To bean or not to bean
Research shows that the more Christians read the Bible, the more active they are in their faith. Executive Director for Churches in Mission Krish Kandiah explores what this means for the Church...
I'm feeling restless. I have been in back-to-back meetings, had far too many cups of coffee, and my personal space is being invaded by several strangers simultaneously on the Underground. The caffeine is doing strange things to my body and my brain, and I am itching to do something active.
So the moment the train pulls into the Tube station, I sprint up the escalator and all but hurdle the turnstile at the top. I am full of stimulant and looking for a way to put it to use. My bike is waiting for me at the station, so I jump on for a five-mile race against the clock to make sure that I can get home to be with my family.
Mission accomplished. And the first thing I do after greeting my wife and kids? Tired and thirsty and in need of an energy boost, I put on the kettle for more coffee.
As the caffeine kicks in once more, my brain goes into overdrive. Does the caffeine cause the need to expend energy, or does expending energy necessitate the caffeine? This reminds me of another chicken and egg correlation conundrum that I am working out at the moment: does reading the Bible cause us to be more active in our faith, or does being active in our faith inspire us to read the Bible?
The puzzle derives from the Alliance faith survey, which reported:
The more time an evangelical Christian spends reading the Bible each week, the more active they are in other areas of their faith. They are more likely to volunteer, to give money, to pray frequently and talk about their faith.
We seem to be confronted with two reasons for this: either feeding on God's Word gives us spiritual nourishment that is converted into energy for God's mission, or involving ourselves in God's mission by serving fellow Christians in the Church, or serving our communities, makes us hungry for the spiritual nourishment that the Word of God is to us.
The Bible seems to argue both sides of the conundrum. On one hand the word of God is likened to milk, bread, meat and honey - a nourishing and appetising diet that is a staple for spiritual life (1 Peter 2) and stimulating for a maturing palate (Hebrews 5.14), equipping us to action (2 Timothy 3.16-17).
On the other hand we are told that too much knowledge puffs us up and turns us into what some have dubbed "constipated sponges". Thank God the Bible is also likened to hammers, trumpets, torches and swords - vital tools to keep us going in active service. As we struggle to live out our faith, we are forced back to God's Word (Psalm 119.9).
Talking of puzzles, my friend Gerard Kelly posed another one to me today: why is it that if you drop a cat it always lands on its feet and if you drop a piece of toast it always lands butter-side down? And what happens when Miaow's Law meets Murphy's Law and you drop a cat with a piece of toast on its back?
In my head I am picturing perpetual motion and a dizzy cat. But maybe this helps us understand our Bible-reading conundrum. If you are a mission-minded Christian, you will want to feed on the Bible, and if you read the Bible you will become a mission-minded Christian. It doesn't matter where you start; the result is a perpetual cycle of appetite and action, feeding yourself and feeding others.
The Church in the UK is currently blessed with unprecedented availability of Bibles and Bible resources, but we desperately need something to initiate this cycle of Bible appetite and mission-minded activism. In partnership with more than 100 agencies, the Alliance has been hard at work on the Biblefresh initiative to fill just that need.
And expectations for success are high, as new churches from around the UK join Biblefresh every day, pledging not only to read the Bible afresh but also make translation, training and experiencing the Bible a priority for 2011.
Our prayer is that through a recovery of passion for God's Word, God's people will be more passionate about God's mission, triggering a virtuous cycle of increased appetite for Scripture. And so to my final quandary of the day: cappuccino or instant before bedtime? To bean or not to bean - that is the question.
Make sure your church is on the Biblefresh map at: biblefresh.com