The Decline of the Bible in North America

As a guy who spent 25 years in full-time Youth Ministry, I have a burning question that, with each passing year, weighs heavily on my heart and mind.

But first, a disclaimer:

There’s always debate between which is better: a digital copy of the Bible? Or one with real pages? One may be better for one’s particular learning style. Neither is “right”, nor “wrong”, but merely a matter of preference. I’m for either as long as it’s used.

Now that we have that out of the way and, hopefully, understand my question has nothing to do with what media we ought to use – let’s dive in…

Here’s my burning question:

What is the reason most modern teens have little or no regard for Scripture, and how do we fix it?

Every teen today can download a Bible app.   But, as with all technology it’s a double-edged sword. Reading the Bible has never been easier or more convenient due to digital apps. But, in my experience, less and less are actually reading and studying it.

Most teens can quote entire song lyrics by Drake and Cardi B, but struggle to recite two scriptures from memory.

Why should the Bible be vitally important?

Here’s why…

It’s the sole source for 1) telling us who God is, and (2) telling us what is right and what is wrong. A non-biblical worldview opens the mind up for complete subjectivity, sending us down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Biblical illiteracy among Christian teens and young adults is alarming and heartbreaking.

The problem, in my experience as, both, a youth pastor and adult pastor, is systemic in that a loss of respect and honor for the Bible originates with us, the parents/adults.

My favorite quote on “learning” is this one:

“We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are.”

If we, as adults, have no real, consistent devotion to the Word of God then there is little chance our children, as well as the younger generation, will either. If, as parents/guardians, our lifestyle demonstrates a low priority for being a disciplined student of the Bible don’t be surprised when our children have little interest in the Bible when they’re grown. Parents, not church staff, were always designed to be their children’s primary “youth pastors.”

I’ve visited with many grown Christian adults who know little about the Bible. I’m thrilled to help them learn, but taken back at how much they don’t know, given the fact that our very faith is based upon a book so rarely studied.

Ever heard this one?  “The Bible is too heavy and complicated for teens to understand.”

Give me a break.

Have you seen what they’re studying and accomplishing in school?

We grossly underestimate how much they can absorb and learn. Look at how they respond to sports coaches, dance and music instructors, etc.

Granted, we can’t compete with the lightning-speed and entertainment of social media. But, we don’t have to.   We have something better than social media.

Look, when life comes crashing down around us, social media or the latest song to top the Billboard Charts can’t give us hope, peace and truth.

Only the Bible can do that.

I fear if we don’t whet the appetite of this generation, modeling for them a hunger for the great, epic adventure of God in the Bible, allowing them to, with us, wrestle with the Bible’s hard teachings and seeming problematic passages, the words of Judges 2:10 will, once again, apply:

“After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done…”

Please know my heart – there is no shame or guilt intended for anyone here.  Far too many times, I’ve been as poor an example for teens as the next guy.

Fortunately, because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb it’s never too late to do the right thing.

I heard a preacher say once, holding his Bible up, “This book will keep me far from sin; and sin will keep me far from this book.”

Parents/adults, join me in putting down our phones for a few minutes and engaging in intelligent dialogue with the younger generation about the Bible and the treasure it holds.

Join me in challenging one another to memorize verses and passages, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our lives through God’s Word.

My friends, may we return to a deep conviction that God holds the answers for our fallen world, and that those answers are found in his living, active, powerful Word.

Sola Scriptura, Nick

 

 

 

 

The Bible: Our True North

In this social media/personal opinion driven culture we are in desperate need of truth. (Especially during election years.)

“What is truth?”, Pilate asked Jesus.

The great theologian, Foghorn Leghorn, used to say, “It’s more confusing than a termite in a yo-yo – which way is up?”

Satan is a smooth operator. He usually includes a nugget of truth in his lies. But, a half truth is still a whole lie.

Falling for slick rhetoric is nothing new.

Paul warned the Ephesian believers to study the scriptures so they could safely discern what was true from what wasn’t. As a result, he said,…

“We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” (4:14)

Don’t be deceived or beguiled into believing what someone espouses just because it sounds convincing. Weigh everything against scripture.

What is truth? The Bible tells us…

“…the truth is in Jesus.” (Eph. 4:21)

“Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

“The sum of your word is truth.” (Ps. 119:160)

“I am the…Truth.” (Jesus Christ: John 14:6)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

Every Christian is a Theologian

“Theology” simply means “the study of God.”

That means all believers are theologians – or, at least, should be.  To be clear – and fair – this does not mean that everyone is an academic or scholar i.e. someone who has made a career out of studying the Bible.  But, nonetheless, we’re all biblically commanded to be theologians: a person who studies the Word of God.

I ran across a wonderful article on this topic this past week.  You can access the article here.

From the article:

“Laypeople have no biblical warrant (argument) to leave the duty of doctrine (a set of beliefs) up to pastors and professors alone.”

Besides, pastors being human and flawed, it is completely possible for a Bible teacher to actually misinterpret something and get it flat wrong.    Paul would end up writing a third of the New Testament.  But that hadn’t happened yet.  And the Bereans took no chances:

“…they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

Finally, it’s simply what we’re commanded to do:

Study and do your best to present yourself to God…accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.”

By the way, it’s vital for us all to remember that Paul’s instruction to Timothy above was a command, not a suggestion. 🙂

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Bible: Gospel, Guide or Garbage?

Linked for you here is a dialogue between New Testament scholar and theologian, NT Wright, and Harvard philosopher, Sean Kelly, as they discuss one of history’s most influential books – the Bible.

It’s an audio link only (no video) and is over an hour in length.  Whether you listen in “small bites” or “swallow the entire dialogue whole”, please consider listening and thinking deeply about what is said.

I have in my library Wright’s 700 page classic, The Resurrection of the Son of God. It is heady, but a rewarding read.

The audio clip is just below the photo at the top of the linked page.

You can access the link here.

Enjoy, nick

Our True North: the Word of God

After our son, Jordan, took his life the earth shifted underneath our feet. Our world was turned upside down.

We soon took scripture printed on copy paper and taped it to every door-jam, every mirror, every cabinet door – you get the idea. (A few of them are in the very spot we placed them 4 years ago.)

So, while the enemy assaulted us with lies: “life for you is over; your marriage is over; your son’s death is your fault; there is no God; etc….”, we made a conscious choice to focus on what we knew to be true: the infallible Word of God.

Both Matthew & Luke record the “showdown in the desert” between Satan and Jesus. Even a cursory reading reveals that, in light of Satan’s lies, Jesus responds with a single, devastatingly powerful weapon: the Word of God. Satan fled in defeat.

The same happened in our home. Oh – I’d be lying if I said it was easy. The spiritual battle was intensely brutal. But, in the end, Satan, the “father of lies”, was rendered impotent when confronted with the Truth.

Throughout this ordeal, my family learned – on a deeper level – what Jesus meant when he proclaimed, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Psalm 119 is almost entirely devoted to the exaltation of God’s Word. In verse 28, the psalmist prays, “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.”

Are you confused? Hurting? Afraid? Tired? Lost? Find your “true north” in the powerful Word of God.

Soli Deo Gloria, nick

The Bible, the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon

I’m presently neck-deep in an outstanding 450 page tome titled, In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture.

No disrespect to my Muslim and Mormon friends. This is simply an observation for the reliability of the Bible when compared to other major world religion texts by Paul Wegner (Ph.D. University of London):

“The Bible (both Old and New Testaments) was written by approximately forty different authors over a period of over 1,000 years, and yet there is a consistent and clear message throughout the book; neither the Qur’an nor The Book of Mormon has such a pedigree.

“There is extensive manuscript evidence for the Bible, including at least 300 Hebrew manuscripts and 5,800 Greek manuscripts, as well as more than 20,000 ancient manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments written in various languages, and more than 30,000 scriptural quotations in the early church fathers which help confirm the accuracy of Scriptures. Neither the Qur’an nor The Book of Mormon can make this claim.

“The OT contains specific prophecies that claim to be fulfilled in the NT (e.g., Isa 53:3–4 = Matt 8:17; Isa 53:7–8 = Acts 8:32–35; Isa 53:12 = Luke 22:37; Mic 5:2 = Matt 2:6; Joel 2:28–32 = Acts 2:16–21); neither the Qur’an nor The Book of Mormon contain anything like this.

“It is interesting that both the Qur’an and The Book of Mormon claim to be a continuation of divine revelation from the Bible through their specific prophets, and yet both works contain significant contradictions with the theology of the Bible. The book of Hebrews (1:1–2) claims that Jesus is the final revelation, implying there will be no further divine revelation.”

Sola Scriptura, Nick

The Story of God

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Writing about the Bible, author/speaker, Greg Koukl writes,

“This is not a fairy tale, but rather it is the Story all fairy tales are about. Indeed, almost every tale ever written is an echo of this story embedded within our hearts (“He has set eternity in the human heart.” Ecc. 3:11) Yet this story is not a tale at all, since the Story is true.” (C.S. Lewis famously referred to the story of Christ as the “true myth.”)

“Every worldview has four elements: (1) Where did we come from? (2) What is our problem/What went wrong? (3) What is the solution? (4) How will things end up? Biblically, this is categorized as creation, fall, redemption and restoration.”

“Notice, [in the Bible] you have all the parts of a good story: beginning, conflict, conflict resolution, ending.” (Gregory Koukl; The Story of Reality)

Interestingly, following Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, when the two men on their way to Emmaus had questions about Jesus in Luke 24, Jesus, himself (not yet recognizable to them), rather than explaining the events that had only recently transpired, began explaining the events of the past few days in light of the greater story, “beginning with Moses and the prophets.”

The Bible’s story is still the best explanation and answer to the questions listed above by Koukl.  Further, author/theologian, Graeme Goldworthy, writes, “It is my deep conviction that every part of the Bible is given its fullest meaning by the saving work of Christ, who restores a sinful, fallen creation and makes all things new.”  (According to Plan)

The Bible is a fascinating story.

It’s God’s love story for you and me.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick