An older neighbor of ours recently came over to the house. He was carrying a large box. After a little small talk, I welcomed him inside and motioned toward the box. “What’s this?” I asked.

“It’s a box of old Bibles.”

My neighbor had recently retired. He was moving into a smaller home and cleaning out his possessions. These Bibles had been in his family for a few generations. He wasn’t religious. Last year he told me he hadn’t been to church since before he served in Vietnam. He knew I was a pastor and thought maybe I’d want the Bibles. It was a kind gesture.

“You don’t want them?” I asked. “How about your kids. Would they want to keep them in the family?”

“No,” he said. “My wife passed away. My kids aren’t interested in them. They don’t read the Bible, and neither do I. If I throw them away, God might strike me dead or something.”

I almost laughed but realized he wasn’t kidding. He honestly thought God would punish him if he threw away the Bibles. The Bibles stayed with me. So did the conversation. It’s an extreme example of many people’s contradictory relationship with the Bible: they believe there’s something special about the Good Book, but they seldom, if ever, actually read it.

While Bible ownership and sales remain strong, Bible reading and engagement are down significantly. According to the Institute for Bible Reading, the average household in North America owns four Bibles and the average Christian household has 11 Bibles. Yet every day, 700 people stop reading their Bible for good.

As pastors, what are we to do with people who possess more Bibles than ever but have little interest ...