“Take up and Read” – Is Augustine`s Path to Faith Still

Report
Discerning Links Between Biblical Literacy and Faith
Development
Larry Perkins, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical Studies; Director of the Northwest
Centre for Biblical and Theological Literacy
Ministry Lift 2013.
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Key Question
Should biblical literacy be an
essential strategy for churches to use
in evangelism and discipleship?
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Premise
Where the people of God have
highly-developed biblical literacy,
there you will have vibrant, orthodox
kingdom life.
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Definition
Biblical literacy is motivating people
and developing their capacity to
read the Bible with sufficient
understanding so that they can
explain its basic meaning and
apply that meaning to generate
life-changing conversion and
discipleship.
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Definition
“Literacy” defines the capacity to
read a text with sufficient
understanding to grasp its
meaning and thus have the
opportunity to interact with the
truth of that meaning.
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Encouragements to Biblical Literacy
in the New Testament
1.
2.
3.
Reverencing God’s gift of his revelation –
“yearning for the wordy milk” (1 Peter 2:2-3).
Use of OT quotes, allusions and illustrations
in NT documents – writers expected their
audience to know and recognize these
references. Provide hermeneutical
guidelines.
Encouragements to read Scripture (Matthew
13:51-52).
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Encouragements to Biblical Literacy
in the New Testament
4.
5.
6.
The language of discipleship – μαθητῆς – a
learner.
Jesus’ great command (Matthew 28:19-20)
“obeying everything I have commanded.”
Teaching is central. Early church leaders
needed the capacity to teach (1 Timothy 3:2,9).
Paul’s instructions to Timothy about reading,
teaching, etc. (1 Timothy 4:11-12,13; 5:17; 2
Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17).
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Encouragements to Biblical Literacy
in the New Testament
 Literacy in the first century A.D. – 10 – 25% of the
population.
 Was reading a necessary qualification for elders?
Paul writes letters – does he expect the recipients
to have capability to read them” (Colossians 4:16)
 Paul’s own use of manuscripts (2 Timothy 4:13)
 The case of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:30) and
Stephen (Acts 6-7).
 Early Christian leadership was literate (2 Peter
3:15-16).
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What Bible did They Read?
 Initial Scriptures were Jewish Scriptures –
accessible in Hebrew or Greek in Palestine.
 Emerging Christian documents (Luke 1:2-3) –
many “narratives/accounts (διήγησις)”
 Paul’s writings – early collection (2 Peter 3:15-16).
 Matthew’s use of Mark’s Gospel material in his
Gospel.
 Transmission of traditions – initial oral
(1 Corinthians 11, 15).
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The Function of Biblical Literacy – Important
Adjunct for Spiritual Maturity
 Oral and text-based instruction occurred
in the early church. Use of the “codex” to
enhance the use of biblical materials –
perhaps a Christian emphasis.
 No discipleship occurred without some
knowledge of traditions about Jesus,
however obtained. Biblical literacy (or
Gospel literacy) was essential for
becoming and remaining a Jesus follower.
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The Function of Biblical Literacy – Important
Adjunct for Spiritual Maturity
 Role of the Holy Spirit in such
processes is recognized (Romans 12:7
(teaching); 1 Corinthians 12:28
(teachers); 1 Peter 4:11 (word)). John
16:12-15.
 Paul’s pattern for spiritual maturity –
Ephesians 4:20-21 “you have learned
the Messiah.”
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State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical
Churches in Western Canada in 2013
 Does our encouragement to biblical
literacy match what we seem to discover
from the NT in the early church? If not,
why?
 Consider the concern expressed in
“Hemorrhaging Faith” by Rick Hiemstra –
correlation between biblical literacy of
Christian parents and young adults
continued involvement with Christianity.
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State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical
Churches in Western Canada in 2013
 Jeremy Postal (Faith Today, September
2012) urges church leaders to “engage
Scripture” in order to encourage Young
Adults to retain connection with the
church.
 The supposition is that this is not
happening to a sufficient degree and this
is one factor that causes discipleship to
limp.
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State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical
Churches in Western Canada in 2013
 How do people develop biblical literacy today?
 Bible College/Institutes/Christian University
 Church programs






Youth programs
Small groups
Sunday Preaching
Catechism
Adult Bible Study electives
Women’s groups
 People know about the Bible, but do they know the
Bible?
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State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical
Churches in Western Canada in 2013
Some survey results.
FEBPAC Church Leaders – 20%
response.
Half of those responding serve in
churches larger than 250 people.
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State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical
Churches in Western Canada in 2013
1. 72% said that “developing biblical literacy within the
2.
3.
4.
5.
congregation was an explicit part of their church’s
mission and vision. This means that for at least 25% of
these churches, biblical literacy is not a missional
priority.
Approximately 70% said that the regular preaching of
God’s word was the primary means for developing
biblical literacy.
Only 55% make learning to read the Bible with
understanding a priority in training new disciples.
Small groups carry the weight for Bible Study in these
churches (85%).
Only 50% put emphasis on developing the biblical literacy
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of small group leaders.
State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical
Churches in Western Canada in 2013
6. Less than 1/3 of the congregations promote any kind of
7.
8.
9.
10.
annual Bible reading program.
Only 20% offer any kind of intensive workshops to teach
people how to read their Bibles with understanding.
About 6% have a vision for using literacy training with the
Bible as a text for outreach into their community.
80% of the respondents assume as an operating principle
that everyone in the congregation can read.
Only 9% of respondents indicated that periodically they
try to evaluate the average level of biblical literacy in their
congregations.
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State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical
Churches in Western Canada in 2013
11. Church libraries are not seen as vehicles to promote
biblical literacy (only by 33% of respondents).
12. Only 21% of respondents indicated that their
congregation had a “well-developed strategy to help
people enhance their biblical literacy.”
13. 25% of respondents indicate they are training people to
access specific online Bible study tools and resources.
14. 25% still offer adult Bible electives on Sunday mornings
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State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical
Churches in Western Canada in 2013
 What might this small sample of responses
indicate?
 That biblical literacy, while it may be part of a
congregation’s mission, is not a priority in terms of
discipleship programs within Evangelical churches.
 That most church leaders assume that people in the
congregation can read and understand a text, when the
assumption may not be true for perhaps one third of the
people in the pew.
 That only 25% of congregations offer any systematic
training in how to read the Bible with understanding.
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State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical
Churches in Western Canada in 2013
 What might this small sample of responses indicate?
 There is little vision to use literacy training for the
community as a means to promote biblical wisdom.
 The weight for developing biblical literacy among
adult believers is placed upon small group
ministries, but the training of such small group
leaders to read and understand the Bible for
themselves only occurs in 50% of the
congregations. This begs the question “to what
degree small groups can in fact carry this
expectation.”
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State of Biblical Literacy in Evangelical
Churches in Western Canada in 2013
 I conclude that most church leaders discern
little connection between biblical literacy as we
have defined it and evangelism and discipleship.
 So churches give little attention to systematic
means of developing biblical literacy within the
congregation and their surrounding
communities.
 If there is a correlation between biblical literacy
and robust, dynamic discipleship, then our
congregations are tending to ignore a primary
means of developing effective, mature disciples.
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Practical Steps Church Leaders Can Take to
Elevate Biblical Literacy in a Congregation
 What happens when we ignore the
development of biblical literacy in our
congregations? Studies suggest:
 Discipleship wanes.
 Christian leaders are not developed
effectively.
 Youth tend to disengage with the church over
time.
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Practical Steps Church Leaders Can Take to
Elevate Biblical Literacy in a Congregation
 What happens when we ignore the
development of biblical literacy in our
congregations? Studies suggest:
 The connection between God’s program and our human
lives becomes weakened and diminished. We no longer
see ourselves in the context of God’s frame of reference.
 God’s heart for mission fails to inspire us.
 The ability of individual believers to function effectively
within “the priestly kingdom” is diminished.
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Practical Steps Church Leaders Can Take to
Elevate Biblical Literacy in a Congregation
 Develop a definition of biblical literacy (or Gospel
literacy if one prefers) that has a focus or orientation
that you as a Christian leader can endorse, model, and
promote. Preach and teach the importance of biblical
literacy.
 Seek to locate biblical literacy as one of the means by
which your congregational vision can be achieved,
linking it with evangelism and discipleship.
 Consider developing and offering once or twice a year a
workshop in “Reading your Bible with Understanding”
as one means to give visibility to this important skill
and also modelling this “yearning after the wordy
milk” of the Gospel.
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Practical Steps Church Leaders Can Take to
Elevate Biblical Literacy in a Congregation
 Consider promoting some sustained Bible interaction once
or twice a year across the congregation by coordinating a
preaching series with small group studies, youth program
and children’s ministry. This might be a study of some
Psalms or one of the shorter New Testament books. It will
develop good unity and create a bit of buzz and excitement
in the congregation.
 Put some emphasis in the small group leadership
development on developing their ability to teach the Bible,
by enhancing their ability to read and understand the
Scriptures.
 Periodically have someone offer a testimony that speaks to
the impact of biblical study on their spiritual life.
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Practical Steps Church Leaders Can Take to
Elevate Biblical Literacy in a Congregation
 Use your church’s website to enable people to
link with reliable, online resources to help
them develop their biblical literacy.
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