The discipleship gap

The North American church has a deep problem — the discipleship gap. This discipleship gap manifests itself in two ways:

  1. Most people who identify themselves as Christian and who attend church regularly, even those who are in leadership in the church (whether ordained or lay), are not moving from casual observer of Jesus to apprentice or disciple.
  2. Where they are making this leap, discipleship is often so limited in scope as to make it really less than biblical.

As part of her degree program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Anna is participating in a series of integrative seminars. In preparation for an upcoming seminar, she was asked to conduct a simple survey of ten people regarding their Bible reading patterns. The results showed that few Christians are spending any significant (more than 5-10 minutes) amount of time in Scripture during the week. 

Why is this a problem? 

I’ve written elsewhere about the importance of the Holy Scriptures to forming our imaginations. The word imagination is often associated with creative writing — the skill of finding words and images to describe the unreal or the not physically present. That certainly is one way in which we use our imagination. Imagination, more broadly understood, also has to do with creating ideas.
Deep reading of the Scripture helps us to bring into focus the ways in which we can follow Christ in our world and what that following will look like, both individually and in our life together. The Bible is a unified witness to God’s redemptive action in our world and His mission of forming a community of people who will bring honor and glory to His name in the midst of a creation that has been alienated from Him.
How can contemporary Christians carve out time to read Scripture? 
Here are some ideas:
  1. Wake up 15-20 minutes earlier in the morning and spend that time in the Scripture.
  2. Wake up at the same time but covenant to spend time in the Scripture before engaging in your normal daily diet of media (email, Facebook, tv news).
  3. Observe prayer and Scripture reading at natural waypoints during the day (at lunch, before leaving your desk to come home, at the dinner table, immediately prior to retiring to bed).
  4. As you exercise listen to the Bible on CD or mp3.
  5. Fast from social media during Lent and use those days as a period in which to create a new habit of daily Scripture intake. A new habit is said to require sixty days to acquire.
  6. Kill your television and turn off your laptop at the end of the work day – these are two time killers for me (the laptop way more than the tv since we don’t have cable).

Other ideas:

  1. Learn to practice new ways of reading Scripture such as Lectio Divina or inductive Bible study
  2. Form a small group (a covenant group) designed to meet regularly and briefly to discuss what your reading and how it’s affecting your life.
  3. Blog about it – if you’re a natural writer like me, capturing your thoughts in print helps you process the experience of reading Scripture.
  4. Use a lectionary to jump around the Scripture or commit to reading a book in its entirety (start small and work to bigger books).
  5. Read the Psalms – A Psalm a day is a good prescription for spiritual vitality.

How do you make room for Scripture reading? What practices do you employ?

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