The Big Reveal
Fox River Christian Church sits in a quiet, semi-rural community just west of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It looks like countless other churches across America, a simple, practical building that is both a place of worship and a community crossroads.
Fox River recently took the Willow Creek Association's REVEAL survey. Of the metrics reflected in the church's results, senior pastor Guy Conn was struck by the low engagement his congregation had with the Bible. His commitment to deepen Fox River's engagement with Scripture has ushered in a new season of spiritual vitality.
When I saw our results from taking the REVEAL survey, I was disappointed, but not surprised. One of the numbers that immediately stood out was that 80-85 percent of our congregation wasn't reading the Bible at all, let alone with regularity or depth.
A pastor has a sixth sense when it comes to the congregation's spiritual habits. I suspected that Scripture engagement could be an area of weakness for us. Some of that was due to positive trends. We were a body privileged to witness many new people coming to faith in Christ. We also had a high number of attendees that had come from a background of nominal church attendance. That meant many had minimal familiarity with the Bible, let alone a commitment to regularly engage it in their personal lives. Lots of our new brothers and sisters did not know even the basic stories—David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, the miracles of Jesus …
Preaching alone wasn't enough to close this gap. Our church was growing, but our depth in the Scriptures wasn't, and something needed to give. We have a passionate, driven leadership team. When we saw ourselves in the lower 50 percent of those surveyed, you could almost hear a collective "NO!" rise from our team. We were faced with a sobering fact: we weren't deepening people's spiritual lives. So we took a deep breath, and decided to do something about it.
Tackling the Problem
The survey pointed out that simply teaching the Bible in church does not lead people to open the Bible for themselves throughout the week. Preaching itself isn't enough to transform deeply. God wants to work with his people individually. Our role as church leaders is to facilitate that process, to free the Bible from the confines of the pulpit and put it in people's hands.
We knew that addressing the problem required more than tweaking or introducing one new program. It had to be wide-ranging and synergistic. So we crafted a strategy that included our preaching, small groups, adult classes, and children's and youth ministries. It could be simple, but it had to be widespread and unified. We centered our efforts on what we called a "New Testament Challenge," one that would likely be difficult for us but attainable. We chose the word "challenge" specifically with our men in mind. Many men balk at reading plans. But their ears perked up when we began talking about this as if it were akin to running a marathon or climbing a mountain. We were very clear: "This won't be easy. You're going to need to commit, to work your butt off to see this thing through. But if you do, you will accomplish something big, something significant."