Case study: using the Bible with Bible Uncertain people
The Bible is full of great stories and profound wisdom, and Christians who fall into the 'Bible Loving' persona don't need convincing of that.
Familiarity with it, though, can lead to us underestimating just how hard it can be for people who don't share our attitude towards it to find a way in. It's not just that it's a thick, complicated book with a lot about it that's strange and confusing. It's that they might find it really hard to believe it has anything to say to them.
One group identified by Bible Society's research is the 'Bible Uncertain' persona. Bible Uncertain people don't go to church and don't really regard themselves as practising Christians. They think the Bible has some value because it's shaped our culture and provides society with a strong moral basis, but it's not personally relevant. Can it answer the deep questions of life? They really don't know. They aren't interested in the religious 'stuff' like doctrines, buildings or rituals.
They feel the world is getting worse and that they can't fix its problems. They aren't satisfied with their lives and they want things to get better. They're searching for meaning, but aren't convinced they'll find it in the Bible.
The chances are it would take more than one engagement with Scripture for someone like this to change their mind about the Bible. But one passage that might help communicate with Bible Uncertain people is Psalm 139. Here are some things you might want to say.
- This psalm is deeply personal. It has nothing to do with buildings or rituals: it's just about God knowing us intimately (verses 1–6)
- We can often feel very isolated today, in spite of the pseudo-intimacy of social media. The psalm says we're never alone (verses 7–12)
- Psalm 139 portrays us as having been planned – there's a reason for our existence. Life isn't random; we were meant to be here (verses 13–16)
- Thinking about God is hard (Verse 17, 'O God, how difficult I find your thoughts!) but it's worth it
- There's an outburst of anger in the psalm (verses 19–22) against 'wicked' people who are violent towards the psalmist personally and opposed to God. Anger against evil and a desire to change the world is also part of being known and loved by God
Psalm 139 speaks to Bible Uncertain people in their personal dissatisfaction with life and search for meaning. Bringing out the psalmist's anger against evil connects with their perception that the world is getting worse, and provides an opportunity to talk about Christians' deep commitment to doing good.
We communicate the Bible in all sorts of contexts, of which preaching a formal sermon is only one. In most situations we're unlikely to be speaking to just one persona group. But in any larger group, it's quite likely that some of them will be Bible Uncertain. Sensitivity to their beliefs and assumptions can help us to communicate more effectively.