BASECAMPS FOR BIBLICAL LITERACY
Summit Church, St. Paul | Pastor Eric & Danielle Timm
The results are shocking. For just over a decade the American Bible Society (ABS) has surveyed adults in the U.S. as a part of an annual “State of the Bible” report (sotb.research.bible). Its statistics have fueled recent efforts to battle biblical illiteracy. While it has detailed modest changes over the years, this year’s report highlighted a significant Bible user decline which they described as “startling, disheartening, and disruptive.”
The ABS defines Bible users as, “those who use the Bible at least 3–4 times each year on their own, outside of a church setting.” In their latest report released in May, there was a 10% drop in Bible users from 2021. According to the study, “that means nearly 26 million Americans reduced or stopped their interaction with Scripture in the past year.” The ABS looked for flaws or miscalculations that might have skewed the results and found none. Speculation for the variance revolved around instabilities related to current events and the disruption of communities of faith. Whatever the case, it’s clear it’s time for a dramatic emphasis on Bible study and discipleship.
Rick Dubose, Assistant General Superintendent of the AG, recently outlined three paths toward biblical literacy. The first is the pulpit. He says, “Our sermons must be biblically based and intentionally instructive if we want to increase biblical literacy. I believe we should design our services from the Bible out.” The second is “having a managed process in place” for all demographics to study God’s Word. The third path is ‘living and sharing the Word.”
So what might that look like in a local church? Pastor Eric Samuel Timm, the lead pastor at Summit Church in St. Paul, has a passion for God’s Word and making disciples. Whether in sermon or song, he and his wife, Danielle, bring a deliberate approach to biblical literacy that flows seamlessly from the stage to the ministries and groups of the church.
At the core of Summit’s approach are the appropriately named baseCAMPS, Bible studies that take place every Sunday morning before service and throughout the week. They are available for all ages and everyone involved in leadership is expected to participate. Eric illustrates the heart behind discipleship with the visual of the playdough press toy. He notes, “The Word shapes us. The question is, ‘What are you as a pastor putting at the end of the press?'”
The shaping tools represent intentional guides unique to each doughy demographic at Summit. Kids ministry focuses on faith foundations with topics like books of the Bible or the Sermon on the Mount. Whereas for young adults, the shaping tool right now is simply biblical answers to questions their culture is asking.
While baseCAMPS may differ, all are designed to defy national trends and shape disciples for generations to come. They are staging grounds for sharing God’s Word outside the church. It’s a missional model whose practiced culture is to disciple people, deliver hope, and love the city. Biblical literacy makes all this possible.