We’ve all heard and seen the numbers that show how biblically illiterate Christians are in America. For example, the reputable Barna Group cites only 6% of identified Christians possess a biblical worldview. This is (more or less) verified by Pew Research Center and LifeWay Research.
No matter how many times I’ve studied statistics on biblical illiteracy in the American church—it always causes me to swell up with tears.
But why? Why are over 90% of Christians unfamiliar with the Bible and incapable of articulating the doctrines of the Christian faith?
As a pastor, I realize the bulk of discipleship is on the parents, not the church. In Ephesians 6:4, Paul commands fathers to raise their children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.” But the critical training ground for families, especially for dads and moms, is the church. We see again in Ephesians the duty of spiritual leaders within the church is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” and to “build up the body of Christ (4:12). The Greek word for “equip” is katartismos, which carries the idea of “adequately qualifying or preparing someone to accomplish something with sufficiency.”
Unfortunately, this form of equipping Christians in the Word of God and theology is no longer a high priority for most American churches. Rather than being a place where Christians are trained thoroughly in sound biblical doctrine, the Western church has capitulated to a water-down gospel presentation that seeks to entertain rather than raise up an army of soldiers capable of advancing the kingdom of God amid a dark and perverted world.
However, not only has a lack of teaching sound biblical doctrine contributed to the decline of biblical literacy, but it also has created an absence of godliness in the church and a decline in the overall attendance in denominations across the country.
This (and many more reasons) is why pastors and church leaders need to get back to teaching sound biblical doctrine instead of feeding their congregations a bite-size version of Christianity.
The great Bible teacher, Warren Wiersbe, had this to say, “Churches are not built up and strengthened through man-made programs, entertainment, recreation, or “drives.” The church is a body and must have spiritual food; this food is the Word of God.”
Wiersbe is right. The church’s primary service isn’t to offer programs once or twice a week for families. Instead, the church is meant to be a place where Christians can come and get grounded in the Word of God as they grow in their love for Jesus and love for one another (see Hebrews 10:24-25).
Notice how Paul described what the Word of God does for a believer: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Did you catch that? When churches and Christians spend time learning God’s Word and unpacking the rich doctrinal truths that make up the Christian faith—they will be complete and able to fulfill the will of God. As physical exercise is beneficial for your body, so too is the Word of God profitable for Christians as they are trained on how to form proper habits of behavior so that they are qualified and able to live out their faith every day.
So, if you are a Christian leader in your church, ask yourself, how effective am I in teaching sound doctrine to the people God has called me to shepherd? If you are currently not serving in your church, ask yourself, what can I start doing to be a part of the solution to train up more Christians in the Word of God?
Jason Jimenez (www.standstrongministries.org) is president of STAND STRONG Ministries, a faculty member at Summit Ministries, and best-selling author of Challenging Conversations: A Practical Guide to Discuss Controversial Topics in the Church and many other books. Connect with him on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.