In a Breakpoint Commentary titled, “Americans Fail Theology 101”* best-selling author Eric Metaxas wrote, “Could you pass a basic theology quiz? Several thousand Americans just tried. Uh-oh! Too bad God doesn’t grade on the curve.”
Then he commented on a LifeWay Research survey that revealed embarrassing ignorance and bizarre contradictions in a majority of evangelicals who took the survey. Not only did they not know some of the essential beliefs of the Christian faith, but they believed things that were inherently contradictory, such as believing that Jesus is the only way to salvation, but that in the end everyone will be saved even if they don’t believe in Jesus.
He ended the commentary by saying, “folks, if we hope to preserve… the evangelical faith in the generations to come, we have to take theological instruction seriously again.”
In the Christian life, knowledge isn’t everything, but everything rests on knowledge. You can’t believe something until you know it, and you won’t live it until you believe it.
As a result, there is some information so vital to the Christian life that if you do not know it, you cannot become a complete Christian.
Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) To the degree that we do not know the truth, we are vulnerable to ignorance and deception.
So, knowledge is the essential starting point for making serious progress in the Christian life.
And, while mastering the basics of the Bible has never been easy, it doesn’t have to be as hard as it often is. We often overwhelm learners with an avalanche of unrelated details, rather than giving them the big picture first, and letting them fill in the details later.
A 1982 study from Carnegie-Mellon University demonstrated that the mind retains more from a tight summary of a subject than it does a full presentation. And since most learning is self-generated, we must teach the basics and teach them well, enabling a Christian to go on to learn the additional things they need to know on their own initiative.
There are two keys to addressing this need. First, the information to be learned must be boiled down to an irreducible minimum so that the basics can be understood and mastered with a minimum of wasted effort.
Second, the information must be presented with the right methodology so that it sticks in the mind rather than sliding off into the ditch.
Repetition is the key to mental ownership. Therefore, the basics must be repeated, using multiple methods and different learning channels, laying the most basic information first, and building more advanced information on that once it has been learned. When that approach is followed, it is amazing how much information the brain can remember.
That is why, over 30 years ago, I wrote 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, it fills a critical need as we move more deeply into the 21st century, into admittedly uncharted territory for the Church. In 15 minutes a day for 30 days, a learner can master the basics of the Bible and create a foundation for lifetime of further learning.
And that is why – after selling over 500,000 copies – it is selling better today that it was a decade ago. There is a growing percentage of Christians in this day of fading biblical awareness who are hungry for a strong foundation of truth, and willing to pay the price to get it.
And, in this season of pandemic shutdown, even more people are expressing hunger to know the Bible better.
This creates an opportunity for pastors that may not have been there even in the not-too-distant past. If you offer your people an opportunity to learn the basics of the Bible quickly and easily, it can touch a nerve and meet a need in a significant way.
One “limitation” of 30 Days to Understanding the Bible has been that it is “auto-tutorial.” That is, it is designed to be self-instructional. As a result, teachers have sometimes struggled to know how to teach it to groups.
That need has now been met. Thomas Nelson has created a six-part video series just for groups that makes it easy to teach and easy to learn. You can see a sample by clicking here.
With the click of a mouse, the structure, geography and story of the Bible begin to come alive, with videos, graphs, and charts that reveal the people, places and events of the Bible in a compelling way. I don’t know of an easier, more effective way to master the story of the Bible than through this video series.
But not only that, the same is done with the major teachings of the Bible. What does the Bible teach about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit? What does the Bible teach about spiritual growth, spiritual warfare, future things? It’s all laid out in an easy to grasp format that makes learning seem easy.
So, pastor to pastor, I encourage you to consider giving your people an opportunity to go through this video series. It will be an advantage to you, as you help them master the basics of the Bible and become more informed members of your fellowship. And, it is an advantage to them as they lay a foundation for lifetime of further learning.
Take a look at the video and ask yourself if you know of a better and easier way to help your people understand the basics of the story and teachings of the Bible.
Dr. Max Anders is the author of over 25 books, including the bestselling 30 Days to Understanding the Bible. He has taught on the college and seminary level, is a veteran pastor, and is creator and general editor of the 32-volume Holman Bible Commentary Series. At www.maxanders.com, he provides information, resources and strategies to guide and accelerate spiritual growth to help Christians achieve their God-given potential.