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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Really? The Bible?

This rumination begins from a conversation (almost all my ruminations begin this way) I had with a woman after she found out I was a pastor. "I don't go to church anymore," she replied, "but I pray and read my Bible." Now, this was above and beyond the call of unasked for defense of a non-religious lifestyle..."The Bible,"I asked, "any special parts?" "Ask me anything. I grew up Jehovah's Witness...I may not like a lot of what they do, but we do know our Bible."
So I softballed her with one about Daniel and Lion's Den. Who were the three friends? "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo. Too easy. Ask me something hard."
"Do you think Paul's hermeneutic concerning the salvation of the Jews is justified, especially considering the prophetic works of the Old Testament?"
"Now you're just screwing with me." Her smile made the day better.
That conversation is well over a couple of years old, but I've met a few people over the last few months who've come up with the same story. "I don't go to church, but I like reading the Bible." Now, here's where it gets interesting...
Another one of my gigs is teaching pastors about missional church and missional leadership. One of the most common refrains my students have is that their parishioners no longer know the Biblical story. That is, the "Church" has lost its narrative and story because the people who go to "Church" no longer know it...you see the irony...basically, people I meet in a bars and grocery stores and never step inside a congregation or its buildings know more about the Christian story and narrative than those who attend worship...some every week...As a missionary I spend a great deal of time talking about the Bible to people not affliated with congregations, and my students, who work in congregations spend almost no time talking with people about the Bible...very strange...
I don't really know what to make of this except to caution those inside the congregations and buildings of Christianity to remember to talk about the Bible every now and then...not just about the friends of Daniel, but about the love of God in Christ Jesus...converse together with power of the Holy Spirit to move mountains, and be friends and neighbors...celebrate the fecundity of God with Psalms and hymns of praise...because remember this: eventually those people will find themselves with me in a bar or grocery store, and we're going to need something to talk about...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective.
Do you think that some--maybe many-- churches tend to lean too much toward being a 'business' and stray away from actual teaching and disussion of the Bible?
I used to be a very involved, very regular parishioner.
Not so any longer..........
but I do love the Bible......the gift that God gave us.
I'm just not sure any more that the focus of some churches has stayed on the Bible.
Perhaps I'm wrong. I hope so.
Perhaps one day soon I will find a new church to become an active part of.....but only if it is really faith and Bible focused, and not business focused.
Sure what I was trying to convey made sense.

Scott Frederickson said...

Dear Friend,
I suppose every congregation seeks to survive, and for many that means becoming a "business." But even so, the "business" could be the Bible, but often it is not? I think what's going on is a recognition of how hard it is to get "God" from a book. Most congregations, especially those that exist primarily as worship centers, just do not have time to discern the calling of God from the pages of a book. We need time to process the Bible, and even for those congregations whose identity is the Bible (think of "Bible churches"), that time gets harder and harder to come by, and hence, bibcaly literacy decreases, which is what my blog is about; and that literacy becomes harder and harder to find...except, it seems that some people do find the time for the Bible, but curiously, they are not necessarily in congregations, which is the irony that made me ponder...But I too wish congregations would be about God, the Bible, and other faith matters...But then, so was John the Baptist, Jan Hus, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther King, Jr,. and Dorothy Day, and a whole host of others...thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. What you said makes sense to me.