I don’t know if any of you listen to “The White Horse Inn” but it is a great radio program that you should check out.
They have started to do a series examining Galatians. To start this new series they went to a conservative, evangelical Bible college and simply asked, “What is the book of Galatians about?”
It was almost jaw dropping to hear some of these responses and how completely wrong they were. One would think they had never read Galatians or that it had been a very, very long time since they had last read it. They gave typical Sunday school answers and answers that people who don’t actually read the Bible believe to be in every book of the Bible.
Here are some responses to the question: What is the central message of Galatians?
How the Christian should live their life.
Community in the church.
I’m not familiar with it.
Strengthening others in Christ.
I haven’t read it all the way through.
I don’t remember.
It was somewhat depressing when I listened to the responses to the question. They asked 12 people and only 2 people gave a half-way right answer. The other 10 simply said, “I don’t know” or gave a typical Sunday school answer, like-“how the christians should live their life.”
One thing is clear, my generation is very theologically and biblically ignorant.
I separate theologically ignorant and biblically ignorant in this way(you don’t have to separate the two):
Theological ignorance- ignorance in some of the key doctrines of the Christian faith(systematic and biblical theology).
Biblical ignorance- ignorance in specific books of the Bible and specific passages.
What can the church do to help turn this around? What can we, as the church, do to help people have a better knowledge and grasp of the Bible and key theological beliefs?
Here are some of my thoughts (I realize that it is not all on the churches shoulders, people do have to take some personal responsibility… But these are things that would certainly help):
1) Preach expositionally(verse by verse)- I know there are a lot of different opinions when it comes to preaching and that many people think it is merely a matter of preference. While some of it comes down to preference it also comes down to- 1) What is most biblical? 2) What best equips the saints?- I know godly men that disagree with me on this and there are great preachers who do more topical preaching than expositional. With that being said I think expositional preaching gives people a better understanding of Scripture than any other form of preaching.
Here are some main reasons why I think Expository preaching gives people a fuller, better understanding of Scripture:
a) Expository preaching doesn’t allow a preacher to skip over tough passages.
b) Expository preaching dives deeper into specific passages(most of the time- there are, of course, exceptions).
c) Expository preaching helps members study the Bibles for themselves.
d) Expository preaching always preaches passages in context of the passages around it and shows the importance of context.
e) Expository preaching makes it easier for people to refer back to things they’ve learned.
f) Expository preaching avoids “proof-texting”- As many have said before me, “we should preach expositionally because of what Scripture is.” Scripture is the word of God and expositional preaching best lets Scripture speak for itself.
2) Don’t be soft on Sundays- Many churches have fallen into this thought process that we have to preach as if everyone is as theologically slow as a turtle. But they aren’t. If we never move beyond a 5th grade level of biblical depth our congregations won’t either. Remember, church is primarily for believers. Colossians 1:9-10 encourages us to grow in the “knowledge of God and to bear fruit in every good work.” Sadly, most sermons do not help people grow in the knowledge of God, but rather merely encourages people to “live good christian lives.” Our transformation is based on what we know about our great God. We can’t grow more intimate with God without growing in our knowledge of him. I can’t grow in love for my wife if I don’t continue to learn about her.
3) Be fearless, but not foolish- Many pastors and churches fear that deep theological study and discussion will cause division. It can, but if it is done correctly it should build unity and love for the savior. If every Thursday night you hold a debate on Calvinism you are being foolish. At the same time it is important for each church to have some place that members who are interested can have a time in which to ask deep theological questions. There ought to be some place that people can study, learn, and discuss tough theological issues.
Too many times pastors and church avoid theology for “the sake of unity.” This is utter garbage that the Apostle Paul knew nothing of. If you disagree with me go read the Pastoral Letters…(1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus). Paul often used language that shows us we need to “promote sound doctrine, guard sound doctrine, give instruction according to sound doctrine, teach sound doctrine, etc…” Yet today we see pastors and churches doing otherwise.