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8 Ways to Help Your Church Fall in Love with the Bible

At some point, congregations around the US and much of Europe got bored with their first love, the Bible, and started looking for media and provocative preaching methods to take her place.

When we used the Bible, we abused her—through proof texting and de-contextualizing—because she just wasn’t fun enough to stand on her own. We never said it outright or signed any divorce papers; we just refocused, quietly dismissing her in the name of relevance or being friendly to those who didn’t know her.

We’d like to believe our congregation stopped reading the Bible on their own, and that it isn’t our fault. But often we start cheating on the Bible long before our listeners do, even out of good intentions. It’s always the right time to reignite your love for the Scriptures and teach your congregation to fall back in love with the Holy Text. Think of the following as an Eight-Step Recovery Program.

1. Start with You

If your congregation isn’t in love with the Bible, then your church is in an emergency situation. Maybe your congregation is not in dire straits right now, but if you don’t hear discussions about the Bible around every corner in your church, and your Sunday school classes aren’t overflowing, then your congregation could need a reintroduction to their old gal.

Putting the Bible in their hands or preaching passage by passage may not be the solution. Nothing can replace authentic passion, and it begins with you, the pastor. Our love for the Bible should flow right into our congregation. When it does, you won’t be able to get out the back door of the sanctuary without an onslaught of questions about Jesus, Moses, Elijah and the twelve Minor Prophets.

Sometimes a pastor’s fiery passion that blazed hot in Seminary grows cold over the years. It happens to the best of them. If this is happening to you, pray every chance you get that God would help you fall in love with the Bible again. Consider joining a Bible study with people you respect for their biblical knowledge and enthusiasm for studying God’s Word. Try going to a Bible-centered conference, not a leadership or prayer conference, but one focused on the Bible and theology. The speakers’ zeal will likely excite yours. You might also change up the way you study the Bible: Pick up some handbooks on exegesis or hermeneutics (e.g., Gordon Fee’s How to Read the Bible Book by Book or Grant Osborne’s The Hermeneutical Spiral), or get some Bible software with a large digital library of resources on everything from the Areopagus to Zerubbabel. Handbooks and Bible software will not only help you study the Bible, but change the way you do it. Every relationship needs variety, and your relationship with the Bible is no exception. Once that fire is rekindled, you will be ready and able to help your congregation.

2. Remember the Past, Prepare for the Future

Remember the story of Hilkiah the priest finding the “Book of the Law” in the temple during the reign of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:14-33)? The people during Josiah’s reign, and several generations prior to it, forgot about God’s Word. Here they were, hypocrites who followed after other gods, worshiping the Lord and making sacrifices in His house, while His very convicting words were in the next room collecting dust. The people didn’t wake up one morning and think, “I am divorcing God’s Word,”—they just went their way, and before they knew it, they had completely forgotten about the divine words spoken to Moses.

Many congregations, similar to the people of Josiah’s time, are seeking daily forms of entertainment over God’s Word.

But our situation is even worse than Josiah’s time, because God’s Word is available to us in more formats than ever before: print, digital, audio and online. But still we choose white noise and trendy programs and preaching methods over the Bible.

Don’t let history repeat itself. Josiah didn’t say, “Next quarter, we will begin a new program and sermon series that involves stopping idol worship and pagan practices.” He tore his robes (34:19), asked for help (34:21), called together his leaders (34:29), had the Word read to them (34:30), made a commitment to God (34:31), and made changes immediately (34:32-33).

3. Forget to Prepare a PowerPoint

Disconnecting from the Bible is easy when you don’t have to open one. In our effort to be hip, we can distract people from the Bible with multimedia. When used poorly, PowerPoints can make the sermon feel like a show rather than a learning opportunity. I am not suggesting we stop using multimedia—I believe it is a powerful tool for keeping people’s attention and illustrating points. But I do suggest you skip it for a week or two and crack open the Bible at your pulpit instead. The Bible will only be understood as a page turner if we turn its pages.

Imagine that instead of you reading the chosen passage for a week, you asked the congregation to read it aloud or to themselves. It may not work the first week, but people will certainly remember to bring their Bibles the next week. This is multi-sensory preaching—you are not just engaging their eyes and ears; you are engaging their sense of touch. When people physically explore the Bible using multiple senses, they continue to think about it when they leave, and they will probably pick it up again during the week.

4. Make Jesus the Priest

The last place you want to be is between others and God. Lead people to study the Bible for themselves because Jesus should be their only intercessor and priest (Hebrews 8). It’s your job to get them to the temple and into the Word, then you can let them find answers on their own.

5. Ask Questions

Providing a solution in a sermon is easy—waiting for someone to work through the problem is difficult.   Consider using pulpit time for a Q & A session one Sunday. Open a passage and work through it with the congregation. Don’t just offer the answer; teach them to find answers on their own. Ask difficult questions like, “Why does Jesus have authority to say this?” and “But what makes Him the Son of God? Was He born that way, or is there more to it than that?” Or try, “Why does Jesus open the scroll of Isaiah, and then begin to quote Isaiah and a psalm (Luke 4:17-19)?” Ask them the same questions they would hear from a co-worker or a friend. If they get asked questions by you in public, they will feel more comfortable answering questions in private. (If you are really bold, let the congregation ask you questions as well.)

The more you help your congregation practice finding answers and asking their own questions, the more comfortable they will become reading and talking about their Bible. Then you are not acting like their priest; you’re pointing them back to the great high priest, Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16).

6. Open Their Imaginations

Dissertation-like sermons are boring not because they don’t contain good content, but because they involve no imagination. Try contextualizing the passage for your congregation in a creative way. Explain a passage like this: “You’ve walked all day following this rabbi around named Jesus. Some people think he is crazy, others say he is the Messiah who the prophets spoke about long ago. You just want to see what he will do next. You are hungry, but there is no food around too eat. Then you hear someone yell out, ‘Jesus multiplied a boy’s fish and loaves, there is plenty of food for everyone.’ Shocked you ask yourself, ‘Who is this guy?’ ” Telling the biblical story is one way to engage the imagination, but there are other ways: Try leaving fish nets on the table or chairs for the service when you talk about Jesus recruiting Peter. Or, ask people to take off their shoes before they enter the church on the week you discuss Moses and the burning bush. Be unconventional—people will eat it up.

7. Discuss the Strange and Difficult Passages

Couples who succeed in marriage work to keep their relationship fresh and new. They don’t just continue dating, or even replay their first date time and time again—they go on creative dates. Sometimes they even do strange and difficult things together. Strange and difficult passages immerse people in the oddities of Scripture, compelling them to think and work through complex issues.

In Bible Study Magazine, we have a section called “Weird, but Important.” Each issue, our Academic Editor examines weird passages, like when Paul tells the Corinthian church to deliver a rebellious church member to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5-13), or when Naaman asks the prophet Elijah to take some dirt from Israel back to his home in Assyria (1 Kings 5:15-19). When we confront our congregation with these passages and openly call them “weird but important,” listeners are free to enjoy the odd but wonderful passages for what they are. They also aren’t so timid about asking questions that might sound strange. Plus, it gives preachers the opportunity to teach that, even in the oddities of Scripture, God speaks eternal truth. Through preaching strange and difficult passages, we help our congregations grow more comfortable exploring this odd but fascinating book.

8. Preach a Funny Passage

Relationships don’t last long when one person in the relationship will not lighten up and get real. Like in life and work, we sometimes take Bible study too seriously, and we forget to laugh at the hilarious parts of the Bible. Let the Bible be real and fun. Try preaching some of the passages from our “Biblical Humor” section in Bible Study Magazine: “A Drunken Fool and His Good Lookin’ Wife” (1 Samuel 25) or “A Fat King and A Left-Handed Man” (Judges 3:15-30). When we help our congregation find humor in the Bible, they discover that the Bible isn’t boring after all. They may even find it as entertaining as a James Bond film—full of action with humor tossed in throughout.

May you and your congregation use these eight steps to fall in love with the Bible again. Ultimately, when you do so, you’ll see a real difference in the lives of your members, which will make a difference for Christ in your community and in our world.   

by John D. Barry
Editor-in-Chief of Bible Study Magazine
John D. Barry is the Editor-in-Chief of Bible Study Magazine, published by Logos Bible Software.
Originally published on SermonCentral.com. Used by permission.
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Brian is the General Editor of churchleaders.com. He works with creative and innovative people to discover the best resources, trends and practices to equip the church to leader better every day. He lives in Ohio with his wife, Jenna, and four boys..