“God’s Word will never pass away, but looking back to the Old Testament and since the time of Christ, with tears we must say that because of a lack of fortitude and faithfulness on the part of God’s people, God’s Word has many times been allowed to be bent, to conform to the surrounding, passing, changing culture of that moment rather than to stand as the inerrant Word of God judging the form of the world spirit and the surrounding culture of that moment. In the name of The Lord Jesus Christ, may our children and grandchildren not say that such can be said about us.”
― Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster
Imagine All the People
Imagine we lived in a world where believing young people were faced with every worldview imaginable, worldviews in opposition to anything theism, and the one basis of truth they have is mostly absent from their life. The tragedy of the previous statement is we do not have to imagine, for we live in a society where that day has most certainly arrived. One of the scariest, saddest truths in the universe today is the lack of teaching, understanding, and application of the Word of God, to young believers. Take the model of youth ministry in most modern day youth groups. For the most part they are nothing more than social venues driven by emotions, worldly relevance, and shallow moralistic teaching. In other words ministry to teens and twenty something’s, has been shot straight to He…Hello. I may edit that part out. And we wonder why so many young people leave the church, even walk away from the faith. If all Christianity has to offer is moralism and not absolute truth, what is the point in sticking with it? I mean if we do not have a belief system based on any more truth than other worldviews, you might as well switch to a religion or beliefs that are fun. I want to explore some of the causes as to why young people are not pursuing the Word of God, and provide some rationale as to what can be done about it. BUT FIRST, some data!
Why does it Matter? Is there really a Problem?
In one of their most recent studies on American Christians 13-18 year olds, the Barna Group revealed that only 33% read their Bibles. Further in the survey, Barna collected data as to what spiritual development these teens were looking to grow in and at the bottom of the list was Studying the Bible, a mere 18%. Is it just me or is there something wrong here? Mind you this survey is the most recent being taken in 2007, but I believe it still honestly reflects a very big, very real problem in the spiritual priorities being instilled in young people. If the Bible, if Scripture is what it say it is, if it truly is truth, then why is that not at the top of the list of what young believers are being taught to study, appreciate, and grow in love for?
How Do We Get Young People as Excited for the Word of God, as what they are One Direction?
Over the summer I would often ask myself the question “How do we get young people as excited for the Word of God, as what they are One Direction?” If you do not know who this awful teen dream, tans and teeth, hair and abs, band is, one you are fortunate, and two if you want to become unfortunate learn about who they are by following this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_direction. Moving on, whenever one of this groups hits would come on the youth and staff would go wild. On the other end, when it came to chapel messages or devotions, that energy would quickly die. I am not judging. Yeah I am sort of, but my point is, if young believers have the capability to be that excited for some stupid, secular band, then it most certainly can be possible for them to do so over the Word of God. So the question of “how?” was formed. I like a good “how?” problem. As I wrestled with the dilemma of young believers and the Bible I began to do surveys and conversations of my own with camp staff and campers. Out of every survey I did, each conversation I had, EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. said one of the reasons they did not read the Bible was out of laziness. Seeing this trend, and putting the rest of the information gathered together, it hit me that I was looking at the problem all wrong. In my mind there had to be a straight answer, one answer to shed light on this whole problem, when the reality was things were a bit more complex than that.
As I thought about the whole idea of laziness, a neat little thought dawned on me. Let’s say I am in a math class, which coincidentally I am this semester. I hate math. Math is the Moriarty to my Sherlock, the Master to my Doctor, the Hitler to my Churchill. Why is that you may ask? I despise math simply because it is hard for me to understand. Sure, once I get it, especially logical problems, I with great enthusiasm think it is awesome, but until I grasp it, understand it, learn it, I have nothing but apathy toward math. Apply that same principle to young people, it is not so much that they are lazy, though in some cases they may be, but it is more so the fact that they do not know how to study, how to understand, the Bible, and so they decide not to do so. You cannot be excited or desire to do something, unless you have been give a reason to do it. They may worship, speak Christian jargon, pray some and have little devotions, but without people to help them learn and become excited for the Word of God, their enthusiasm will just not be there. Obviously this is merely one dynamic to the problem, but I most certainly think it is the starting point in helping Churches and leaders teach young believers Scripture. If a teenager can read seven hundred or so pages of Harry Potter, Twilight, or whatever else they read, understanding every jot, every tittle, I find it hard to believe that we cannot harness that energy to get them to do the same with the Bible. The problem is not illiteracy, the problem is simply not knowing how. They can read, they just need to be taught how to read the Bible.
My Mission if I Choose to Accept it
As a someday Bible teacher, it is my personal mission to constantly and consistently read articles and do research regarding the spiritual status of teens and twenty something’s. During the summer I spent a majority of my time researching Bible literacy amongst this demographic. One of the methods in which I gained valuable insight was by teaching a “How to Study the Bible” module most weeks at camp. This hands on research helped me gauge where many of the students were at in their Biblical literacy and what methods did and did not work in teaching them. As the week and sessions progressed it was amazing how many light bulb moments, how many ooh’s and ah’s were exclaimed because they were beginning to understand! I mean they can learn awful advanced calculus for crying out loud, so why can they not learn the Bible! I am convinced without a doubt young people can learn how to effectively, meaningfully, and enthusiastically study the Bible, they are merely in need of teachers to show them how. The plethora of youth groups and ministries, who think they are doing teens or twenties a solid by teaching moralism and providing a place to hang, need to cut the crap and go back to the Word of God. That is the only thing going to make a change in the lives of people. Nothing else. Those things are not bad in the right context, but often of they take precedence over Scripture in ministries.
What then Shall We Do?
I have compiled a list of what I think is necessary in teaching young believers how to study the Bible. I believe these goals will help young believers in their study of Scripture while building a Biblical rationale as to why they should do so. These are in no particular order.
▪ Teach young believers “why” studying the Bible is important. People often do things, or at least are more willing to do them if they have a reason why.
▪ Clear and clarify their misconceptions about the Bible, in this day and age they do have so many, and addressing their misconceptions will help them further trust and understand Scripture.
▪ Teach the student how to study the Bible effectively and genuinely, to not only learn, but to also live, Biblical truth. Scripture is the core of the Christian existence, and without it you have nothing. This is pivotal to their growth in genuine faith.
▪ Once they can do inductive study, let them create their own style of personal Bible study and devotion, based off of the foundational principles of inductive study they learned.
▪ Show students how Scripture helps them grow in their relationship with God as well as others.
▪ Help students in learning how to both defend and share their faith Biblically and apologetically. If they do not know why they believe what they believe, it is going to be difficult for them to minister to their friends and people around them, not to mention continue standing firm in their own faith when met with opposing views.
The Thing about Icebergs is
As I sit here watching the word count increase, 1,476, oh 1,478, shoot 1,479, words I realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg. This is only one aspect of the problem. I am just one tiny man, with a few small ideas, hoping to make some sort of difference in this large ordeal. This is serious business. We have to teach younger generations the transforming power of God’s Word, because nothing else in the universe matters. Unless we do just that, I am afraid we are going to continue losing young believers not just to mediocrity, but even more to the world. Make the Word of God the center of your life, your ministry, and take that knowledge to other believers, challenging them to do the same. I said before and I will continue to say it, somehow, someway, I, actually Christ through me, am going to find a way to get young believers as excited about the Word of God as what they are One Direction.