The PAOC’s Initiative 2020 calls for us to believe that in the year 2020, one per cent of the Canadian population (350,000 people) will belong to one of 1,500 PAOC churches across the country. This initiative depends entirely on an integrated vision of spiritual, theological and missional vitality.
Theological vitality, a growing knowledge of God and His Word in the life of each Christ follower, is essential if we are to see Initiative 2020’s goal realized. We are not sharing a gospel rooted in our own musings and experiences. It is God’s truth, as revealed in Jesus, that will set people free to experience His purposes in their lives. This is why the findings in the recently released Canadian Bible Engagement Study (CBES) carry disturbing news. We will be sharing this study’s conclusions in various contexts in the days ahead, but some of the key observations include the following facts:
- Fifty-five per cent of Canadians have not read the Bible.
- Only four per cent of Canadians who self-describe as Christians read the Bible daily.
- Since 1996, Bible reading has declined by more than 60 per cent.
The study contains some sobering statements such as: “… large swaths of the church lack confidence in the Bible and rarely participate in conversations about the Bible …” and “… most Canadians know very little of the content of the Bible and even when they have access to a Bible, they are [more] likely … to read in the meaning they assume lies under [the text rather than engaging the text itself]. This suggests that the Bible is not directly shaping much of the church in Canada.”
With this lack of Scripture engagement by Canadians, both inside and outside of the church, it’s not surprising that more and more people have a self-determined view of truth. As my friend, Bob Kilpatrick, put it in his song Mirror in the Sky: “We put a mirror in the sky / We look up and see ourselves magnified / Our god looks just like you and I / We put a mirror in the sky.”
"The pragmatic reality is that a life detached from the word leads to a loss of confidence in the truth of God's word."
Spiritual fusion is the reality of our Canadian culture. This is a “made in Canada” blend of post-secular, postmodern, multifaith, globally influenced spirituality that produces tailor-made “truth.” When a large number of Canadians have a belief system that affirms diametrically opposed religious views and fuses together Jesus, the multiple gods of Hinduism, Western individualism and materialism, and the non-deistic understandings of Buddhism, we know we have a challenge on our hands.
It is a huge obstacle to truth-based mission when many of the persons who should be transformed by God’s Word and communicating its truth in word and deed are neglecting regular interaction with the Scriptures and are themselves practitioners of spiritual fusion. The pragmatic reality is that a life detached from the Word leads to a loss of confidence in the truth of God’s Word. The result is a highly questionable interpretation of truth which then leads to an erratic application of that “truth” to lifestyle.
But I have hope. I believe that many of us are being driven back to engaging the Scriptures by a truth-based thirst for God. A mishmash of spiritual fusion and self-developed truth creates bondage and discontentment and leaves a very real hunger for something more. That “more” is the freedom and satisfaction of God’s eternal truth.
No quick fix, three-minute browse of the Bible will do for us in 2014. We need full engagement, study, meditation, and community interaction in order to see God’s Word living and active within us. Then we will experience theological vitality and be able to speak the truth in love the way God calls us to in His mission. As the Psalmist wisely observed:
“Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but who delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on his law day and night. They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers”
God of eternal truth, thank You for not hiding that truth from us. May we pursue with passion Your invitation to abide in You, and for Your Word to abide in us, so that our lives will be built on solid ground and our life of mission will lead people to freedom and life. For Your glory. Amen. Full report and executive summary are available at http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca.  Some of these thoughts were in the preface of His Witnesses, a book published by the PAOC in 2013.
This article appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Visit www.testimonymag.ca.