A friend of ours, in her 80s, was talking with June about a new experience she was having. Our friend is politically liberal, and, as nearly as we could tell, theologically nowhere. She and her husband hadn’t participated in church much until they retired and moved to a Colorado mountain town. There, they were going to a church in which they could discuss, as nearly as I could tell, their political causes.
So June was shocked when she said something like this: “We’re not going to church anymore, but we are participating in a discussion group that meets at 7am. We’re reading the Bible and sharing what we’re hearing from God. Have you ever heard of ‘Lectio Divina?’” (Lectio Divina, Latin for “Divine Light” is, at its simplest, a way of reading the Bible to listen for God to speak.)
Then our friend said, “The church has failed us.”
By which she meant, I’m over 80 years old, and I’m just learning how to read the Bible in a meaningful way.
Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Church, said much the same thing in an oft-misunderstood quote back in 2008:
We made a mistake… What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and became Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self feeders. We should have gotten people (and) taught people how to read their Bible between services (and) how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”
Bill discovered that Willow Creek Church, for all the good it was doing, hadn’t been teaching folks to read the Bible for themselves, and in that omission the church was failing its members. It was failing to make disciples. I’m afraid most churches and pastors fall into that trap. Churches have replaced training the people to be in the Word for themselves with never-ending spoon-feeding.
Ed Stetzer, a well-known church researcher, reflecting on what Bill Hybels said, wrote:
Willow is … repenting for what 95% of churches in America should also repent– not creating Christ-honoring, spiritually formed disciples. For thinking that sitting people down and having them read studies will make them disciples.
Folks, if you’re not yet reading the Bible for yourself, please click The Adventure Series tab at the top of the screen and scroll down for some resources. I recommend Brief Instructions and Journal for Daily Time with God that I wrote. There is more detail in my book Join the Adventure or Growing Strong in God’s Family or Every Man a Warrior, both described on the Adventure tab.
If you’re a pastor, please tap into these resources to help your members. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com, and I or one of my Navigator colleagues can help. Let it not be said of us that we failed to train people to read the Word and hear from God for themselves.