A few weeks ago (Jan. 22 issue) I wrote about receiving a copy of Building a Standard Sunday School, written by Arthur Flake in 1919.
The book belonged to longtime friend Lee Porter (now deceased) and was given to me by his wife Pat Porter.
Flake was an early authority on the Sunday School and his book has been used over the years by countless churches and ministers interested in getting people of all ages involved in Bible study.
Though dealing with Sunday School, Flake offers “pearls of wisdom” on a number of topics related to Sunday School.
He devoted an entire chapter on the Bible which was a key ingredient of his “standard Sunday Schools.”
Flake observed that “a Bible unused is a lost Bible.”
As I read what Flake observed in 1919, it is almost as if Baptists have been frozen in time. Most of what he wrote then is equally true today.
Flake wrote, “Not only are Bibles lost in many of our Sunday Schools and churches but also in multitudes of homes. How often are Bibles seen in bookshelves and on center tables and never used.”
Flake noted that he once spent a week in a home which “boasted of owning more than a dozen different kinds of Bibles. He wrote that everywhere he turned he saw Bibles. There were Bibles of all kinds —- “big Bibles, little Bibles, fine Bibles, cheap Bibles, Bibles in five or six different languages.
“But during the entire week not one of those Bibles was used in any way so far as could be seen — no family worship, no study of the Sunday School lesson, or B.Y.P.U. topics. The Bibles in that home were all lost.”
Related to lost Bibles, I fear a trend is developing that is unsettling. I dabble in buying and reselling antiques. As I go to estate and yard sales and visit antique stores, I am seeing more and more Bibles that have been discarded.
That is a tragedy. The Bible will never be an antique because it never goes out of date.
Despite people discarding Bibles, however, there are still a number of Bibles to be found in the average house.
In 2013 the Religion News Service reported that the average American home has 4.4 Bibles. I suspect that number is even higher in homes belonging to Christians.
Flake was a strong believer that a Sunday School “is a Bible school.” He observed that while lesson helps and Baptist literature are good and needed, the Bible “is the textbook, and the only textbook, used in the Sunday School.”
He advocated not only bringing the Bible to Sunday School, but using it.
Again, not much has changed in nearly 100 years.
Many people don’t bring their Bibles to church today unless it is on their telephone or note pads.
And, yes, I have been guilty of using the Bible on my phone but recently have felt convicted that I need to take “the real thing” to service. I know the argument. God’s Word is still God’s Word whether it is in a bound print volume or accessed electronically. That may be true, but our younger generation needs to see people carrying (and using) Bibles.
And, this won’t please some folks, but churches are probably not helping matters by displaying the Scripture passages on large screens. Sunday morning worship may be the only time some people actually open their Bibles. Don’t make it easy for them to not even open their Bibles then.
In his book Flake cited two valuable uses of the Bible.
First, he described what “the Bible will do for the lost.” He wrote; “What the Bible did for young Timothy (see II Timothy 2:15), it will do for the lost pupils in the Sunday Schools if they are led to study it.
“It is ours to bring the lost pupils in our Sunday Schools in touch with the Bible and to inspire them to study it. God will see to it that His Word is honored in their salvation, ‘for the Word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intent of the heart.’ ”
Flake also observed what “the Bible will do for those who are saved.”
He wrote, “The Bible is the Christian’s food and will make him strong if he studies it.”
I fear too many Christians today are on the verge of starvation.
In the RNS study cited above, the article noted that 57 percent of Americans say they read the Bible four times or more a year while only 26 percent said they read it four or more times a week.
Sadly, that study noted that 57 percent of people between the ages of 18-28 “read their Bibles less than three times a year, if at all.”
A LifeWay study in 2012 noted similar findings, reporting that only 19 percent of churchgoers say they read their Bibles daily.
We need to do all we can to encourage people to read their Bible.
Too many people in society today are looking for answers to life’s problems in all the wrong places.
All the answers are in God’s Holy Word. We just have to be willing to pick up our Bibles and read them.
As Flake said, “A Bible unused is a Bible lost.”