Johnny can't share his faith. He has faith — faith in God — but he cannot tell his story. His problem first showed up big time in college! It continues to this day.

John and his roommate, Ben, decided to attend their college's Christmas Concert. Beautiful staging, great music and a vivid depiction of the Nativity made the annual program a student favorite. They ran across campus and arrived just as Joy To The World began. Portions of Handel's Messiah followed. Following the festive finale, the boys returned to their dorm and settled down to study. About 1 a.m., following their second pizza break, Ben spoke up. "So, John, what does, 'Even so, in Christ, shall all be made alive,' mean?" He had heard the words sung earlier. John knew Ben pretty well and this was definitely not a standard question. It wasn't about basketball or girls. John had made no secret of his being saved, and now Ben was asking about the Savior.

So, what happened next? A long conversation about the significance of Christ's birth? An opportunity for sharing God's promises? No. They only talked a few minutes. John, to his own surprise, didn't have much to say. Ben heard something about "God is love" and some other Bible sounding phrases and a quick history of his friend's Sunday School attendance. The Bible sitting on John's shelf remained closed. Both boys soon returned to their studies. Ben kept thinking of questions he'd like to ask. John decided to call his parents later to ask them for help. Unfortunately, they couldn't help either. His Dad kept saying that  John 3:16 was a "real good verse" and to call Minister Dan — a call that was never made.

Finals passed. Everyone went home. Ben had an apartment that Spring, so he and John split up. One year later, they were in different schools. Eight years later, they had a chance meeting at O'Hare. John was single, an attorney in Chicago, and in a big hurry. Ben was job-hunting in Cleveland, had just filed for divorce, and downed 3 martinis in 30 minutes. He was lost ... lost big time! John encouraged his friend as best he knew how to help. He reminded Ben that God loved him ... that "God is love." Then, running out of things to say, he excused himself. He never saw Ben again.

This fictional account would be only a troubling anecdote but for the fact that stories like this are common. American Christianity is blessed with great teachers, powerful music, and well-designed programs. But, on a personal level ... we are not adequate in our handling of the Scriptures.

Recently, there was a get-together of publishing industry reps who met in Nashville. They were discussing marketing for a new Bible translation. The group veered off at one point and noted, with deep concern, a topic not on the agenda — Bible memorization. Their concern? Bible memorization among believers has virtually disappeared as a Christian discipline.

Why is scripture memorization so important? Here are some reminders.

  • We will not grow without the Word: Like newborn babies ,crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2,3. Also, 1 Peter 1:23)
  • The Word is intended to be our "primary home": Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16. Also, Colossians 4:5,6)
  • We are commanded to be on the "Spirit offensive"! In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:16, 17)
  • We are to be prepared with life-giving answers. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15. Also, 2 Timothy 2:15)

The "Johnny" in our story had memorized scripture in Sunday School. Later, he was even a Bible quizzer. But by high school he lost interest. There was no model to continue ... not his parents ... not his friends ... not the youth minister.

What can be done? Here are six steps toward change.

Bible memorization among believers has virtually disappeared as a Christian discipline.

  1. Get kids in a long-term, practical memorization program. In addition, create an adult memorization class or small group. Find a committed "memorizor" and have them lead. Support them.
  2. Encourage use of the Navigator Topical Memory System. The TMS contains 60 foundational verses on small, easy-to-carry verse cards. Thousands have benefited from this tool for many years. Find it in bookstores or online at:
  3. Use the power of music. Music makes memorizing easy. Check out products like the Scripture Release CD. It features the TMS and is a powerful tool to aid in memorization. Find it at:
  4. Use the Internet. There are many memorization websites. A Google search will yield a host of possibilities. Search using "Bible memorization" .
  5. Music again. Encourage the songwriters in your church to compose using scripture texts. By far the most focused church I've known was one that continually sang scripture songs from a pool of writers. Also, there are already many scripture songs out there. Sing them!
  6. Get to know King David. Spend 22 days in  Psalm 119. He was "a man after God's own heart". Discover his heart and make it your own! Take 8 verses a day. Read, meditate and memorize one.

When Why Can't Johnny Read first appeared, it caused an outcry among educators and parents. They knew that reading was foundational to the future of a nation. As Christians, we face the prospect of increasing irrelevance in our world. This will not be because we don't know the Truth. It will be because we are not able to share the Truth when called upon to do so.