[Note: My colleague E is a genius .]
Bill Hybels writes in Move, “I can’t read the Bible for you.” As Willow Creek has assessed its model for membership, it’s become clear that Scripture reading is a non-negotiable requirement for those who want to 1) join and 2) grow in faith.
Being a disciple of Jesus does not involve:
- Busying ourselves with church activities – even noble ones (choir, Stephen Ministries, Session, Deacons, etc.)
- Having our names on church membership roles
- Attending worship services
When we read Scripture, we gather insights on who God is and who we are. The brilliant thing about the Bible is that we gather different insights depending on how we read it, what’s going on in our lives when we read it, and any number of other influences. Today I might read the parable of the Prodigal Son and identify with the older brother. Tomorrow I might read the same parable and identify with the younger brother. The Spirit hits us between the eyes sometimes and other times we read a passage and think “Huh?”
As a pastor, I regularly study Scripture and let it steep, simmer, and percolate for days before writing down my reflections for sermons or studies. Preachers put a lot of effort into sermons, but we can’t be the only ones pondering the mysteries of Scripture. Like Hybels, I can’t read the Bible for my parishioners whether those parishioners are in a single congregation I serve or in the many congregations I visit as a Presbytery staffer. We have got to do the theological work of disciples – studying, grappling, praying over, and talking about What The Bible Is Saying. And then we live accordingly.
Being a follower of Jesus involves ongoing transformation.
I’m convinced that people crave good teaching and solid spiritual direction. But the strongest spiritual communities grow in maturity because they take Scripture seriously.
You might be reading this and think, “Well, duh.” But honestly, folks, many people in our congregations haven’t picked up a Bible in decades, if ever. Too many are happy for their pastors to be the lone Bible expert while they sit on pews or sofas and passively learn something or find something interesting or experience an inspirational pep talk.
When was the last time we grappled with a passage of scripture with people in our community? (I hope it was yesterday.) This is essential if we are serious about moving deeper spiritually. And our faith communities cannot thrive without this.