Just Like Jesus – The Bell Shaped Curve
Thinking of the bell shaped curve brings back memories from my University days. One professor in particular comes to mind. He drew the bell shaped curve on the blackboard at the beginning of the semester. At either end of the curve he drew a perpendicular line indicating the 10% and 90% level. He proceeded to state this is how he would grade and indicated only 10% of his students would earn an “A” and 10% would fail. The rest of the class would fall in between with a proportional representation of B’s, C’s, and D’s. For a guy intent on getting A’s I was intimidated and contemplating transferring out. Grading aside, the bell shaped curve finds itself in many places. Statistical studies on a variety of issues often find the population largely fitting the bell shaped curve. One way to view this data is to say most of us are in the middle regions meaning it is the norm, thus, another name for the bell shaped curve is the Normal Distribution Curve. For someone or an organization that is trying to impact the population it makes sense to target the message at the midsection of the bell shaped curve.
Pastor Ed in this weekend’s installment of the Just Like Jesus Sermon Series in the Book of Mark once again emphasized the Hebrew structure of storytelling. Ed has made this point a number of times over the years as he expounded on the Word of God. Different from “Western” or contemporary American storytelling, the Hebrew style follows a bell shaped curve. Material parts of the story are set at the beginning and end but the main point or purpose of the story is contained in the middle. There is a building up to the high point of the bell shaped curve then a descent to the end of the story. The lesson is to look at the middle of the story to see what is most important. Pastor Ed makes this point again because understanding the literary style of Hebrew storytelling will help us understand the Bible more effectively and therefore allow us to be better Christ-followers.
I wonder if our knowledge and understanding of the Bible were charted like data points what would that chart look like. On this chart one end would be no knowledge and the other end would be extensive knowledge with categories of little, some, fair, good and much, spaced in between. Following the traditional bell shaped curve most of us as Christ-followers should land in the middle of the curve, middle category being fair. But is that what the data would really show? From my reading of various books and studies, listening to presentations and my own observations, our American church-going population is largely uninformed when it comes to Bible knowledge. The chart would reflect the high point of the curve pushed significantly toward the bottom end of the knowledge scale and looking more like the shape of a rollercoaster’s first climb and descent; steeply up and steeply down then flattening out to the end instead of the traditional bell shaped curve. One cultural touch point that indicates this to me is we have become a society of non-readers. This is sadly reflected in the American Church’s living out God’s Word in private and community lives.
What would GateWay’s chart look like? Pastor Ed said he wanted all of us to better understand the Bible. Week in, week out, he brings us excellent teaching but that is only one day a week. What are we doing the other six days? We want the bell shaped curve of GateWay to have the highpoint of the curve at the level of good understanding. What is your level? Want it to increase? Connect Small Groups, Women’s Bible Study, Men’s Small Groups or Venture for 55+ are places to start. Reading good Christian books is another. And there is no substitute for reading the Bible. We have daily reading plans that will get you through the whole Bible in a year. Our bookstore has One-Year Bibles for sale. Another possibility is getting into a discipling/apprentice relationship. Maybe this is the way for you to go to achieve Bible understanding and application. Ask us?