After graduating from college and moving to Thousand Oaks for work, I spent a few years serving in the youth ministry at Chinese Christian Church of Thousand Oaks. If you have served in youth ministry, you know that the high school life is full of many things that make for wonderful illustrations that can be used for teaching. What we have to be careful of however is the tendency to take the truth that falls from these or any other illustrations and simply see it as a lesson for “those who are younger”.
Those who are younger can be those physically younger in terms of age, or those who we view as weaker or younger in their faith (regardless of age). With that said, something that has been on my mind recently is how we approach learning.
Something that I know is a struggle for students is preparing for college. Everything is built upon two things: the goal (“success”) and the steps required (grades, tests, etc.) to get there. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, sooner or later we all learn how to “game the system”. With the right grades and the right test scores, we can improve our chances of achieving the goal that we have set. But are we simply cramming to pass a test in order to get to our goal, or are we studying to learn? While there is definitely some overlap, the motivation behind our studying may indicate how important thing the things that we have learned are to us. I can say that half the things I “learned” in school simply got me through the tests. If I were to have to recall all of it today, the outcome would not be the same. The things I learned served their purpose, and now it’s on to other things.
This isn’t meant to be a critique of our education system, however I believe a similar concept can be applied to our spiritual lives. How important is the Word to us as we study it? Are we reading or taking notes on sermons so that we can pass them on to that friend “who needs to get their life together”? Maybe the motivation for reading the Word is to be able to fit in with others that are always talking about the Bible or to be able to engage in theological debates with others. Perhaps we like being the person who is always able to share something really deep during Bible study. But once we’ve “used” it in whatever setting we had planned for it, then it’s on to other things. The Bible simply becomes another thing we only use in front of or on others.
To be absolutely clear, I am not arguing that a person who desires to share God’s Word with others has it all wrong. After all, we are commanded to, “…always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). However, if we back up to the beginning of verse 15, we see that it begins with: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.”
So instead of “using” the Word on others, let’s start by studying it with the desire and motivation to be reminded of the fact that Christ Jesus came to die for sinners such as ourselves. Remember that He came to rescue us and explode into doxology in response and revere Christ as Lord because of what has been done for us.
This is something for all of us to consider, whether we’re an attendee of a Bible study and especially if we have the responsibility of teaching and leading others. Sometimes the tendency is to immediately apply what we learn on others, however the Psalmist in Psalm 119:105 reminds us that, “Your word is a lamp to my feet. And a light to my path.” Allow it to light the steps immediately before you, and the path ahead of you.
For those in the Ventura County area feel free to join me and a few others at Element Coffee in Camarillo on Saturday mornings as we try and put this into practice. This isn’t a Bible study of any sort, simply a few folks studying on their own. I know how easily distracted I get at home. Having fellow brothers and sisters nearby to keep on me on track helps me get that running start I need sometimes.
Got a favorite spot that you spend time studying the Word at? Feel free to leave it in the comments (ahem…other contributors). Let’s start this 2nd half of the year off by resolving to commit ourselves to being honest with ourselves in how we approach the Word of God.