Developing Bible literacy

Developing Bible literacy

Nick McMillan

At a recent deacon meeting, Rev. James Estes quoted the findings of a study, published in the book MOVE by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, showing “the number one most impacting, significant factor in generating transformation of life in people is daily exposure to Scripture.” Despite the transformative impact scripture reading can have on our lives, the state of biblical literacy among the American public and even those professing Christianity is discouraging. George Barna, author of The State of the Bible, reports the following:

• Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospel accounts

• Sixty percent of Americans cannot name five of the Ten Commandments

• Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse

For those unsure of their level of biblical literacy, you can test yours by using this online quiz at

Biblical literacy, however, is not simply a matter of winning at bible trivia or accumulating “truthlets,” or verses taken as stand-alone quotes. Phil Rounds, leader of the Before the Rooster Crows Bible study, describes biblical literacy as understanding the Bible as a narrative, its progression and context. 

First Church’s Executive Director of Adult Discipleship, Duff Points, affirms biblical literacy means understanding promises made and fulfilled by God. Duff emphasizes the importance of seeking to hear Him speak to us via the scriptures and thereby growing as His faithful disciples.

Phil adds that to appreciate scripture, it is important to read it as a Jew would, asking, “how does the Word guide us as a community?” as opposed a Greek asking only, “what kind of insight does the Word provide for me individually?” 

Phil asserts that approaching the study of the Bible in this way will give you a sensibility by which you can know scripture, its meaning, and its appropriate application. He elaborates, “They train bank tellers to recognize counterfeit currency  many ways. The most useful, however, comes with handling genuine bills enough to develop a ‘feel’ for them.” As familiarity with genuine bills is the best way to recognize when you have a counterfeit in your hands, we develop an understanding for Scripture by observing, interpreting, and applying the Word regularly.

To promote developing biblical literacy, this is the first article in a series dedicated to the topic. The series will include interviews with members of First Church’s staff and congregation, and articles will cover: 

  • How congregants have fit the practice of biblical literacy into their lives and how it has transformed them; 
  • Presenting tools, methods, and approaches of biblical literacy and how to use them; 
  • How appropriate practices of biblical literacy vary for children, youth, and adults; and
  • How to move from biblical literacy to biblical fluency, or as Duff puts it, “making the Bible part of the fabric of your life.”

Nick McMillan is a class of 2025 deacon, Exodus high school Sunday School adult leader and co-chair of communion. He enjoys leading small group Bible studies with youth and is a frequent participant in the Before the Rooster Crows Bible study. He joined First Church in June 2021 and is grateful for this opportunity to learn more about the preparation process and current candidates.

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