On May 12, 2019, Justin Caruthers, pastor of Gateway Community Christian Reformed Church in Abbotsford, B.C., asked the congregation how many of them had brought their Bible (print or digital) to church with them that Sunday. After about six hands went up, Caruthers went on to challenge the congregation, and specifically the youth and young adults, to bring their Bibles to the Sunday service with them every week. If, by June 16 (five weeks from the day he issued the challenge), 60% of the congregation brought their Bibles, the pastor agreed to let a member of the youth group shave his head at the end of the service.
When asked why he’d issued the challenge, Caruthers said, “When research is showing that less than 1 in 5 Christians is opening their Bible and interacting with it at least once a week, we have a problem.” Studies from Barna and Lifeway Research show low Bible literacy and usage among Christians. “These numbers are alarming to say the least, and we cannot act as if they are acceptable. I have to do everything within my grasp to help change that.”
Barna’s 2018 “State of the Bible” Report indicates 14% of American adults read the Bible daily. In the Lifeway study, 39% of Americans who attend church at least once a month read their Bible on a daily basis.
Caruthers’ challenge was meant to remind the Gateway Community of the preeminence of Scripture.
“It is not only my goal, but it is imperative to the life of the church that everything that I say from the pulpit is weighed and measured against the holy words of scripture, and it just so happens that this is a lot easier to do if you have your Bible in your hands,” Caruthers said.
About 70% of the Gateway Community congregation brought their Bibles or Bible apps to the June 16 service. Afterward, three young people, whose names were drawn from a hat, took turns with electric clippers—trimming the pastor’s hair to a close buzz cut.