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Why Don’t You Bring Your Bible on Sundays?

December 27, 2009

I’ve noticed very few Bibles in our Sunday gatherings. I hear very little rustling of pages while I am preaching. This has got me thinking. I’m curious. If you don’t bring your Bible on Sunday, why not?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Trevor of Doom permalink
    December 27, 2009 4:46 pm

    At a church i used to attend, the pastor “made a game” of bringing your bible. He was expository preacher, so every sermon after he said, “I want you to open yoir bibles”, everyone screamed in joy and anticipation. What started out as an exercise in participation soon enough became a ritual of real excitement. Lesson was that posture and behavior can affect mindset. After yelling in anticipation of opening one’s bible, most became aware that they honestly were excited to get into the Word.
    But yours is a different style of preaching, and ACL is a different church. However, lessons can still be learned, and i’d be glad to hook you up with the aforementioned pastor if you so choose.

    • Phil permalink
      December 28, 2009 7:44 am

      T.O.D., could you further explain your comment about ACL/Jonathan that “yours is a different style of preaching, and ACL is a different church?”

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but based on your entire comment post I assume you are implying his preaching style is not expository, and/or ACL being “too cool” of a place in which to tote one’s Bible? I am not sure I would wholly agree with either statement but I am trying to clarify your meaning.

      • Trevor Of Doom permalink
        December 28, 2009 6:48 pm

        simply put, Jonathan isn’t my friend Kyle. i appreciate Jonathan’s preaching, and don’t think that we’re “too cool” to carry a bible. i wanted to relate a story about a pastor doing something to make the congregation WANT to bring and read their bibles. perhaps i didn’t communicate this well in my original post. for that, i apologize.
        to clarify:
        i feel that as The Church, we give too many reason and chances and excuses for folks to not bring their bible. the Powerpoint, (and in other churches, purely topical sermons) is a big factor in this. but if you find a way to entice people to bring their bible, they certainly will.
        it’s of note that the church i mentioned previously does in fact use Powerpoint, and has bibles to loan in case you forgot yours. in my mind, it’s simply that most pastors don’t take the time to ask the congregation to interact with the Word.

  2. December 27, 2009 10:17 pm

    Funny story.

    Visiting a church where the pastor asked us to open our Bibles unless we had the following passage memorized: Romans 8:1-4. I promptly closed my Bible and lent it to someone else because I, indeed, had that passage memorized.

    Of course that has happened ONCE.

    I do carry a Bible. I am a bibliophile so I rather keep my ESV at the beck and call. More recently, I have been keeping my iPod Touch with ESVSB on OliveTree because I can keep notes on specific verses very very easily.

    When I visit: iPod Touch with ESVSB on OliveTree
    Home church: Bible with Journal and Pens.

  3. December 28, 2009 11:43 am

    Of course, for most of the church’s history we haven’t had the privilege of even owning our own Bibles let alone bringing them to church.

    Also, we are quickly moving from a word-based culture to something more image-based. It might do us well to consider that bringing the Bible with us for reviewing a sermon might not be the best way to learn to listen effectively to what is being said.

    The important thing is hearing the Word, not reading it or examining the text to see if the preacher is on the right track or to further confirm what he’s said.

    Can we really focus on the sermon of a preacher and his proclamation of the Word when much of our time is often spent with our noses in the Bible itself while we turn pages here and there? Isn’t something like 90% of communication non-verbal? If so, isn’t it important then to keep our eyes focused on the one proclaiming the Word and listening while he does?

    Also, the Word is a proclamation. It is not, strictly speaking, your own personal guidebook to all things heavenly. Do we read the Word with the idea that for almost 1500 years it spoke orally in and among the congregations and that it was to be heard as such? Do we really do that today with any level of continuity with our Christian past?

    I figure it might be best to start thinking outside the box on this one.

  4. ChrisC permalink
    December 28, 2009 12:10 pm

    I am unsure as to the importance of a “bringing your Bible with you” mentality in the modern age of powerpoint and modern services.

    All of the relevant/highlighted scriptures are available via a projection screen and therefore don’t see the need? I liken it to the no longer needing your Hymn book for worship songs?

    Am I missing something?

    • Sean permalink
      December 28, 2009 3:31 pm

      It’s a different dynamic; you can’t highlight, underline, or notate a projection. Being able to read around the preached text for context and fuller meaning while you’re listening to a sermon is a good way to interact while you’re listening.

      Verse projections are convenient for sermons (I like how MHC does it), but they can’t fully phase out bringing your own copy of the Bible.

  5. December 28, 2009 12:11 pm

    Funny, I ask myself that same question with our church. I do not know if it is because they do not want to because we have pew Bibles or convience.

  6. December 28, 2009 1:28 pm

    ESV on the Iphone 3G…

  7. Sam H permalink
    December 28, 2009 4:51 pm

    I am with Kevin Johnson on this one. Consider Peter Leithart’s thoughts:

    “Public reading and hearing of Scripture is well-grounded in Scripture. When Yahweh cut covenant with Israel at Sinai, part of the ceremony was a public reading of the Law (Exodus 24:7). Torah was not a secret code, reserved for a priestly class. It was public, known to all, and all were accountable to it (including the king, Deuteronomy 17). At the Feast of Booths in every Sabbatical year, the priests were to reenact the original Sinai proclamation, reading the law to the whole assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:9-13). When Josiah led the people in renewing the covenant with Yahweh, he read Torah in the hearing of all the people (2 Kings 23:2).

    In biblical times, of course, many believers were illiterate, and their only exposure to the Scriptures would have been through public readings. That is not the case today, and many modern Christians think of private reading as the preeminent way they are exposed to Scripture. I do not at all disparage private reading, but the Scripture emphasizes the importance and benefits of public reading. Christianity is a religion of Word and hearing; “hear” is virtually equivalent to “obey” throughout the Scripture. And listening to someone is phenomenologically different from reading a book. When we listen, we are in a position of passivity, and cede authority to the reader. We can tune out someone reading, but often (public) reading confronts us with things that we had not noticed in our own private reading. We need to receive the word through every gateway that we have – the eye, the ear, the mouth, the nostrils, touch. Liturgy receives the Word made audible, edible, tangible.

    This has some implications for how we hear the word in public reading. I believe it is best to close your Bible and listen to the reader. You can check things later if you like. But when the Word is being read, you should NOT have your nose in the book.”

  8. Nate V permalink
    December 28, 2009 6:11 pm

    I’ve lost my luster for the Bible. Not what is inside, but the Bible in general. I don’t know how to approach it anymore. I know there will be the written Word on the screen, so having the Bible at church to me does not affect my learning of the spoken Word. Is that the correct posture? I don’t really know. I know it is possible to learn from the sermon without my Bible, therefore putting a hole in those who believe it is essential to have your Bible in church. Think of the way you learned in a traditional classroom. Show up (maybe with a textbook, or the class had a set) depended on a teacher to provide content (although you had it the whole time in your book), used your book for homework and sometimes to look at example problems. That format alone explains our low education status in the world. I know I struggle with how to approach the text on my own, and why it is essential on a Sunday morning. Now it is an app on my iPhone right next to ESPN Scorecenter (which I open much more).

  9. Andrew permalink
    December 28, 2009 6:22 pm

    I find that trying to follow along with a sermon in my bible is distracting, you half read the bible and half hear the sermon.

    Also, Johnathan doesn’t usually go through a text line by line with an exacting level of detail that would require holding the passage in front of you, anytime he does go word by word through a text he’s had it on the powerpoint. If there’s a reference made in the message I feel the need to cross-check there’s an easily accessible copy of the sermon notes.

  10. December 28, 2009 9:41 pm

    Kevin, I think your concerns were addressed in the follow up post.

    Sam, thanks for your perspective.

    You’re aware, of course, that Leithart isn’t pitting reading against listening on Sundays. Rather, he’s voicing an under-represented perspective of listening. As I noted, another post could easily be written on listening to sermons, and I think Leithart brings out some good points. However, I’m certain he wouldn’t insist on leaving Bibles at home. To his point, we do public Scripture readings, in addition to sermons, for some of the reasons listed. Again, this isn’t a right or wrong issue, but it is worthy of reflection and that reflection appears to be surfacing other, important discipleship issues. For that I am grateful. It’s such a privilege to bring our practices and our failures to God’s Word for correction and transformation. To that end, I loved Leithart’s statement:

    “We need to receive the word through every gateway that we have – the eye, the ear, the mouth, the nostrils, touch.”

    Andrew, you make a good point. It can be distracting, depending on the familiarity of the text or subject.

    Nate, thanks for your honest confession. I’m sure many of us have more popular apps than the Bible. Perhaps the problem is that we see the Bible as an app, not as the whole phone?

    You also raise a good comparison to the classroom; however, our text is a living text, which might slightly alter the scenario. In the end, it’s about a consistent meeting with the triune God over his self-revealing Word. As Andrew pointed out, we can go back to the Word after the sermon, as we should, to let the Spirit massage his message into our lives. Hopefully, we are leading well in this area in our City Group sermon discussions. I look forward to talking to you more on this.

    Thank you all for sharing. I hope the follow-up post is helpful. A parting quote from Thomas Watson:

    “All too often we walk away from the Word of God cold-hearted because we fail to warm our souls at the fires of meditation.”

  11. Sam H permalink
    December 29, 2009 12:15 pm

    Jonathan, I think that fully devoted listening during the sermon (as well as during reading of scripture) is hindered by individuals going off on rabbit trails in their Bibles. Knowing that their church is highly liturgical (for a PCA church) I would think Dr. Leithart would expect his people to fully analyze the sermon, and his use of scripture, later rather than during the sermon. Preferably\pastorally, IF I were to have people open a Bible during reading or preaching, I would like everyone to use the same translation, either through a pew Bible or by projection screen. I realize that this position rubs American Protestant individualistic-just-me-and-my-Bible minds the wrong way, but I think it would more conducive to “community” in public corporate worship.

  12. December 29, 2009 1:33 pm


    Good thing there is liberty here!

    The communal aspect is important, we push the sermon through our missional communities so that we are not only hearing but living out the Word within the wisdom and grace of the church.


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