The man caught me after a screening of our documentary film, When God Left the Building. He wanted to talk about the “real reason” the American church is struggling.
“Don’t you think the main problem is biblical illiteracy?” he asked. “Nobody knows what’s in the Bible anymore.”
His concern is a common one. It’s caused some churches to respond with a very intentional Bible-centric ministry. Some churches have used “Bible” in their names and in their taglines. “A Bible-believing church.” “We’re a Bible-based church.” “Where you’ll hear the Bible preached.”
While I would agree that, in our culture, Bible knowledge seems to be thin and getting thinner, I don’t believe this is the root of the problem. It’s something far more basic.
It’s not so much that people aren’t centering their lives around the Bible. It’s that too many aren’t centering their lives around Jesus.
Yes, I know the Bible contains the literary account of Jesus. But I’m afraid, because of how some have promoted their ministries, that the culture has been given the impression that the church’s mission is the promotion of biblical scholarship. It seems the Bible has been elevated above its author.
This loss of proper perspective plagued the landscape 2,000 years ago as well. Jesus did not make his physical appearance on Earth because people were delinquent in their study of the scriptures. In fact, many were quite learned in the written Word, but failed to center their lives around the one true God. The “Word became flesh” so that the people would come to know, love and follow the living God, and be redeemed through the sacrificial love of the Savior.
Please don’t get me wrong. I cherish the Bible. I read and ingest the Bible daily. I encourage others to read the Bible. And the organization I lead, Group, publishes Bibles. In fact, we just released our latest specialty Bible. But we realize the end game is not for readers to center their lives around this book. Our aim is for people to center their lives around Jesus. That’s why this new Bible is called the Jesus-Centered Bible.
The Jesus-Centered Bible is uniquely designed to draw the reader into a thriving, real relationship with Jesus Christ. From cover to cover the text and additional features point to Jesus–even in the Old Testament. Passages throughout the Old Testament that connect to Jesus appear in blue letters, with special explanations.
This edition’s general editor, Rick Lawrence, quotes 19th-Century British pastor C.H. Spurgeon, who cautioned a young pastor who had just preached a sermon on an Old Testament text. “That was a poor sermon,” he said. “There was no Christ in it. Don’t you know that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London? And so from every text in Scripture there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ.”
Lawrence added, “The story of God, contained in these pages, revolves around a Person, not a set of principles. The closer we get to Jesus, the more we discover our true identity and purpose in life.”
That center has a lot of gravitational pull.