Erika F. Puni, Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary:This article talks about how the reading and studying of the Bible fit in the life of Christians today.
What is the place of the Bible in Christian stewardship? Where does the Bible (or the reading and study of it) fit into the life of Adventist Christians today? Why should church leaders care about how much time church members spend in the study of God’s Word? Finally, how will the “Follow the Bible” initiative of the General Conference impact the lives of Adventists across the globe? These questions form the basis of this article that seeks to highlight the integral relationship between Scriptures and stewardship.
The Holy Scriptures and leadership responsibility
Seventh-day Adventist leaders at all levels of the church should care about the welfare of our members; after all, we are about personal growth and preparing a people for God’s eternal kingdom. Part of our duty of care includes the development of appropriate resources and the initiation of programs to build the body of Christ—the Church. With the “Follow the Bible” initiative, our leaders at the General Conference are embarking on a simple ministry idea—to revive our interest and love for the Word of God. In many ways, this is a restatement of a Christian value that we have always had. However, we have come to realize that many of our members today are not studying the Bible on a regular basis, which means that they are not being fed spiritually and are not growing in Christ. “Follow the Bible,” therefore, is a church response and ministry initiative to address this weakness in the life of our faith community
The Holy Scriptures and Christian growth
The placement of the Bible as the first out of twenty eight fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists clearly shows the importance and high regard we have for the Word of God. It is a faith statement that testifies to our commitment to the fullness of the Old and New Testaments, and acceptance of the Bible as the standard test for us in matters of Biblical truth (doctrines) and Christian experience. This strong emphasis is a reflection of our historical roots as a Protestant movement and church.
Also, beyond our history and statement of Christian beliefs, we take this emphasis on the Bible seriously in the way we do church. For example, we have had since our early beginnings as a Christian organization the Sabbath School program that promotes daily Bible study and integration of God’s Word into the lives of its members (children, youth, and adults). We also have, in addition to the established Sabbath School curriculum, the morning watch booklets and devotional books with daily Bible verses and readings. The purpose behind these devotional and Sabbath School resources is to help our people connect to Jesus and to have a personal experience with Him. We know that it is through the reading and studying of the Word that we can have an encounter with the risen Lord, and as a consequence of this experience grow in our personal lives as Christians.
The effectiveness of “Follow the Bible” will depend to a larger extent on how we as leaders of the local organizational units of the church promote and engage our people in this initiative. Let me suggest a few ideas that you may want to consider:
Re-evaluate the way you are doing Sabbath School to ensure that amble time is given Sabbath morning to the actual study of the Bible including opportunity for discussion, reflection, and integration of Bible truths.
Re-assess the availability and accessibility of Bible study resources (Sabbath School and devotionals) for your members, and if necessary subsidize or provide for persons who may not be able to purchase these resources for themselves.
Retool your leaders and members by providing regular training classes on how to study the Bible.
Promote family worships and encourage the reading of the Bible as an ongoing activity for all members of the family.
Initiate programs and activities in the church, particularly with young people and children that will create interest in the Bible, and the reading of it.
Encourage the use and reading of the Bible in your corporate church worship and service.
Challenge and involve church members in conducting Bible studies with non-Adventists in their homes and in small groups.
So, why should we study the Bible? “These are the Scriptures” according to Jesus “that testify about me” John 5:39 (NIV).
The Holy Scriptures—God’s written Word
The Seventh-day Adventist Church upholds the Bible as the “written Word of God” (Church Manual, 2005, p. 9). As Adventist Christians, we believe the Bible is the “infallible revelation” of God’s will and “necessary for salvation” (Ibid.). The Bible is the “standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history” (Ibid.). From the perspective of Adventist beliefs, the Bible is part of our church DNA; it’s a basic component of our being Adventist!
Christian stewardship on the other hand, is about living the will of God in the totality of our lives as Christ’s disciples. It is allowing God’s rule to take hold of us in the ways we relate to people and deal with situations on a daily basis. Our response to God however will be influenced and affected by our hearing of His voice as He speaks to us from the pages of Scriptures. In this sense, our reading and understanding of the Bible impacts us in the way we live life now as God’s people. Being able to read, hear, and understand the Word of God in our cultural contexts is an important Christian discipline of stewardship.