The story was told of a reporter who was taking a brief survey on a city street. He asked a passerby to comment on the biggest problems in our country, ignorance and apathy. The individual supposedly replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care”. That response reflects the attitude in the average church toward the Bible. I am amazed at the gross ignorance of the scriptures amongst those in our circles. The same is also true of the average church leadership and, unfortunately, of some pastors.
And now, if I have your attention, let me explain. Most people I know have knowledge about the Bible, but few actually have knowledge of the Bible. To know about Adam in the garden, Joseph’s coat of many colors, Daniel in the lions’ den, or David and Goliath is to know about the Bible. That is not the same as knowing what God is communicating to us. The Bible is a book about God. The scripture is there for us to understand who He is, what He has said about Himself, and what that means to us.
It doesn’t take an extended conversation to see that the average person in the church has surface information about the Book, nor does it take very long before they demonstrate a lack of understanding of what God has actually stated. They tend to repeat what other people have said or written, but they have never tested it with the text. A greater tragedy is that, when you ask them to explain their beliefs, they simply don’t care. Their ignorance is displayed when they say, “I think” or “I believe” or “my view is”. What is even worse is to hear them say, “That is what my pastor, or my church believes”. Apathy is evident when they say, “It’s not all that important”.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THIS
Over the past year, I have been grieved again and again by people from my past who don’t know or even care what God has said. As students or members of the church, they have all had the same basic teaching. Some have done very well in embracing “what the Bible says”, so at least there is some success. Others have no shame in rewriting the Bible anytime it doesn’t agree with them. Some of these folks who sat under biblical teaching have joined churches that are actually cultic. Most of them do not even have a clue about the doctrinal position of the church and have never asked. Many have moved to the “emerging church” because of its entertainment emphasis as opposed to true worship. They have no idea where the church is or where it is headed theologically, and they don’t seem to care. Even when God has written Ichabod over them and closed the doors, they just move on to another church tragedy filled with ignorance and apathy.
I have been tempted to use some of the names of those churches and the individuals who have turned their back on God’s word, but then ignorant people would call that “judging”. One thing that seems evident is that this curse is caused by the fact that so many people in those churches have never been born again, and so they have no ability to understand the text that is spiritually discerned.
Do you have any idea why so many so-called churches today have changed their names? There was a time when you could see a church name and at least know where to begin with your questions. With the “dishwater” types of names so many churches have now adopted, you have to begin at the beginning; there is no other obvious place to start with your questions. Church websites have deliberately watered down their statements of faith in order to prevent your realizing that they are a cult. They know that most folks don’t know what questions to ask, nor do they know why certain doctrines are a key for understanding.
ACCEPTING THE CHALLENGE
This problem often begins with churches when they try to select a new pastor. To start with, it is Christ who calls pastors, not local churches. The church’s main task is to find out who it is that Christ has selected as His under-shepherd for that congregation. Countless hours are wasted in ignorance and apathy as those who are responsible discuss surface issues and miss the main focus. If Christ designates a man as local shepherd, you can be sure that person will be equipped and qualified. You can be sure that Christ would approve a man of the Book – not a man who knows just about the Bible, but one who actually knows what God is saying. We often end up with someone who is telling only what they think God is saying. God help us! When it comes to finding out what a man really believes, who in the average local church would be able to do that? Get off your high horse! Yes, it is true that all of us know some basic Bible facts, but who is going to protect the church from doctrinal error? Who in the church’s leadership has understanding that would root out false teaching in a candidate?
This is why so many churches have fallen prey to the “emerging church” movement and to entertainment in lieu of true worship. Pastors who know what God has said in His Book and who are called of Christ have backbone and will stand up to such nonsense. A man who is called by Christ will be a man who understands God’s holiness as being central to what we know about Him. He would be reviled by the worship of man and intolerant of having the filth of the world dragged into a congregation.
OUR RESPONSE TO THIS PROBLEM
How do we deal with ignorance? There is no end to opportunities in this arena. Ask yourself, “How many minutes each week does the average church member spend in solid, serious study of God’s Word, including church meetings?” There you have the heart of ignorance. The first step is to make sure that any and all teaching and preaching are carefully crafted and filled to overflowing with who God is and what He says. Then ask in what ways we can increase valuable study of the Word by each member. It should begin by setting aside books written by humans and then moving to studies of the Book. How do we deal with apathy? Challenge people to search their own hearts. God will speak to them if they have not become His son by faith. A spirit of revival is needed in the church that is self-absorbed, and that includes the preaching of God’s word regarding sin. Because they love their sin, the “emerging church” hates preaching on wickedness. They breed immorality because to them God’s word is only a toy.
Only God can break through to the mind that has embraced ignorance. Only He can break the heart of someone who doesn’t care. I grieve for those who are comfortable in their trap, but there surely must be some of them who are still open to preaching about a holy God.