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The Bible Is Not ‘Magical’—Jen Wilkin Addresses Common Misconceptions in Our Approach to God’s Word

The reality is that all of us should be students of God’s Word and should put in the time to study it with the goal of getting to know God better. It is true the Scriptures say that some people will have a “gift” of teaching. “But we also know that the Great Commission is charging all of us to teach people to obey all that he has commanded,” Wilkin said. “So there is some teaching function just to being a disciple.”

Jen Wilkin on What Church Leaders Can Do

Recognizing these common misunderstandings is a first step, but there is more that church leaders can do to help congregants change their approach to the Bible. One step is setting high expectations for people to put in the work to engage with God’s Word. 

For example, pastors can put out the Scripture passage for that week’s sermon ahead of time. Said Jen Wilkin, “With preaching, there’s only so much you can do to make Sunday morning a more active learning environment. But a big thing you can do is publish the passage you’re going to be in the week before so that people can spend the week reading it repetitively.”

Another step is to ask more of the church’s youth instead of trying to make Bible reading easy for them. “What’s amazing,” said Wilkin, “is that middle schoolers and high schoolers are learning literacy tools in their English classes at school, but no one has told them that they can use those same kinds of tools to read the Bible. The Bible is magical to them instead of being the inspired Word of God that is in book form.”

She observed, “Our M.O. has been to lower the bar at every turn with what we’re asking of young people instead of doing what everyone else is doing, and that’s raising the bar and requiring more of them. People run toward things that cost them something.”

Wilkin acknowledges that making such changes to a church culture is not easy. “When you initially make this shift and you start asking more of people,” she said, “they will say it’s too hard and they’ll say they don’t have time for it. It is a slow, slow boil if you start to introduce this to your church. But I will say that once they have tried it, they can’t go back.”