Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
The Bible … just waiting for you in 2017
Dear Father Paul: My wife and I have a lot of church-going, Christian friends who are really great people. We get together a lot and I have begun to notice that our conversation rarely centers on the Bible, the things of God or even what God is doing in our lives. Instead, we mostly talk about sports, movies, new restaurants, our last vacation and the like. In a recent “religious moment” most admitted to rarely reading the Bible. We are all in our 30s and 40s, most with children. I was kind of shocked. If this is where the Christian faith is headed, it is in big trouble. What do you say? — No name, please.
Dear No Name: I’m afraid you “nailed” exactly where all too many Christians are in 2017 in their relationship with God, at least in Europe and America.
A recent survey found that the average church member in America today attends church on average only one Sunday a month, prays an average of two and a half minutes a day (including ‘grace’ at meals), reads or studies the Bible an average of five minutes a week, and contributes just under $5 a week to the work of their church. Please note: I am talking about “church members” here, not casual attendees … members!
Now many, many people, especially here in the South, will tell you “I’m a Christian. I love my church, my grandfather was a pastor.” Most of these same people would agree that reading the Bible is good for them and is a requirement for living a sound Christian life. But they’d often add, “I just somehow never seem to get around to it.”
Others will say, “you just don’t understand how busy I am.” This may well be true. People are very busy these days. And yet we all seem to somehow find the time to eat and sleep. We seem to also find the time to watch over four hours of TV a day, plus our “required time” on social media. That’s all in addition to our six hour weekly round of mandatory golf, going after the bass that are waiting to jump into our boat, gardening, shopping, reading the newspaper and on, and on and on.
Just once in my nearly 50 years of ministry, I would’ve loved to have heard someone be completely honest and say, “The truth is, Father Paul, I love being on the golf course more than I love being alone with God reading his personal words to me in the Bible.” Wow! Now that’s at least an honest man.
Over the decades I’ve heard nearly every excuse there is for not spending time alone with God in his Word, the Bible, and in prayer just talking with him.
Here are some of the best excuses: “I can’t understand the Bible … all of those thee’s and thou’s and the like.”
Or this … “The Bible makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like reading about what’s going to happen when I die.”
Or this … “I don’t let anybody, even God, tell me what to do. I make up my own mind about things.”
Or this …”I don’t need to read the Bible, I watch Brother So and So on T.V.”
And the all time best (no, make that the all time worst. “The Bible just is not relevant to my life.”
My precious Father, whom I’d very often find asleep in his easy chair at 3 a.m. with his reading glasses askew and his Bible on his lap, had a lot of really good quips of sheer wisdom. One of his best was, “People are gonna mostly do what ever it is that they want to do, and not do what ever it is that they don’t want to do.”
How true. To God, our excuses are just that … excuses.
People like my dad, who loved God with all of his heart, somehow “found time” to spend with God. Others, just never seem to get around to it.
Dear Reader … which are you? It’s the time for New Years Resolutions. I can think of no better resolution than to start spending 30 or more minutes a day in the Bible every day in 2017. Start with Genesis and Exodus then go to the Gospel of John then Acts. By that time you’ll be hooked and you are on your own.
Do you have a question? Email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer your question in the paper.
Father Paul Massey is pastor emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. See holycrosschurch.wordpress.net