The Word-n-Will ministry exists to address the critical problem of biblical illiteracy. Before we could develop an effective strategy to address this problem, we first had to acknowledge that this is a problem and determine what we believe is causing this problem.
The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy
If you do a search in your internet browser using the phrase “biblical illiteracy,” you will discover numerous articles that address this issue. In many of these articles, the authors describe biblical illiteracy as a serious problem within and outside the church. The following are quotations from three of these articles:
- “The Bible in America is … the best seller few read and fewer understand. … Clearly, the challenge of biblical illiteracy in America is not because of a shortage of Bibles, but rather knowledge and appreciation of the Bible’s message.”
To view the full article, click here.
- “The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.”
To view the full article, click here.
- “Biblical illiteracy is the single most significant threat to the viability of the Church in America. … Our postmodern culture is gravely ignorant of God’s thoughts and the Bible’s wisdom.”
To view the full article, click here
Because biblical illiteracy is a serious problem, we believe we must create an effective strategy to address it. However, to create an effective strategy to address biblical illiteracy, we must first understand what is causing it
The Causes of Biblical Illiteracy
Although there are certainly many causes to the problem of Biblical illiteracy, we believe a strategy must effectively address the following causes to be successful:
The Nature of the Bible
The Bible is hard to understand because it is written using many literary genres with which we are not always familiar. It also covers a very long span of history that requires an understanding of a vast amount of historical and cultural background. Many see the Bible as old and outdated, so studying the Bible is not a priority. Others don’t feel that the Bible has made a significant difference in their lives so they have no real incentive to study it.
How the Bible is Taught
In many churches, the sermons as well as other forms of teaching are topical. There is nothing wrong with a topical sermon or a topical Sunday School class, but a topical sermon or Bible study jumps from one passage to another throughout the Bible. This scattered approach gives churchgoers a very fragmented and therefore, incomplete understanding of the Bible.
Even if a sermon series works through a book of the Bible, the audience is passive and is not engaged in studying the text for themselves. This is like a college student who audits a course. The student attends most of the lectures, but is not required to do any of the work. Consequently, the student is familiar with the subject but doesn’t acquire a working knowledge of it.
Finally, when God’s word is taught in church, there is little or no help with application. If you are teaching your 16-year-old how to drive a car, you would not give them a lengthy lecture about driving and then expect them to be ready to take the behind-the-wheel driver’s test.
How the Bible Is Studied
Small groups, Sunday School classes, and Bible studies face several challenges that make it difficult for them to be effective at helping their members grow in their understanding and application of God’s word.
Many study groups do not have a qualified Bible teacher. Consequently, they access Bible teaching through a DVD or the internet, but this teaching is usually topical or limited to a small portion of a book of the Bible. The end result is a fragmented understanding of the Bible and often the students are not actively engaged in studying the text for themselves.
Sunday School curriculum is becoming harder to find, and many classes use the same curriculum as small groups leading to the same challenges listed in the previous paragraph.
When people gather to study the Bible, they often dedicate insufficient time to application because they are trying to do too many different things. This is unfortunate because a Bible study is of little value if people do not apply what they have learned in the study to their lives.
Finally, people often frown upon doing homework. They don’t like homework because they don’t believe a Bible study will make a significant difference in their lives. If they saw their lives being changed because of a study, their commitment to the study would grow instead of wane.
Our Strategy for Addressing Biblical Illiteracy
We believe we have a strategy that will begin to address some of the problems that are causing biblical illiteracy. The strategy of the Word‑n‑Will ministry has four components.
Create Bible Studies on Books of the Bible
As we previously noted, a typical sermon or Bible study jumps from one passage to another throughout the Bible, and this scattered approach gives churchgoers a very fragmented and incomplete understanding of the Bible. However, a book study makes it possible to look at the different parts of a book and determine how they go together to form the book’s overall message.
Another benefit of a book study is that it provides the context needed for sound interpretation. If you take a passage of scripture out of context, you can only guess at its correct interpretation. With a passage’s context, which includes the entire book, it is possible to interpret it correctly.
Finally, a book study can highlight important themes. Most books of the Bible contain important themes that are interwoven throughout the book. A book study can look at all the parts of a theme scattered throughout the book to gain a full understanding of each theme.
Our initial goal is to create studies for the Gospel of John, Genesis, Romans, Isaiah, and Revelation in that order. Currently, we are creating studies for the Gospel of John.
Create First-Rate e-Learning Bible Studies
Our Bible studies have three parts: homework, teaching, and discussion. The homework is designed for each member to work through on their own. The primary focus of the homework is observation. The student is asked a series of questions that help them make careful observations about the text that are critical to understanding its message correctly. As they work through these questions, they become active students of God’s word, instead of just passive listeners to teaching about God’s word.
The teaching part of our Bible studies focuses on interpretation with the goal of helping each person acquire a sound understanding of the text’s message. This part of the lesson can be worked through individually or with your group or class. However, if you work through this part of the lesson as a group, we recommend that each person first works through it on their own so they can go at their own pace and dig as deep into the material as they like.
The discussion part of our Bible studies, which is designed to be worked through in a group, focuses on application. In this part of the study, the members of the group work together to figure out how to integrate into their lives what they have learned from God’s word. Because a group is an ideal environment for bridging the gap between learning about God’s word and learning to live God’s word, we believe application should be the primary emphasis of the group’s time together.
The Bible studies we create are interactive and require user participation. Because the studies are interactive, the students are not passive participants, but are actively engaged in the study. The studies are designed to engage multiple senses of the student: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. They can see the text, highlighted-text, maps, and photos. They can hear narration and music. They can move objects on a screen as a means of answering a question. Because the studies are engaging, they make the learning process enjoyable and memorable. Consequently, when students use them, they will develop a growing commitment and passion for knowing God’s word and doing God’s will.
Finally, because of the high quality of these Bible studies, anyone can reap significant benefits by working through them on their own, but we believe these studies will bring even greater blessings if worked through with a group of others who are committed to knowing God’s word and doing God’s will.
Use a Team to Develop the Bible Studies
We believe a team of people with a variety of abilities and skill sets can create far more effective Bible studies than can be created by just one or two people working alone. When you watch a movie and the credits continue to scroll and scroll at the end of the movie, do you ever ask yourself: why does it take so many people to make a movie? Could it be that creating a movie or a Bible study that can capture the attention of the audience requires the abilities and skills of a lot of different people?
Our team will have members whose primary responsibility will be to study and interpret God’s word and to do this carefully and methodically. They must also be able to glean insights from numerous scholarly works that have been produced over the years. Finally, these team members must be able to take what they have learned from their study of a book of the Bible and create blueprints for each Bible study.
Other team members, who are skilled at creating effective e-Learning materials, will use the blueprints to create the actual Bible studies. These studies must be engaging and interactive and must clearly communicate the message of God’s word in a way that students can easily understand and remember it. These studies must also include group discussion materials that help the members of a group apply God’s word to their lives.
Still other team members will update previously created studies based on user feedback, insights the team has acquired while working on other studies, and advances in technology that make it possible to improve the effectiveness of the studies.
We believe to be successful we need a team of people with many different skill sets.
Using the Internet for Content Delivery and Feedback
The Internet makes it possible to create effective e-Learning Bible studies in ways that were previously impossible. We can create engaging studies that enhance the learning experience and that reduce confusion, frustration, and misinterpretation; while increasing clarity, enthusiasm, and depth of understanding. We can create studies that hold the student’s attention and make the learning experience enjoyable. We can create studies that are interactive and that make the student an active participant in the learning process.
The internet also allows us to make our e-Learning Bible studies accessible for free to anyone who speaks English and has a device that can access the internet. The studies will be accessible at any time and will allow the user to pick up where they left off if they were unable to complete the study. Because the user is in control, they can move through a study at a pace that works best for them. In time and with additional resourcing, we hope to provide these Bible studies in other languages as well.
Finally, the internet makes it easy for us to receive user feedback and then improve our Bible studies based on their feedback. At the end of each study, a user can click a link to a feedback page where they can submit their feedback. If they submit feedback, they will receive a thank you email. The three users who submit the best feedback in a given month will be emailed a $25 Amazon gift card. A description of feedback that leads to one or more enhancements to our studies will be posted on our website so others can see the type of feedback that makes a difference. All of the feedback will be organized in a database and will play an important role when the studies are periodically updated. Because the studies are posted to the internet, they can be easily updated whenever needed.