Across America a new form of exclusion is on the rise: bibleism. This new form of self-perceived supremacy is directly related to the version of bible favored at a particular church. Those on the outside looking in face harsh treatment and/or shunning within their very own bodies of Christ.
Sally Wilson, a member of Bakersfield (CA) United Methodist Church, said, "Our whole denomination uses the NRSV, but I like my NASB. It comes closer to the original languages than does the NRSV. Alas, it has been a while since the UMC cared much for what the bible actually says, so I shouldn't be surprised. Nobody in my Sunday School Class likes my bible."
The versions that appear to be connected to the most bibleism are the KJV, the TNIV, the ESV, and the Message. Not surprisingly, the versions are used and promoted by specific groups. TBNN has learned the following:
-The KV is, obviously, favored in KJV-only churches. If you try to attend one of these churches with something like the NIV, you can expect to be immediately ushered to your car and cast into Hell along the way.
-The TNIV tends to appear most frequently in mega-churches, where style takes precedence over substance. Egalitarians like this version because of the gender-neutral language. If you show up with an NASB, you will be given dirty looks and called either a misogynist or "Mr. smarty-pants!"
-As for the ESV, you'll find them dominant in the Reformed sphere, especially among young white males, ages 18-35. Disciples of John Piper tend to refer to the ESV as "the real bible." If you go to one of these churches with something like the NIV, you can expect someone to immediately share the gospel with you before they ask whether or not you are, in fact, saved.
-The Message is most often favored in churches with absolutely no doctrine at all. Therefore, many members of Health, Wealth, and Prosperity churches carry the Message. If you happen to go to one of these churches on any Sunday while carrying, let's say, an NKJV, you can expect to be treated as if you just stepped out of Puritan New England.
Justin Eversole, a relatively new Christian, tells a story that is becoming all too familiar. According to Justin, "I'm a pretty new Christian. When I got saved, a friend of mine gave me a new bible - the New Living Translation. Since then I've tried out six different churches, but no one likes my bible. The local independent baptist church only uses the KJV. I tried a Presbyterian church, but they wanted the ESV. The NKJV was the bible of choice at a Southern Baptist church close to my house. I tried a Catholic church, but no one there even took a bible to church. Everyone at the Assembly of God church carried something called the 'Spirit-filled bible.' Finally, I went to a Methodist church on the other side of town, but everyone just used the pew NRSV. I felt like I didn't fit in anywhere I went. I may try a new community church down the road - they don't know what they believe."
New Lifeway research indicates that when a person visits a church that shares his bible version convictions, he is likely to join that church. However, if the visitor carries the wrong bible, he feels excluded or down right disliked. Clearly, he will not be joining that body.
In light of this, more and more churches are advertising themselves as TNIV-only, ESV-only, Message-only, etc. TBNN has even come across a new church in Louisvlle that is ESV Study Bible-only. Unfortunately for them, it won't be released until October.