I have grown up in love with Scripture and have learned the two aspects of “quiet time”: Prayer and Bible reading. I have moved deeper into studying and had the ups and downs on “prayer life.”
And it’s not enough. It lacks.
There is a need for deeper engagement that takes us beyond simple “Bible knowledge” so we know the Bible story and how that story impacts the world around us. It is moving beyond “me and Jesus.”
The way daily quiet time is typically practiced today is unlikely to yield the fluency required to understand and apply biblical teaching. Only when devotional time is situated within a matrix of Scripture study habits can it regain its power to transform our thinking and our communities.
“As a whole,” Ed Stetzer wrote in 2017, “Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.” Like many American Christians, my students didn’t seem to understand details required to grasp the whole sweep of Scripture.
We need to engage the Scripture more broadly and in community. We need more than echo chambers. We need a hunger to grasp the Scriptures and do so together.
If mere literacy were the goal, people would just need to know most of what the Bible contains. But basic knowledge of “Bible facts” is insufficient. Scripture itself demands that God’s people meditate on and practice its instructions as a community to become wise (Deut 4:10, 30:9–10). God told Israel that his instruction through Moses was so all of Israel—men, women, foreigners, natives, young, and old—would become “a wise and understanding people” (Deut. 4:6). Jesus claims that practicing his instruction will do the same (Matt 7:24) but merely knowing the texts will not (Luke 18:18–30).
While personal character formation is essential, in isolation it aligns better with modernist tendencies than with the biblical focus on character formation through habits, rituals, and guidance from the community. This inward focus can also cast the formation of justice in communities and systems—a primary concern of the biblical authors—as adhering to individualistic ethical principles.
One of the treasures available to worshipers in the Anglican Church (as well as other liturgical churches) is the Lectionary. Every week we can engage major sections of Scripture. They are read aloud in the service. They are then engaged in the sermon.
This past week, the Gospel text was John 9, the healing of man born blind. I was the Gospel reader and after reading the Lectionary text in the first service, we talked about the text among the clergy between services. Our rector was giving the sermon and after some lively discussion on the whole chapter, he looked at me and said, “Read the WHOLE CHAPTER in the second service.”
What a JOY! We were able to enter FULLY into the story and hear the responses of the blind man, his parents, the crowd, and the religious leaders. The interaction in the text was rich.
What a difference from reading a few verses and then launching into a 45 minute sermon!
A men’s Bible study I belong to goes through different books of the Bible, taking on a book like 1 Corinthians and discussing it chapter by chapter. We wrestle with implications in our own lives and in the life of the church and in the world around us.
This is not an either/or argument. It IS a plea to use the Bible more fully. Too often I hear the Bible used to justify life situations, economics, politics, etc. It is not discussed often enough as the STORY and how that impacts the world in which we live.
I need to be quiet. I need to meditate. AND I need to wrestle with the world around me with others as we learn together.