MACON/REPUBLIC – The First Baptist Church in Macon is one of many Missouri Baptist churches striving to instill a thorough knowledge of Scripture in its members.
But learning the facts of Scripture is only the beginning, according to Pastor Phil Bray. “Increasing biblical literacy should be one of the top priorities of the local church,” he told The Pathway. “Fundamentally this is what it means to make a disciple. A disciple is someone who is learning to do all that Jesus commanded.”
As such, studying God’s Word isn’t merely a matter of gaining knowledge. It is God’s “means of sanctification,” Bray said, referring to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:17: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth.”
“When knowledge of God is weak, dry, and arid,” Bray said, “then the tree of faith becomes brittle, hollow, and prone to breaking under the strains of life. The more people know God, the more they love and trust Him.”
For this reason, FBC Macon aims to develop biblical literacy among its members in multiple ways. In the first place, they “practice expository preaching,” teaching through the text of Scripture every week, “passage by consecutive passage,” Bray said. The weekly preaching of the Bible is supplemented by small groups, Bible studies and reading groups at the church – each of which contribute to the growing biblical knowledge of its members.
But the church also encourages its members to read Scripture for themselves by providing an annual plan for reading through the Bible. This year, they’re using “The Bible Project Read Scripture” app. According to Bray, this plan “is proving to be very popular and helpful. It is the best plan I have used so far.”
But FBC Macon’s efforts to foster biblical literacy doesn’t stop here. “We give away a book every week that is specifically chosen to increase people’s knowledge of God,” Bray said. “We recommend books in a Pastor’s Top Twelve list every year and encourage people to read these as well. We have refurbished our church library in order to provide a wider selection of good books for people to read.”
Likewise, Calvary Baptist Church of Republic “is committed to encouraging biblical literacy” through “equipment, events, and exposition,” Pastor Adam Mallette told The Pathway. In the first place, Mallette urges church members to read printed editions of the Bible, rather than electronic versions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with electronic versions, he said, but with print Bibles “you don’t get push notifications when hearing from God.” Similarly, he promotes the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) from B&H publishing, which he believes provides “the best combination of exegetical accuracy and readability.”
“As the weeks go by, and I hear more pages turning from the pulpit, I’m encouraged about our people’s growth,” Mallette said.
Second, the church holds events to encourage growth in biblical knowledge. Last fall, they hosted the “Belong Bible Conference,” which was sponsored by LifeWay and the CSB Bible and featured preachers like Mac Brunson, Steven Smith, John Marshall and Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Director John Yeats. Mallette said the church plans to offer this conference every other year.
“Finally, and most importantly, I believe that book-by-book and verse-by-verse exposition is the greatest way I can teach our people to read their Bibles,” Mallette said. “Systematic exposition helps the church to see the Bible in its entirety and not simply as an encyclopedic reference book. It’s the antidote to proof-texting. Once people see the storyline of the Bible, they’ll fall in love with the author and the hero of the story.”