words and the Word

I love words. They carry so much WEIGHT. You can say so much more than you actually say.

Hebrews 4:12 says

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

You can also say so much more than you actually mean to say. Our words can lift up and pull down. I discovered this week that some words I’d uttered to lift up one person had the effect of pulling down others.

 

Months ago, I’d congratulated G, a church leader, on a sermon he had given. I told him I enjoyed his sermon because it was very biblical. M, another church leader, had overheard this. This week, at the church’s leadership meeting, it came out that I had apparently said that G’s sermon was the first biblically-based sermon I’d heard at church. My compliment, designed to encourage, was not only twisted, it became a huge criticism of the pastors and other leaders, including B, the head pastor. On one or two occasions, I had carefully and constructively commented on B’s sermons, and was assured that my comments were not taken the wrong way – but what I said to G changes everything. Add to that the fact that G is apparently quite proud of his biblical knowledge, and doesn’t see the need to keep studying and learning; and that I am a missionary, and people still think the missionary must automatically be the ultimate authority on the Bible.

And to further complicate matters, Ecuadorian culture means I can’t talk about the fact that K, B’s daughter, and the other pastor J’s wife, spoke to me about the issue. I’m not supposed to know. I have to fix this problem without mentioning to anyone that I know there was a problem caused by my comments about the sermons at church.

I am very grateful she came and spoke to me personally and in private about this. It’s actually quite un-Ecuadorian, most people would have spoken to others – and not to me directly – about it. They would have just held the grudge against me.

I explained to K that I hadn’t in fact said G’s sermon was the first biblically-based sermon I’d heard in church, but rather that I liked it because it was more anchored to the biblical text than others I had heard. I said I accepted that perhaps this is a matter of culture and preference, because the truth is B and J are fantastic speakers, great at engaging and encouraging people.

But the truth is, I do think they lack structure and a solid exploration of the Bible. I feel like they probably do know the Bible quite well, but they don’t help the congregation to learn for themselves, because they jump from verse to verse without contextualising. Sometimes they draw random conclusions from single verses. I often wonder what the key argument was at the end of their sermons.

 

Really, the last couple of months, I’ve realised the passion I have for God’s Word. Much more than I have for evangelism, or praise and worship. Maybe even more than youth? I’m not sure.

I’m trying to encourage the youth leaders to take the Bible – and the reading of it – more seriously.

It drives me mad that people talk about God, and who He is, how good He is, and the great plans He has for us, without knowing where that information comes from. “Somewhere in the Bible.” Just not good enough for me.

It frustrates me that the young people talk about grace and worship without being able to explain what those words mean.

 

We’ve seen some encouraging signs with the youth leadership group. They want to know more about the Bible. So we started studying Romans in our discipleship group, and we’ll also start looking at the life of Joseph next week. I suggested having one youth group each month dedicated to a form of bible study, but more dynamic, and not called  bible study so the youth wouldn’t think how uncool. Everyone loved the idea. I had in mind retelling stories from the Bible (there are so many great ones) and acting it out, having related activities, and exploring the issues and themes that come out.

But then yesterday as we were organising this week’s meeting, the youth leaders wanted to find dramas online and have us act it out, and insisted that it had to be one of the pastors who do the teaching and explaining of the scenes. I don’t know that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, but I definitely had this feeling of disappointment in the pit of my stomach. It really seemed like a huge step backwards.

Just because you are young and not a pastor does not mean you can’t teach the Bible. If you feel you don’t know enough about the Bible, that’s precisely why you should read it! Teach what you know, not what you don’t know.

Other people’s scripts might be great fun, but there’s no guarantee it’s biblical. They tend to be thematic, and then we go back to self-help, motivational speaker -type messages that you probably can’t trace back to any specific part of the Bible. That doesn’t encourage you to go and pick it up and read it yourself.

 

I’m struggling a lot with this no reading, rote-learning, regurgitate what the teacher says, culture. Praying for wisdom, insight, humility, tact, a Christ-like perspective on all of this.

Comments appreciated, I have this sense that I’m being unfair, high and mighty, and narrow-minded here …

Any comments, thoughts? I'd love to hear from you :)

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