One of the original motives behind the invention of Sunday School in the late 1700s was to teach factory workers without access to formal education how to read, with the greater goal of reading the Bible. Their efforts were not in vain, as Sunday School has blossomed into one of the most successful tools of God in all of history and helped familiarize generation after generation with the Scriptures.
It is tragic to think of the reality of many throughout the world today who are illiterate and not able to read God’s Word. How much more tragic, though, is it for the countless in society who are able to read, but simply choose not to? I believe God calls us to more.
Indeed, Christians have always believed in the power of reading God’s Word. Jesus Himself read the Scriptures privately and publicly during His earthly ministry. During the time of the early church, access to the Old Testament and what we now know as the New Testament was hugely important. Think of the Ethiopian eunuch, who read a copy of Isaiah and then received Christ and was baptized after hearing the Gospel presented by Philip.
The same is true throughout Christian history. Consider the great Augustine. History tells us that he, not yet a Christian, was walking in a garden pondering his own sinfulness; then heard the voice of children singing, “Take and read. Take and read.” Picking up a copy of the Scriptures, he read in Romans about the salvation of God and was saved by grace then and there. Moreover, martyrs such as William Tyndale gave their lives so the ordinary person could have access to the Scriptures in their native tongue.
Reading is still as critical today. In 2003, then-Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry launched a literacy initiative. Called simply “Read y’all,” the campaign sought to bring attention to the nearly one in five adults in the state’s total population who are reportedly unable to read. There is much work to do in this area in Oklahoma.
Yet, it is more important to inspire those who can read to do so and teach others to read. One of the greatest joys of my life was helping to teach our firstborn to read. It opened up horizons I could not have imagined. Now, in the midst of summer, her 8-year-old nose appears to be stuck in books such as Little House on the Prairie. We even found a One Year Bible for Children, and it is significant that Christians today are re-discovering the importance of daily Bible readings.
At the Baptist Messenger, reading is our passion. Without it, we could go out of business! Our motto is “Informing and Inspiring Oklahoma Baptists since 1912.” Starting in 2011, in addition to mailing the Messenger to tens of thousands throughout the state, nation and world, we put Messenger racks in strategic places in Oklahoma, including at OBU, LifeWay stores, Mardel and Baptist Village Communities. This summer, we have placed a Messenger rack at Falls Creek for students to enjoy.
We also are harnessing the latest technology to deliver the Messenger online and in full digital form. If you are a print subscriber to the Baptist Messenger, you can have access to the digital edition. To activate your digital subscription, simply email us at email@example.com.
Yet reading is not just for those who know English. We want to take the Baptist Messenger into other languages. To that end, plans are in place to add on our website (www.BaptistMessenger.com) a language translator so that people throughout the world may read our paper.
Beginning this summer, we want you to read the Messenger like never before, then pass it on to a friend to read. We want you to pick up a good book, and most importantly, to daily read the Good Book.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand for ever.” Isa. 40:8