The picture is one straight out of Americana and black-and-white movie nostalgia: the family, neatly dressed, walking on a crisp and refreshing morning to church, Bibles in hand.
I remember my Psalty's Kids Bible. I remember putting tabs on my Bible when I was in middle school. I remember liking the hardcover edition of John MacArthur’s Study Bible because it looked intelligent and his name sounded intelligent. I really thought that a guy with that kind of name knows what he is talking about. I got in on The Message. I was skeptical of the rocks, tar, and feathers thrown at the TNIV. I really enjoy the TNIV The Books of the Bible. I am a pushover for leather-bound books, especially Bibles (or The Book of Common Prayer I just got!). Yet somewhere along the line I stopped bringing my Bible to church.
I chose to stop bringing my Bible to church because I think the Bible became a distraction for me, and it defeated the purpose of preaching: to listen. When we depend so heavily on reading and looking instead of listening in church, we can disengage from the voice of the Spirit and our fellow brothers and sisters. Until the printing press no church members brought their Bibles to church—they listened.
I wanted to recapture the art of listening, so I stopped bringing my Bible to church. When the pastor asks everyone to turn to so-and-so chapter and verse, I just sit contentedly and wait for the passage to be read aloud. If I had a Bible I would just read the passage and veg out; that’s our mentality when we read a passage (which is really bad!). Instead, when we come to a passage and read we should be able to let the words inform our souls, not just rush to the application.
Listening is a way to try to prevent that. When we listen we don’t have to rush to the application. We have to focus on the words. There is no time to go back and re-read the passage if you don’t listen the first time (and there have been times in church when I didn't listen to the passage and then had no idea what was going on), so it becomes important to focus on the Word with our ears and then let it inform our souls through focus and attention.
And so I don’t bring my Bible to church. I try to listen. And in listening I hope to have a focused mind on the sermon and the reading of the Word.
Editor's Note: This article has several implications for preachers today: Is it possible that having a Bible on your lap could prevent listening to the preached word? Have you ever asked your listeners to put down their Bibles and simply listen to the word of God as it is spoken? Have you ever taken note of how many people do not bring a Bible to church? Does your preaching take that into account?