Sermons stretch as biblical literacy wanes


Sermons stretch as biblical literacy wanes

Religious literacy has declined to the point where modern audiences would be baffled at films like Monty Python’s 1979 The Life of Brian, A British Broadcasting Corp. official said recently.

Comedians are also affected, Aaquil Ahmed told The Independent newspaper in England, because audiences don’t have the basic biblical knowledge required to get certain jokes. “They can’t go into specific stories anymore because no one knows what the stories are.”

“One of the results of biblical illiteracy is that sermons are, for the first time in centuries, getting longer,” said Brett Younger, associate professor of preaching at the McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.

“Precisely because people have not grown up with the stories, many preachers see their job as explaining the text rather than helping worshippers experience the hope of the story,” he told ABPnews in an e-mail.

I’ve seen this, though more in the form of sermons focusing on more foundational things - teachings and Biblical history. And our church expends considerable effort in the area of teaching “basics”. But I don’t see this as a problem. The church in the First Century did likewise, because they were reaching out to people with zero knowledge of the Scriptures (at that time, what was recognized to be Scripture was what we now call the Old Testament), as well as Jews who did know the Scriptures. The point of the church was never filling chairs or pews, it was making disciples. So, whether then or now, having to teach the basics is a good thing. It means a church is doing the first step of disciple-making, reaching out to people who are not yet believers.