By Rachel Sinclair
When I think back on driving lessons with my dad, one of the toughest skills for me to master was the blind spot. If I checked my rearview and side mirrors, surely I had all my bases covered! However, after one close call when merging on the highway, I realized just how important the blind spot was.
In 21st century church life, Bible studies abound. Whether they cover books of the Bible, different topics, theology, or people throughout Scripture, curriculum focused on a certain aspect of God’s Word is easily accessible.
Bible studies written by others are extremely important and helpful when used correctly, but they can often become a crutch or false sense of comfort when it comes to handling the Bible on our own.
We must step back and ask the question: Do most believers actually understand how to read and study the Bible on their own? This is the biblical literacy blind spot.
Broadly speaking, the term “biblical literacy” describes a person’s ability to read and comprehend Scripture with a basic understanding of the text.
While Bible studies, devotionals and podcasts are helpful in understanding truths from God’s Word, it’s imperative that believers learn how to read and study the Bible directly, without relying on the interpretation of others.
LifeWay Research released a study revealing that only 32% of Protestant churchgoers read their Bible daily, and another study showed that four out of five Americans have never read the Bible through completely.
A number of factors contribute to these statistics, including a lack of desire, education or accessibility, but biblical illiteracy is certainly among them. Consequently, local church leaders must evaluate how they’re equipping believers to be biblically literate followers of Christ.
The following resources are excellent starting points for individuals and groups seeking to build a foundation on how to read and truly understand the Bible:
1. Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word
George H. Gutherie (directed toward individuals and churches)
Dr. George H. Gutherie is a New Testament scholar and the Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.
His book’s focus is twofold: to lead readers in developing skills to understand biblical context and proper interpretation, and to inspire everyday commitment to reading the living, life-giving Word of God.
Chapters explore the different types of literature in the Bible and how various books and passages should be read through each respective lens.
In the trade book, Gutherie includes conversations with other biblical scholars who weigh in on tough topics and perspectives. In the group study version, the content is presented in a nine-week format with daily readings.
Author and pastor David Platt endorsed the book, stating, “In the church’s dry desert of biblical illiteracy, this book is a drink of cold, refreshing water.”
2. Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story
Angie Smith (directed toward women)
As a young adult, author Angie Smith found herself sitting on the floor of a Christian bookstore, flipping through children’s Bibles and storybooks in an effort to understand this large book that others seemed to navigate so easily.
Smith had not grown up in a Christian household, and after she understood the gospel and began following Christ, she struggled to know where to begin when it came to reading the Bible.
Years later, Smith decided to write a Bible study about the Bible for women of all backgrounds, whether they grew up in church or had never heard of Jesus.
Seamless is a six-week study that chronologically “covers the people, places and promises of the Bible, tying them together into the greater story of Scripture,” with five days of individual reading and workbook questions per week.
Smith also offers a seven-session version for teenagers, Seamless: Teen Girls Bible Study Book.
3. Unfolded: The Story of God
Eric Geiger (directed toward men)
Eric Geiger is the senior pastor at Mariners Church in Irvine, California, and a former senior vice president for LifeWay Christian Resources.
Through this study, Geiger takes men beyond the individual stories of the Bible to showcase God’s overarching story of redemption through the “one true Hero of our faith,” Jesus.
Chapters are divided by sections and themes in the Bible, totalling a study with eight group sessions, seven weeks of individual readings and four days per week of personal study.
4. Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Minds
Jen Wilkin (directed toward women)
Author and speaker Jen Wilkin wrote this book after her own journey of learning how to “move the mountain” of biblical ignorance, which she says happens “one spoonful at a time.”
Her passion for equipping women with biblical literacy is evident through her urgent, yet ever-encouraging tone.
Not one to shy away from truth, Wilkin begins by reminding readers that the Bible is a book about God, not us. The majority of her chapters teach readers how and why they should study the Bible with purpose, perspective, patience, process and prayer.
Readers will walk away with a renewed commitment to studying God’s Word and practical tools on how to do so.
In Acts 17:11, Luke commends the Berean church “since they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
Let us follow their example and lead believers in learning how to study Scripture, using biblical discernment and rejoicing over the teaching of God’s Word.