Post by J David Schmidt
It takes all of about ten minutes in a leadership role to realize Colin Powell (GLS presenter last August) was accurate when he stated, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”
Well, the “soldiers” across the country are bringing church leaders a common problem, and what side of the problem they focus on really matters. First a quick story.
Back in the late 50’s, a dad, reading his King James Bible to a growing family of young children, would watch their attention frequently drift off. Working for a Christian publisher, he had scores of Bibles in his home. So he didn’t have a supply problem. This dad faced a demand problem. The on-ramps to the stories of a big God and His ways, found in the Bible, were just too steep. Supplying more Scripture the same way wasn’t going to fix the problem. He had to get on the solution side of the problem—and that was to address the weak demand. The dad said “Our family devotions were tough going…they would shrug their shoulders—they didn’t know what the passage was talking about.” He faced a leadership decision: get defensive and dig in, or shift his energies to the solution side of the challenge. So on his daily train commute to and from Chicago, this dad created a thought for thought translation that would eventually prove to make the Bible more compelling to young and old ears alike. Today, over 41 million copies later, Ken Taylor’s thought for thought translation* continues to make God’s Word accessible to people around the world.
Here at the start of 2014, your challenge is no different than Ken Taylor’s. The research says this past week, in your church family:
- About 19% read their Bible four or more times
- Another 40% opened their Bible once or twice, and
- 41% didn’t open or access a Bible even once in the past week; not a paper Bible, not YouVersion on their phone. Not once. Nunca. **
Unless your situation is unique, this pattern is likely yours also. Those 41% who didn’t open their Bible once in the past week (and a solid chunk of those who only opened it once or twice), lack a strong bond with the primary path God uses to give us the truths that ground us and transforms the way we think and live.
If everything in you says this can’t stand, then Ken Taylor’s leadership example is instructive and begs a question: What side of the problem are you working? Are you ready to get on the solution side? To shift some leadership energies away from insuring “supply” to also rethinking how to cultivate a hunger for Scripture and the God it presents?
Leaders working the solution side are willing to rethink the last 20 years of how their church connects people to Scripture. They’ll put in place new and culturally relevant on-ramps to the Bible. They’ll lift the core value of being a self-feeder, and the critical importance of reflecting on Scripture–and then living it out. And they won’t defend how much Scripture is on their side screens or in their messages or liturgy.
Their hands will be open—and turned upward. (Click here to see which side of the problem you are working.)
(Editor’s note: The Willow Creek Association and American Bible Society are partnering to help church leaders like you rethink and reset the way you help your attendees engage Scripture. This is a tough, complex problem with no easy answers. If you want to learn more what it means to shift to the solution side of this problem, click here.)
*The Living Bible
**Based on the results of 3 independent studies reviewed and confirmed by American Bible Society.
J. David Schmidt is a strategy consultant serving American Bible Society and other non-profit organizations and churches.