Make sure the Bible is inside the Christians in your lay church, not tucked under one arm.
Materials are for internalizing. They’re not intended as permanent prosthetics. From the very beginning of their faith life and continuing steadily throughout it, Christians must learn the whole counsel of Scripture by heart so that ultimately no external printed text is required when they’re out and about and engaged in the Christian ministry of mirroring Christ to the world. That’s the way the New Testament and other oral-oriented literature is designed, and persecuted Christians can tell you of the necessity of this practice.
Hymns and music also need to be able to be learned in a way that they can be shared anytime, anywhere, by nonprofessionals (i.e., people like me who have sub-angelic voices and absolutely no guitar skills).
In the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:2, “You are our letter.” You are (or are intended to be) a living Bible.
Regrettably, despite the historically unparalleled motherlode of printed Bibles readily available in the United States, there sure is a dearth of living ones.
Zondervan—the Christian publisher—did a survey a year or two back. They found out that the average American Christian owns nine Bibles—nine—and is actively trying to buy one more.
But what about North Korean Christians?
Here is the testimony of one young, new North Korean Christian–a girl sold into sexual slavery in China who was rescued by a Christian missionary. The missionary enrolled her in an underground seminary for North Koreans in China.
At the age of 22, after four and a half months of training, I left the safety of the seminary in China and crossed the river to go back inside of North Korea… My purpose was to share the Gospel with my family and friends.
I was finally arrested after one and a half years, when the North Korean state security agency discovered the Bibles and hymnals I was distributing inside of North Korea.
The North Korean police treated me cruelly as if I were a terrorist. The most difficult punishment I faced was being required to sit in one position for twenty-four hours without moving.
One month went by, then two months. Almost a whole year of my life passed by, with me behind bars. I thought God had forgotten me.
Then something happened that helped me to understand that God had a specific purpose for sending me to that prison.
A new prisoner arrived. Her name was EJ.
EJ had been a spy for North Korea. She had been serving undercover in China, trapping North Korean defectors who had escaped. She would send them back to North Korea to die. She tried to defect from China to South Korea but she was caught and sent to North Korea to the same jail as me. She felt so guilty for all she had done. She wanted to know if God existed and if He could ever forgive her.
I told EJ about 1 John 1:9 which says that if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive. I also shared other verses with EJ that I had memorized. After many days, EJ confessed all her sins and received Christ as her savior.
One evening EJ had a dream. In her dream the Lord told EJ he was going to bring me out of prison. This was a crazy thought, since everyone knew I was going to be sent to a concentration camp for my crime. But EJ believed the dream. She was so happy for me but sad for herself. “I cannot make it here by myself,” she cried. So I asked the Lord what I could do to help her. God directed me to write down some scripture for her.
There was no paper, so we had to use the only thing we had to write on:
I didn’t have a pencil to write with, but EJ was able to smuggle one from the investigation room. And that’s how I began to write out ten verses as a “toilet paper Bible” for my new sister in Christ.
When I was finished writing, EJ tried to return the pencil, but it fell from her pocket and the guard saw it. He interrogated her angrily.
I was afraid that EJ would confess about the toilet paper Bible I had written, but she didn’t. When I asked her why, she replied, “You risked your life to give it to me, so I will carry it wherever I go.
The average American Christian has nine Bibles.
One North Korean—a Christian for four and a half months—constructs, from memory, a 10-verse toilet paper Bible to pass on to a former persecutor.
Who is the more effective student of the Scriptures?
In the lay church we vote for the North Korean Christian.
And that’s why we learn, by heart, one story and one song each week.