Has there been a drop in Bible knowledge over recent times that’s discernible in today’s Christian circles? And what does Bible trivia have to do with it?
This was the topic addressed by Dr Brendan Roach on Vision radio recently.
Dr Roach is both president and principal of the Harvest Bible College based in Victoria and is recognised as an expert in the training and professional development of ministers.
When it comes to the reality of Bible knowledge and Bible trivia, Dr Roach told Vision radio listeners recently that he’s found he’s expected to know a lot of what he calls is Bible trivia.
“Even a month ago in church one of the other pastors came rushing up to me in the middle of a prayer meeting, saying, ‘Where’s this verse, where’s this Scripture?’ and apparently I’m meant to have an automatic concordance to be able to pull it out of my head,” Brendan recalled, saying they pulled out their iPhones and googled it, and found that the verse in question was a composite of two verses mashed together.
“It took ten minutes to find it. By doing this (trivia exercise) we’re dropping what the Word of God is saying in its entirety. But we’ve still got this quest or pursuit of chasing around after just interesting facts or what I call Bible trivia,” Brendan said.
He described the exercise as a quiz or a contest as opposed to getting even a simple understanding of what the Word of God says.
Dr Brendan Roach referred to his experience training people for the ministry over the past twenty years.
“What we’ve universally found is the students that came in 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, had a very good comprehension of the Old and New Testaments and the larger stories, with some detail and understanding,” Brendan informed, saying there’s been a loss of that former depth of knowledge.
“Now it’s just picking out bits and pieces that people want, that they’re interested in. They might want to follow and pursue something on a particular topic.”
“They’ll Google it to find it, rather than sitting down and searching for it in the Word of God,” Brendan implied.
20Twenty host Neil Johnson referred to the impact of movies, The Passion of the Christ and others, suggesting they don’t necessarily give the insight to provide the foundation for a meaningful Christian ‘walk’.
Dr Brendan Roach said with most movies that were inspired by books, the readers invariably say the book was better than the movie.
“If we focus on the ministry of Jesus, if you gave just two minutes to each miracle, that would be over an hour of the movie, so it’s just impossible to cover the depth,” Brendan said and mentioned the epic film the Passion of the Christ.
“It was an excellent movie overall and gave a really different and contemporary understanding.” Brendan declared, but admitted if he’d written the script it would be different and others would disagree with parts of his version of the film.
“That’s part of the journey for us going into the Word and we need to go beyond what a movie tells us. That’s to get back into the Word and read the Word of God for ourselves, meditate on it and not have to be a Bible scholar.”
Dr Brendan Roach said anybody can read the story for themselves.
“Read the miracles. Read the progressions through the Gospels and get a life change, because it’s not a movie’s interpretation of the gospel that will change your life. It’s actually reading and meditating on the Word of God itself that will change your life.”
But is there a difference between Biblical and theological studies? This was a question Neil Johnson put to Dr Roach, along with another category, that being ministry studies.
Brendan Roach said it’s very important to start with a Biblical foundation because it helps you understand everything that’s going on.
“It helps you understand what it means when you read poetic passages in the Old Testament. What’s a narrative and what are we meant to take literally and what’s it trying to say about God and then go through into the New Testament,” Brendan answered before using a missions trip to China to further explain his point.
“When I was about eighteen I spent a missions trip in China trying to explain why someone needed to get saved,” Brendan recalled, saying he started by sharing the story of Jesus and onto sin, but had to go back to Genesis and the foundation to be able to share the Gospel correctly.
“Without that the ministry and the message of Jesus doesn’t have any meaning. So the Old Testament lays the foundation for the New Testament, and it’s after this that we need to grow into the development of a theology.
That theology is just a simple ‘how do we understand God’ and then ministry is just applying that understanding into the world that we all live in, Brendan summarized.
But Dr Roach was very keen to convey to Vision’s listeners the importance of reading the Bible, the Word of God.
“There is nothing that can replace that. Just simply reading.”
“When I was first saved I was consuming vast amounts of the Bible and what any preacher said about the Bible. And that was my natural passion,” Brendan testified.
He said he finds today that he spends more time reflecting on the Word of God rather than consuming huge amounts of it.
“I’ll spend time thinking about a passage, thinking about a chapter, reading one book in its entirety and reflecting on the whole message,” Brendan described, saying there are lots of different ways but warned that it doesn’t happen by consuming second had information.
Brendan confessed that as a new believer he didn’t understand a lot of what he was reading. But he said he made up for it by hearing teachers and leaders preaching the Word.
“I was a conference junkie. I was devouring and consuming what other people were saying about the Word,” Brendan said, before mentioning how there’s been a change in the content and style of the sermons and messages being delivered to congregations in most churches.
He said it’s more the issues of life today rather than the old fashioned exegetical preaching of the Word.
Dr Brendan Roach said for new believers it’s best to start with the foundation of reading the Word of God and next to seek out someone more mature to talk to about it. “It’s really about engaging and discussing those ideas that gets you to start and think about how to apply the Word of God and make it work in your life.”
Brendan said he’s a huge advocate for small groups in church because that’s where you get connected into fellowship and relationship into the Word.
He said you can share and learn from each other. There’s no real expert in the room. It’s a great learning, nurturing environment in most churches.
Dr Brendan Roach is both President and Principal of the Harvest Bible College.
He’s an expert in the training and professional development of Ministers.
He regularly teaches and preaches both locally and internationally and appears on the Australian Christian Channel.
Brendan is an avid biblical historian/archaeologist, who enjoys visiting archaeological digs in Jerusalem.