling and effectiveness in the world. And that includes challenging some of the cosy assumptions that we’ve had toward scripture.
One way of really expanding our view of the Bible is almost counter-intuitive; it’s to get up close. Really close. A close reading of a verse, understanding the context, throwing some knowledge about the original Greek and Hebrew words, hearing how that text would have been understood and received at the time it was first heard and then working out ways in which that same passage can impact us and our faith communities today.
There’s a science to interpretation known as hermeneutics. We’d all do well to do a little of that work ourselves in our own study time too. And you don’t have to be a Bible scholar or academic either, there are plenty of quality commentaries around that give you the basic interpretation. Once you get the text and the context right, then we can really pray and listen to the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth.
But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. John 16:13
Good Teaching protects the Church
From it’s earliest days the Church has been beset with false teachers.
I urge you brothers and sisters to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Romans 16:17
Good teaching by those committed to applying the Word of God correctly do a lot to check the power of leaders or ministries that end up distorting the Bible and harming the faith of believers. The problem of spiritual abuse is sadly not limited to cults, it can take over in mainstream churches if we’re not careful.
Bringing the Bible to the world
The Bible still tops the bestseller lists of books and I hope always will. As Christians we are equally responsible for sharing it and living it.
We just need to be available for God, to be his hands and feet.
And that means we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to how we can present the Bible in creative and original ways, that will really engage people and awaken their curiosity. We now have untold possibilities through new media channels that would have been unheard of even 10 years ago.
Want to inspire more people to engage with the Bible?
Set up a Youtube channel for your church.
Want to share some scriptures to encourage people in their devotions?
Share something beautiful on Facebook with your friends.
A concerted and focused effort to bring the Bible and it’s beauty to the world will allow God to do his work in the lives of others.
And we need to support and encourage those with a more public role to share the gospel with the whole of society.
I often wonder, where are the C.S Lewis’s of our time? Can we have another G.K Chesterton, please? As much as we may admire Tim Keller & John Piper, there should be more Christian thinkers, shouldn’t there?
I’ve found those Christian personalities that people can relate to and who can also articulate the truth of the Bible are a great gift to the world. Especially for a hardened, skeptical public that has lost its interest in faith or see it as a private, eccentric pastime.
Getting the balance right
As Christians, we have to get the balance right when we worship God equally with our heart, soul, strength and mind. (Luke 10:27).
Our humanity reflects the image of God in that we are heart and head, reason and emotion and everything in between. If our teaching and worship don’t reflect that and if it focuses too much on emotion or the opposite, too much on the reason we end up with churches that aren’t fully functioning the way God intends them to be.
We Bible Nerds need to be connected to our emotions, to the hearts of others and to serve for the benefit of the church. While we’re comfortable with our books and knowledge gathering, we gain as much by rolling up our sleeves too.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22.
Likewise, the opposite is true, doers need to hear and comprehend the word first as well!
The Bible Nerd Challenge
Will you commit to digging deeper into scripture?
Will you meditate on it day and night? (Psalm 1:2).
Will you be curious to learn more about the world of the scriptures?
Will you be committed to handling the word of God with great care?
(We’re in such a privileged position to be able to now have so much knowledge at our fingertips!)
Will you be prepared to pray, think and share the word of God in new and creative ways?
We want to honour and serve God through living, learning and teaching his word, with passion and compassion.
It’s why I write and do what I do at Not Only Sundays. The Bible is for everyone, every day.
Oh, and it’s quite ok if you become a Bible nerd along the way.