Saturday, April 25, 2009

Biblical Illiteracy: Pastor's Excuse #1

Biblical Illiteracy: Pastor's Excuse #1 -
"The people who attend my church are not ready for in depth Bible teaching. They would not understand the details since they do not have a biblical background."
Fallacy of Pastor's Excuse #1 -
The above response (or, excuse) for biblical illiteracy in a church gives the impression that there are many new people attending the Sunday morning church services who have not yet been orientated to the Scriptures. This answer is camouflage since statistics show that church attendance is down nationally (21% of people ages 21-45 attend church in 2009, down from 33% in the early 1970's, WallStreet Journal 3/13/09) and the number of self-professing Christians has declined from 86% to 76% since 1990 (Newsweek, "The End of Christian America", April 13, 2009).

This means that the vast majority of people in church have been there for years. So, why are the people still biblically illiterate? The pastors failed to teach the Bible for many years. Maybe the pastors don't believe the Bible? Maybe the pastors don't know the Bible? Maybe the pastors are afraid the people will leave? We do know that is true - the people are leaving but it is not because the pastors are teaching too much Bible.

Even if a church is receiving large numbers of new people each week the statistics still show they are people who are simply moving from another church. This week they will be in this church, but soon they will be moving on to an other church. It is almost as if they are looking for something.

So, the reason people are biblically illiterate is NOT because:
1. The church is being flooded with new converts.
2. The church has not had time to teach the basics.

The pastors have had years to cover the basics of Bible and theology from the pulpit but have almost universally and across denominations decided not to. The people have been sitting there in the pews for years available for Bible teaching, but they have received so little that it is easy to label Christians of today as biblically illiterate.

In a wide variety of Christian circles I have heard pastors ridicule the public school's performance on standardized tests or mock the test performance of United State's students when compared to other nations. It is time to turn the focus on the utter failure of the educational ability of the modern church itself. I do not want to hear the sickening excuses, explanations and justifications of pastors when they have to face the fact that standardized testing of basic Bible literacy in their congregations would show they are this generation's educational failures.

Our Christian generation inherited a large percentage lead over any other religion in the world. In our nation Christians (76%, down from 86% in 1990) still have a large lead over atheists (4%), Judiasm (1.2%) and Muslims (0.6%). Imagine going into a baseball game as a pitcher with a lead of 76-4 and losing the game!? Today's pastors are walking the bases full and then throwing the high, hanging curve ball out over the plate time after time. (That means they are giving up four-run homers Sunday after Sunday. Which is not good if you want to win.) This pitcher needs to start throwing good, low strikes or be replaced.

Pastor, how much time do you need before your people are ready to handle the Word of Truth? Is 5 years long enough? 10 years? 20 years? You have had some people sitting in your churches their entire life who are still "not ready to handle Bible teaching." In the ancient world, when the sheep starved, the shepherds were called "worthless" and fired. When sheep starve in modern USA the farmer is fined and could get jail time for neglegence and animal abuse.
Galyn Wiemers

Thursday, April 9, 2009

First, We Need More People to Leave the Church

15% of Americans now claim no religious affiliation. (Newsweek: The Decline and Fall of Christian America - April 13, 2009 )This is an increase from 8% in 1990. You can wring your hands and ask, "What are we going to do," or you can face the facts that churches ignored in Barna's 2001 research that indicated the lack of biblical literacy. The lack of Christian knowledge proclaimed from the pulpit and taught in churches was destined to result in a decline in religious affiliation.

Understand and remember this:
Biblical illiteracy is the disease that results in the symptoms our churches and our society are now trying to deal with.
You can fix a civil symptom (gay marriage) with legislation and you can fix a church symptom (low church attendance) with a program (free doughnuts), but the disease of biblical illiteracy will still be eating away at the soul of your churches and society.

In 2001 researcher George Barna told us that America was immersed in a crisis of biblical illiteracy. At that time half of incoming freshman in college who called themselves Protestants could not list Moses, Isaac, King Saul and the Babylonian exile in chronological order. It was at this same time the most familiar Bible verse was:
God helps those who help themselves.
The above "Bible verse" is not a Bible verse. Here are some examples from Barna's 2001 research that flashed the big yellow warning lights telling us people would soon consider our religion irrelevant:
  • Mainline denominational churches: 35% believe Jesus was sinless and 34% believe the Bible is totally accurate.
  • Conservative churches: 55% believe Jesus was sinless and 66% believe the Bible is totally accurate.
  • Non-denominational churches: 63% believe Jesus was sinless and 70% believe the Bible is totally accurate.
Here is an interesting thought. If pastors would start teaching the Word of God those numbers would go up. Guaranteed!
  1. First, if the people heard the truth they could then believe the truth which would increase the percentage of people in the church who believe that Jesus was sinless and the Bible is accurate.
  2. Or, second, if the people heard the truth they could reject the truth and leave the church which would also increase the percentage of people in the church who believe that Jesus was sinless and the Bible is accurate.
In other words, we do not have enough people leaving the church yet! Let's get started!!

Galyn Wiemers

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I keep getting feedback from believers who have handed the "Framework" book to their local church pastor. First, the book is not written for pastors. It is written for believers who want to build a framework of understanding concerning the Christian faith. It is targeted at believers who are not being taught the word of God in church. It is not intended for the pastors who are already not teaching the word of God.

The consistent comment used by local (Des Moines, Iowa) church leaders to dismiss the "Framework" book, and the entire Generation Word Bible Teaching Ministry, is that I do not make application in my teaching. The complaint is I simply teach the Bible. The people get nothing but the word of God. They have no discussion time, no opportunity to express how it makes them feel and are not given three points or five steps on how to live for God. Nothing but verse by verse teaching.

This is true. I agree with this description. This is what I do and I do it on purpose. I teach the Bible. I do not labor to come up with sermon illustrations or dream up ways to be relevant. I teach the Bible exegetically, verse by verse and try my best to provide expository teaching. It is not that I am forgetting to make application. I don't even care about the application. Pastors must think I missed that class in seminary. . . but wait, that is an understatement, . . . I skipped all my classes because I didn't even go to seminary. I missed that entire phase of preparation.

This ministry is called Generation Word Bible Teaching Ministry because we provide Bible teaching. Why do you think James Dobson called his ministry Focus on the Family? Do you think it was because he was focused on the family? The clue is in the name of the ministry.

Here are a few thoughts concerning Bible teaching and application:
  1. How can there not be application already in the text of scripture? Read First Corinthians, or the last chapters of Ephesians, Romans. It is all application! So, when a local pastor asks, "Does Galyn make any application when he teaches?" What do you think the answer is? Can you teach verse by verse through Galatians without making application? I can't. It is in the text!
  2. I am not teaching morons. The people I am teaching are believers who have the Spirit of God, who carry a Bible to class and pay attention when I talk. They even write their own notes with out having to use the little fill in the blank statements on the back of their bulletin. They come to class and they listen online because they want to learn. They are intelligent enough to make their own application of the Word of God.
  3. "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6) It is not unusual to provide God's people with information. Ephesians 4:13 clearly links knowledge and maturity. (Read the verses that follow "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" in Hosea 4:6-9. Application in this verse is clear and simple when the words spoken to Israel's priest are applied to many modern pastors. Believer, apply that on Sunday morning!)
  4. Some verses do not have, nor should they have, application for the modern reader. They are simply to provide information or knowledge. For example Genesis 15 is the recording of God establishing the Abrahamic Covenant. What does this chapter mean? It means God chose Abraham and Israel. To teach this chapter for application purposes means you are missing the point of the chapter. All Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training, but not all Scripture has to be watered down to find modern meaning and application. The plan of God is bigger than a Sunday morning application. The very word "exegesis" means to let the meaning come out. When you force an application into the verse you are practicing eisogesis. Eisogesis is a problem.
There are many more things to say concerning this subject but I think I have made my point.

Galyn Wiemers

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Persevere and Teach Truth

In light of current civic events and the state of the church in America I have tried to capture my thoughts in these following points. All of them could use some explanation and commentary but for now here is a list:
  1. Elijah and 7,000 – there are many people and groups today ready to side with the truth if we do not give up and run away. You need to persevere.
  2. Teach Truth, not answers – truth will lead to correct thinking and decision making. Opinions will be abandoned because people do not have a foundation to understand why they are important. You need to teach toward understanding.
  3. Do Not Respond to Winds – preach the word in season and out. Issues change like seasons. When the issue changes the word/truth will prepare people for the next issue.
  4. Do Not Seek Government Assistance – The church can stand alone. If you lean on the government it can control you. The early church grew even as an illegal religion. You don’t need help.
  5. Schools are not Divine Institutions – Fix the family. Good families make good public schools and good private schools. Corrupt families ruin both public and Christian schools.
  6. Rapid Change and Polarization Will Help – The shock value of rapid change and the clear contrast of extremes is on the side of truth. The frog in the boiling water will jump out. You are the frog and the water has been getting gradually hotter for years. Do you feel it now?
  7. Heathenism Can’t Survive – Heathenism can not survive without governmental support (evolution, atheism at public schools, state universities). When faced with survival the Truth of the church will always win (see point 4). This is the point of Gates of Hades in Mt. 16.
  8. Teach Truth in Hardship – The early church continued to proclaim the truth in the face of death and eventually converted the Roman Empire. We are still free and Christianity is not yet illegal. You do not yet know what hardship is in the United States.

Galyn Wiemers