Peter Enns has an interesting post up identifying the three biggest reasons that people aren’t reading the Bible as much in churches, based on information he learned at a recent conference. Here’s an abbreviated list of the three reasons he describes:
Bible reading is down because people read it…
In fragments, meaning in the verse level rather than in large sections.
A-historically, meaning without a feel for the historical context of the texts being read.
In isolation, meaning individual “devotions” rather than in groups.
Read his full post for more context and discussion of this list.
What do you think of these reasons—do they hit home when you think about Bible reading in your church and personal life?
One reason Enns’ list caught my attention is that all of the reasons he identifies are trends that are enabled—or at very least not countered—by the tools of the digital era. The digital era has made it easier than ever for people to access the Bible in the place, format, and timeframe of their choice. We can pull up exactly the Bible verse we want and in total privacy. And those are without a doubt good things.
But I think we can appreciate the incredible value of this level of access to the Bible and still be aware of the possible drawbacks. Our web browsers, mobile apps, and email programs make it easy to skip some of the harder, less fun, but nonetheless important elements of the Bible experience: reading it in community with fallible fellow believers… taking the time to explore challenging and sometimes confusing parts of Scripture in order to better understand God’s Word as a whole… interacting regularly with others about what we read, and how it’s transforming us.
These are important issues for citizens of the digital Christian world—including us at Bible Gateway and our peers—to consider, and we do keep them in mind. (When Bible Gateway’s general manager Rachel Barach spoke about discipleship in the digital age at last year’s Christian New Media Conference, she challenged the audience to wrestle with these ideas.)
But these are also things that each of us, as individual Bible readers who turn to God’s Word in our web browsers and mobile devices, should consider. The benefits of digital Bible access are undeniable. But do the digital tools we use to access Scripture shape our Bible reading in other ways? Do our tools sometimes isolate our reading from the church community, or make it too easy to read just the parts of Scripture that we want to read? What attitudes and behaviors can we practice to make sure that we’re reading the Bible as much, and as completely, as we can?