The biggest crisis facing the global church today is the growing lack of biblical literacy, according to Thomas Schirrmacher, the newly elected secretary-general of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA). “Bible knowledge is simply fading away,” Schirrmacher said. “This is a bigger problem than all the theological differences, financial problems, and political questions.” Schirrmacher said that in the West “more and more kids from evangelical families are not really rooted in the Bible,” and many of them leave the faith. “The number of young people leaving the faith in the West however is “counteracted” by people becoming Christians as young adults in other parts of the world.” However, these young Christians also lack deep biblical knowledge and “only know about the Bible what they learned from their conversion,” he said.
In rural areas, young Christians are often tasked with leading large churches despite their lack of biblical and theological knowledge. “So many people are becoming believers that the one who has been a believer the longest becomes the leader of the church,” Schirrmacher said. “We have such a high conversion rate worldwide, that it’s extremely difficult to follow up with discipling, teaching, and Bible knowledge. The result is that people are much more open to secularism and strange things like the ‘prosperity gospel.” According to the State of the Bible 2020 report released by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society, U.S. adults who say they read the Bible daily dropped from 14% to 9% between 2019 and 2020. This is the lowest number on record during the 10 years of the State of the Bible research study.
“We need to sit down and study the Scriptures, and be properly equipped for ministry.” Schirrmacher said that as the new head of the WEA, representing over 600 million evangelical Christians worldwide, he hopes to work toward “much closer solidarity” between countries which offer religious freedom and countries where Christians are under pressure. “I have been engaged with persecuted Christians all my life,” he said. “There is a religious freedom crisis around the world, and many persecuted Christians have the impression they have been forgotten. That may not be true, but they don’t know that. Many feel forgotten. Working toward solidarity with believers is high on my agenda. We cannot allow the central teachings of Christianity to fade away for then, there will be nothing left.”
Schirrmacher said “The WEA is known for mission, evangelism and religious freedom. Most people that become Christians are doing so in countries that do not have religious freedom or human rights. That will be a vital goal for me, that the people within the evangelical community and outside understand that we are not people that evangelize but fail to uphold human rights. These two things come out of one hand.” In an increasingly polarized society, Schirrmacher also emphasized the importance of unity, stressing that the “biggest obstacle” to the spread of the Gospel are divisions within Christianity. “We need to discuss what is the DNA, not only of evangelicalism but of Christianity,” he said. “What we have together is the Bible, Jesus, and the Gospel.” “We need to work together so that we do not fight each other when preaching the Gospel,” he said.
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