An Assessment Of Bible Knowledge Among Churches Of Christ In West Virginia

Michael P. Reese

The church has traditionally placed tremendous emphasis on her members having Bible knowledge. The Reformation brought renewed emphasis on the importance of each individual Christian having a copy of the Scriptures and being able to read, interpret, and practice biblical teachings for one’s self (Anthony and Benson, 2003). American Christendom, likewise, has traditionally placed similar importance on Bible knowledge. Yet, several reports show a dearth of Bible knowledge among Evangelicals surveyed. The problem seems to be that “Americans revere the Bible – but, by-and-large, they do not read it; and, because they do not read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates” (Mohler, 2004). In a postmodern culture outside the church where absolute truth has been replaced by multi-culturalism, one would expect an absence of Bible knowledge. However, what about the Bible knowledge of conservative Evangelicals?

Gary Burge, in “The Greatest Story Never Read,” reports that in a survey of general Bible knowledge given to incoming freshmen of Wheaton College in Illinois, one-third could not put the following in order: “Abraham, the Old Testament prophets, the death of Christ, and Pentecost. Half could not sequence Moses in Egypt, Isaac’s birth, Saul’s death, and Judah’s exile. One-third could not identify Matthew as an apostle from the list of New Testament names. When asked to locate the biblical book supplying a given story, one-third could not find Paul’s travels in Acts, …or that the Passover was in Exodus” (Burge, 1999).

Other assessments of Bible knowledge have shown similar poor results (Miller Survey 1932, Pageant Survey 1949, Bennett Survey 1959, the Bible and You Test 1963). The Gallup Surveys of 1954 and 1982 as well as the Barna Research Group’s Survey of 1990, report severe deficiencies in Bible knowledge with little increases evidenced despite the “… vast increase in the proportion of college-educated Americans between 1954 and 1982, and the fact that a majority of Americans had attended Sunday school” (Edge, p.151, 1995).

Churches of Christ in West Virginia, having roots in Reformation ideals, have attempted to go beyond reformation to a restoration of New Testament Christianity. Generally, in churches of Christ, the Bible is understood to be the pattern for all practices in faith, worship, church organization, and Christian discipleship (Colossians 3:17; 2 Timothy 1:13; 1 Corinthians 4:17). Bible knowledge has traditionally been a major emphasis in the educational program of churches of Christ. Do churches of Christ in West Virginia mirror the biblical illiteracy reported among the general Evangelical population? Due to the time and resources devoted to teaching the Bible in education programs of churches of Christ, an assessment of basic Bible knowledge is warranted. 

In January of 2010, Lord willing, 110 of the approximately 220 churches of Christ in West Virginia will be asked to participate in an assessment of Bible knowledge survey conducted by Michael P. Reese of the Mannington church of Christ. The purpose of the research is two-fold: to assess general Bible knowledge, and to identify variables that may contribute to Bible knowledge. The information gained should give valuable insight as to the level of Bible knowledge of members of churches of Christ in West Virginia. The study should also help identify variables which contribute to Bible knowledge, such as length and frequency of Bible study outside the worship setting, how long one has been a Christian, and frequency of worship and Sunday school attendance, just to name a few.

As the one conducting this research, I ask for your participation and thank you in advance for your cooperation if you are one of the congregations randomly selected. This initial research is part of the requirements for my doctoral studies. However, I plan to use the findings to assist all congregations of the Lord’s people to do a better job of teaching God’s Word. –PO Box 107, Mannington, WV 26582. 


(Works cited: Anthony, M., & Benson, W. (2003). Exploring the History and Philosophy of Christian Education: Principles for the 21st Century. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel. Burge, G. (1999). “The Greatest Story Never Read.” Christianity Today, 43(9), 45-49. Edge, F. (1995). Teaching for Results. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman. Mohler, A. (June 29, 2004). The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It's Our Problem. Retrieved July 30, 2009, from Commentary Web site: )

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