I was in Sunday School yesterday morning. Pastor Jim is teaching what I believe will be a pretty good class about the "story" of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. He's not perfect in all things, but I can promise you that he loves God's Word and knows the Story. And I got to thinking about a question during the class...I should've been paying attention but I was thinking instead (sheepish...red-faced). Here's the question: how do we present the idea of reading God's Word to those who don't know God or to those who have not spent much time in the Bible? How do we present the reading of God's Word to anyone?
What I mean to say is that we must know our audience when we encourage the reading of God's Word. For instance, sometimes a pastor uses large words within a sermon, words such as ecumenical, hermeneutic, justification or presupposition. Sometimes they'll pull Greek out of the hat like the word "Adiaphora" and really get our heads swimming. Whatever the word is, quite a few of those words fly way above our heads. We struggle greatly with their meaning. That isn't to say that the words shouldn't be used. We should all pay better attention to words. But that doesn't mean that a preacher should abuse his or her audience with large words. He has to know his audience. A "seeker" audience needs a different presentation from an audience of Christian University Professors.
Pastor Jim's introductory class was about describing the most basic story of God for mankind using Psalm 19. The story of God for mankind starts with Creation and continues then with His Words, His Law, and His Holiness. The Bible tells that exact story in many ways, but being fulfilled through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Then he said the thing that got me thinking..."And when you study the Word of God passionately...when you truly dig deep into the Bible and study it well, the Bible opens up a whole new world for you." What P. Jim said was correct. But, one has to wonder about the word "study" and how it's used. And now here's what I want to say. There are people who have learning disabilities and there are people who did not go to college, those who did not do well in school, those who hated school, and those who liked school but are really glad to be done with school. And, there are those who love a great story, who love diversity, who love passion and glory and grit. There are those who love the impossible and those who love the most possible. There are those who like reading long stories, those who like reading short stories and those who like to read poetry. Some of these are the same people who hated school and some of these are the people who loved school.
So...what if we presented the reading of the Bible, not as study material, but as the most amazing story you'll ever read? What if we presented the reading of God's Words as a true story filled with violence and mystery, of love and loving, of passion and effort, of connivery, thieving and mugging, of saving, mercy and grace, of death and life, chivalry and fear, sloth and ambition, weariness and stamina, of great lament and pure Joy, of vehement poetry and the most loving of verse? Mind you, we're taking the study away from the process...just changing the words. When I read a mystery now, sometimes I turn a few pages back to refresh some of the details so that what I'm reading on a further page makes more sense...that's called study...and we do it all the time. We study when we watch our parent's relate to eachother, we study when we watch our dads change a car battery and we study while listening to music.
One doesn't always know that there are those in the audience who hate the idea of being in school. When we tell them the "study" they walk backwards out of the room. When we tell them to experience all the above in one book...they might take some interest. I'm telling you, as we mature as Christians we find ourselves "studying" God's Word. Sometimes God's Word seems complicated and takes time to learn. But, I'm telling you, we need to present this as God's story because then we'll read it to find out the details of a great story and we'll learn while we're reading a great true story. I can say we'll learn because of what I know about scripture...John 14:26 "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." 1 Corinthians 2:11 "The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."
God doesn't absolve you from study, but because you're willing to read His story, He is willing to reveal some awesome things to you as you read. And so to present God in words that are difficult to hear and words that seem laborious and words that can be quite negative to people, why don't we present God's word in a way that's exciting and amazing because the Story of God from Genesis to Revelation is just that. And it's a great, great read.
What do you think?