What Happens when Churches Read Together

We need to read the Bible, certainly—but also history, literature, current events, and everything else under the sun.

What Happens when Churches Read Together

One of the defining characteristics of the evangelical tradition is the authority we find in Scripture and the value we place on reading it. Although we may vary widely in our convictions about the role of Scripture in God’s reconciling work in creation and about how the Bible should be read and interpreted in the church, we take Scripture seriously.

We have inherited the studious tradition of early and medieval Christians—and the long tradition of Judaism that goes back even further. Our ancestors in the faith were bookish people, for whom reading, writing, and studying were essential practices of Christian discipleship. The medieval church, for instance, was instrumental in the creation of universities. As Thomas Cahill recounts in his bestselling book How the Irish Saved Civilization, the work of medieval Irish missionaries in preserving libraries, teaching literacy, and painstakingly copying texts by hand may have preserved key elements of Western culture.

But over the last century or two, a number of sociopolitical developments have weakened our commitment to taking Scripture seriously. With the rise of the technological society—defined by increasing reliance on labor-saving devices—we are becoming averse to the slow and intensive work of studying God’s Word. With the dissolution of neighborhoods and other social groups, as Robert Putnam documented in his 2000 book Bowling Alone, we are losing the capacity to wrestle together with Scripture in our local churches. Evangelicals today also face a dire temptation to use Scripture as a tool to reinforce our political ideology, rather than a means to discern what faithfulness to Jesus looks like in the life of our local communities and beyond.

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