Biblical illiteracy on the rise according to Barna “megatheme”…but a strong Sunday School can help

The Barna Research Group found six “megathemes” in 2010.  The first megatheme that Barna discovered is the problem of rising biblical illiteracy.  Consider a portion of the Barna report:

“What used to be basic, universally-known truths about Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a large and growing share of Americans–especially young adults. For instance, Barna Group studies in 2010 showed that while most people regard Easter as a religious holiday, only a minority of adults associate Easter with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Other examples include the finding that few adults believe that their faith is meant to be the focal point of their life or to be integrated into every aspect of their existence. Further, a growing majority believe the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God’s presence or power, but not a living entity. As the two younger generations (Busters and Mosaics) ascend to numerical and positional supremacy in churches across the nation, the data suggest that biblical literacy is likely to decline significantly. The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency.”

Similar reports from Barna over the past decade have supported the same conclusions about the rise of biblical and theological illiteracy.  The George Gallup organization in their book, The Next American Spirituality, came to exactly the same conclusions.  Church staff and the men and women called by God to teach His Word through the strategy of Sunday School have a tremendous responsibility to be presenting Christ-centric lessons to people of all ages.  To fail to do so is to risk losing a generation to the theological buffet that is in every one of our communities today.

LifeWay Christian Resources has a strategy and a promise called LifeSpan that provides a way for churches to teach the Bible is a systematic way to people “from birth to heaven.”  LifeSpan incorporates biblical concepts during the precshool years that are later added to and build upon in the childhood years.  Those concepts are built upon during the teenage and adult years, providing a lifetime of theological education at age-appropriate levels and life stages.

I’ve recently been visiting churches who have no Sunday School strategy at all…teachers teach whatever they wish, with no plan to provide a coordinated strategy from infants through senior adults.  These churches hope that strong theological education will take place, but it won’t.  Their hit and miss strategies are a part of the problem of biblical illiteracy in our churches today.  Teachers in these churches teach favorite books by Christian authors, or they teach whatever their favorite Bible book or passages are, without a plan to provide a balanced theological education that results in people connecting, growing, serving, or going.  Biblical illiteracy is the result of this “let the class decide what it studies” approach.  It works well for staff who don’t want to be bothered with thinking through a strategy to combat biblical illiteracy…just recruit a teacher and let them “do their thing.”  After all, shouldn’t adults determine what they want to study?  They are, after all, adults.  To this kind of approach to Christian education I simply say, “Students don’t typically get to tell the dean what classes they want to take to fulfill their degree plan.”  My son in college is following his university’s plan to prepare him to enter the workforce and to prosper.  Church staff should take a more hands-on approach and determine to use curriculum that has a strategy for the entire lifetime of a person.  Anything less is either born of ignorance or laziness.  After leading two strong Sunday School churches, I feel qualified to say that.  We always had a plan for teaching biblical doctrine in systematic ways for the lifetime of individuals.  Coupled with weekly, quarterly, and annual training, we developed effective teaching ministries.  Hard work…yes.  Easy…no!  But at least I can sleep at night knowing I did all I could to equip the men and women God called as teachers to fulfill that calling in the classroom.

To learn more about LifeWay’s LifeSpan strategy for transformational Bible study, click here.

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