Biblical Illiteracy

From Here:

The situation may have comic possibilities for Leno, but for preachers working to craft a biblically based sermon, the situation is confounding. If parishioners can’t follow references to significant people, places or things in the Bible, they may miss or misunderstand the whole message. Tony Campolo, founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education and author most recently of Red Letter Christians: A Citizens Guide to Faith and Politics, recalls referring in class to the book of Proverbs and hearing a student ask, “Do we have that in our library?” Wallace Adams-Riley, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, says biblical illiteracy is such a big problem that a lot of ministers “don’t even know where to start.”

Much of my philosophy of ministry is based on Ephesians 4:11-13, and so in many ways I view being a coach as part of my role as a youth pastor. In a lot of ways, studying the Bible is like practice. It has fantastic merits in its own right and can often be really enjoyable. Some of my favorite memories in college soccer were having a great time working hard at practice (maybe the fact that my playing time was also very minimal contributes to this). However, practice requires discipline and sacrifice. How does a good coach get players to practice? By creating a culture where good practice is valued. Yes, many tools help, but in the long run, punishments (running extra sprints), rewards (also known as bribery), or other enforcers will fizzle out.

So, how do I create a culture of practice and discipline in youth ministry? I’m honestly not sure. I suppose by highly valuing it myself–one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever had ran every run and sprint with us. And by continually teaching students to value it. If I say I want students to learn how to be learners–especially of Scripture–but I don’t build our ministry to help them be successful in that endeavor, then anything I say up from up front about it is moot.

Is God Big Enough For Our Questions?

This morning, I taught a lesson to high school students at our church about the trustworthiness of the Bible. Where did it come from? How can we know it’s inspired by God? I was a little nervous about it, because it was basically a large amount of information in almost a lecture style format. Still, I thought it was information that they needed to hear, even if for some it would be lots of boring dates, archaeological evidence, and the transmission of manuscripts through the centuries. It ended up being a really fun lesson, and I was surprised at the level of interest.

During the session, I pushed students to give me good reasons for why we can trust that the Bible really is the Word of God. I said that we need to ask these questions, because God is the God of truth, and he’s not afraid of our questions. They seemed to enjoy discussing different sorts of evidence for the reliability of the Gospels, archaeological evidence that matches up with relevant passages in the Old Testament, and arguments that support Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. What really encouraged me is that some students seemed almost relieved that they were allowed to ask questions. One student who was at an event at a park afterwards said that he appreciated my openness to honest questions about the Christian faith, and that there have been times when he’s been made to feel faithless for questioning the assertions of orthodox Christianity. Somewhere along the way, we (the Church) have communicated that expressing doubt decreases our faith.

I believe that nothing could be further from the truth.

If God really is the God of truth, and if the Bible really is the inspired word of God, then questioning those two premises does not weaken them. Rather, honest questioning and honest searching will in the long run bring us and students closer to the God of the Bible. Where those of us who love youth come in is by serving as guides on the journey, to offer advice and insight from time to time. Let us encourage others to express with words the doubts of their minds and hearts and to wrestle with the difficult questions. Because God is bigger than our questions. Sometimes, he leads us to find the answers, but he wants us to find more than just answers; he wants us to find him.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29:13

Vanity

Lately, I feel as though I am more aware of the brokenness in our world.  I’m not sure if it comes with increased age (I’m almost out of my 20s!) but I’ve been able to relate more and more to the Preacher of Ecclesiastes in recent months.  I have wondered if perhaps things are getting worse, if I have noticed more brokenness because the world is indeed more broken than it has been in the past.  Is all vanity?

My wife, Jennifer, tells me that it may very well be maturity that helps me see the brokenness.  Perhaps in the past, I have chosen to ignore the brokenness around me or tried to pretend it didn’t exist.  I do not think it’s a bad thing to realize how broken our world is, because I’m merely noticing a truth (Rom 3:9-20).  I realize that things are not as they should be, and the appropriate response is grief.  However, we do have hope–hope in Christ.  We cannot fix this world, but we can have hope in the cross and look forward to the day when God will wipe every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).