The Biggest Problem in the Church Today (Part I)

What is the biggest problem in our church today? Is it greed? Infidelity? The prosperity gospel? (maybe). To be honest, I can’t know for sure which is the biggest problem in the church, but I know there’s more than one. Nevertheless, if you take a good look at all the issues that do often emerge in the American church, you can rather accurately trace them all back to one overarching issue: biblical illiteracy.


Yes, biblical illiteracy is indeed appearing to be an issue in the American church, and it’s growing.

What is biblical illiteracy? Well, it’s not to suggest that the vast majority of American’s can’t read. Americans can read. They just choose not to, especially when it comes to the Bible. So, to say that our country has become biblically illiterate is to simply say that we are currently suffering from a mass deprivation of the knowledge of God’s word.

A recent, non-partisan survey has reported that “more than one-third of adults (35%) reports never using the Bible in 2019, a 10 percentage point increase since 2011 (25%).”[1] Other, Christian surveys have reported that less than half of regular church attendees read the Bible more than once a week,[2] and a third of Americans are not even willing to read the Bible on their own.[3]

What’s even worse than the numbers are the results of biblical illiteracy that have been made apparent in other reports. For instance, 44% of Americans report that pre-marital sex isn’t a sin, 40% percent believe that abortion is acceptable, 42% believe that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality is no longer applicable, 53% percent believe the Bible is fallible, and 77% believe that salvation is through works. [4]

You might be thinking that most of these statistics don’t seem all that bad since they include all Americans. True. However, other surveys will frequently reveal that when it comes to Christians specifically, only 19% read the Bible every day, and a whopping 80% of professing Christians (every 4 out of 5) claim to only read the Bible on Sundays.[5]

The point is that biblical illiteracy exists in our country and specifically in our churches, and it’s a growing issue. We should all be asking ourselves “how have we allowed this to happen?” Because we need to know how this issue has come about if we ever wish to fix it.


How has biblical illiteracy become an issue?

When I begin to think about the issue of biblical illiteracy I can’t help but think of all the dystopian books that have been written, and how they all make strong mention of irreverence towards literature as being a large variable that contributes to the fall of society.

Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, has said that the real message behind the book was the threat that mass media can and will impose toward people’s interest in reading literature.[6] Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, saw that people “will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”[7] And George Orwell presented a theme in his novel 1984 that suggests the implications of a society that has lost truth in literature and instead relies on the media’s use of propaganda for new information.

Whereas none of these dystopian narratives accurately characterize our current state, they all heed strong warning of the consequences of a society that has taken its reverence towards literature and given it away to mass media and various forms of technology and entertainment.

And that is what I’m claiming.

I’m claiming that Americans have lost interest in the Bible (and therefore are not reading it) because they have placed their priorities elsewhere.

And it’s not only that people aren’t reading the Bible, it’s that they’re hardly reading at all.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics came out with a recent survey that revealed that the average American reads for less than 10 minutes a day. That same survey also revealed that the average American watches 2 hours of television a day. Think about it. That’s roughly an hour of reading per week compared to 14 hours of television per week. Not to mention (however I will mention), 1 in 4 Americans have not read a book in the past year.[8]

It would appear that we have misplaced our priorities.

So, where have our priorities ran off too? Well, just look at where we devote our free time:

Thinking about work, checking emails, checking the weather, checking Facebook, checking Instagram, checking Snapchat, checking whatever else, online shopping, playing video games, watching television, watching movies, watching our bank account, sleeping in, reading Scripture (hopefully).

Check out any statistic on how Americans spend their time. You’ll find that only 15 percent are spending their free time on any form of “religious activity.”[9]

The results are in.

So, can we just admit that we as Americans might just have a priority issue? And that that priority issue is leading to less reading? And that less reading naturally results in what I’m referring to as biblical illiteracy? And that biblical illiteracy leads to…well, we will get to that next week.

In the meantime, stay in Scripture and stay tuned for Part II, where I will discuss why biblical illiteracy is such an issue in the church and what we can do about it.

And here is a verse for the day, so we can all claim that we read some Scripture today.😊 

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Joshua 1:8 (ESV)

[1] Barna Group.  (April 18, 2019). “State of the Bible 2019: Trends in Engagement.” Barna. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from https://www.barna.com/research/state-of-the-bible-2019/

 [2] Stetzer, E. (July 6, 2015). “The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches.” Christianity Today International. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/july/epidemic-of-bible-illiteracy-in-our-churches.html

 [3] Smietana, B. (April 15, 2017). “LifeWay Research: Americans Are Fond of the Bible, Don’t Actually Read It.” Lifeway Research. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from https://lifewayresearch.com/2017/04/25/lifeway-research-americans-are-fond-of-the-bible-dont-actually-read-it/

 [4] Smietana, B. (September 27, 2016). “What Do Americans Believe About God? New Study Explores Our Theology.” Facts & Trends. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from https://factsandtrends.net/2016/09/27/what-do-americans-believe-about-god-new-study-explores-our-theology/

[5] Weber, J. (September 07, 2012). “80% of Churchgoers Don’t Read Bible Daily, LifeWay Survey Suggests.” Christianity Today International. Retrieved May 18, 2019, from https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2012/september/80-of-churchgoers-dont-read-bible-daily-lifeway-survey.html

 [6] Boyle, A. (May 30, 2007). “Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted.” LA Weekly. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from https://www.laweekly.com/news/ray-bradbury-fahrenheit-451-misinterpreted-2149125

[7] Postman, N. (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York City: Viking Books.

[8] Perrin, A. (March 23, 2018). “Who Doesn’t Read Books in America?” Pew Research. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/23/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/

[9] Libresco, L. (June 24, 2015). “Here’s How Americans Spend Their Working, Relaxing and Parenting Time.” FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved May 18, 2019, from https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/heres-how-americans-spend-their-working-relaxing-and-parenting-time/

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