I’d become convinced that many Christians lie about their Bible reading; they say they read the Bible but actually do not. Why? Because Bible knowledge or just familiarity with basic biblical ideas and concepts is abysmal. (I could give examples.) However, observations have made me think otherwise. I think Christians are reading their Bibles, but too many lack reading comprehension skills. If you don’t comprehend what you read, it is nearly the same as not reading.
For example, I had a post entitled: Are you trying to study the Bible without reading it? Scripture is given a quick, cursory glance and then the jump is made to thought/discussion. But how do we know if our thoughts are on target if we gave so little attention to the biblical passage? An approach that takes time to observe and comprehend the passage has become foreign in too many Bible study groups. When you expect people to slow down and contemplate the passage, they are stumped – not sure how to handle it.
A related problem was addressed by Jen Wilken in her Christianity Today column: Stop calling everything a Bible study. You can only read the preview if you aren’t a CT subscriber, but the preview gives you the idea. Somewhere along the line “Bible study” became a catch all term for a huge variety of classes that can meet at a church. Excerpt:
“As we have expanded our use of the term, we have decreased the number of actual Bible studies we offer. Churches have gradually shifted away from offering basic Bible study in favor of studies that are topical or devotional, adopting formats that more closely resemble a book club discussion than a class that teaches Scripture.”
Perhaps I lump a couple related concerns together: there is a lack of personal reading comprehension, and a lack of true Bible study/teaching in groups.
I did a web search for “reading comprehension” and liked this (although I am not otherwise endorsing the source):
“What is reading comprehension? Reading comprehension skill separates the ‘passive’ unskilled reader from the ‘active’ readers. Skilled readers don’t just read, they interact with the text. To help a beginning reader understand this concept, you might make them privy to the dialogue readers have with themselves while reading. Skilled readers, for instance:
– Predict what will happen next in a story using clues presented in text
– Create questions about the main idea, message, or plot of the text
– Monitor understanding of the sequence, context, or characters
– Clarify parts of the text which have confused them
– Connect the events in the text to prior knowledge or experience.”
We learn these things in our youth in school, but as adults we may need to get back to the basics and perhaps re-teach ourselves how to be an active reader.
I think too many Christians read the Bible passively rather than actively. The list above about being a skilled reader can be applied to Bible reading. Become an active Bible reader! More next post. (This will be a 3-part series.)