Beckett: Stop Trying to Make the Bible Relevant

Psalm 78:4, …tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.

Churches today are struggling to reach out to my generation—Millennials. My generation is full of cultural relativistic narcissists. In the attempt to bring more youth into the church, churches often try to make the Bible “relevant.” This is because people—including Christians—feel the church is “behind the times.” Yet as Christians who live in a pagan nation, why wouldn’t we be “behind the times”? The Church is far different than the world, so we look weird to them, even to pagan America. So in a society that desires to do things their own way, whereas the Church is responsible for following the way (John 14:6), the Church is always going to be “behind the times.”

In our pagan society, the Bible is viewed as being irrelevant and the Church strives to make the Bible relevant. Yet my exhortation to churches is: Stop trying to make the Bible relevant; it’s already relevant. I read a brilliant article by Eric McKiddie who’s with The Gospel Coalition titled, Stop Trying to Make the Bible Relevant to Teenagers. In the attempt to bring more youth into the Church, churches have tried to make church seem “cool” and advertise a “hipster Jesus.” In the midst of these efforts, McKiddie contends the Bible is already relevant. When someone in their youth is going through depression, bereavement over a lost one, questions with suffering, and other things, the Bible is more relevant on these matters. It is up to us as parents and church leaders to teach this relevance to the youth. There’s no point in trying to glitter up Christianity with the appeal of being cool because Christianity is not cool. In fact, compared to the rest of the world, it is rather uncool. Why? Because it does not conform to the ways of the world. Christianity is self-denying—it denies (sacred) autonomy—and rather proclaims the authority and sovereignty of God over all things. Christianity is about living in the forgiving Spirit of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness with which He offers has the most relevance to our lives.

St. Peter said, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). The Scriptures themselves testify of the relevance of God’s Word to our lives. Concerning this, McKiddie said, “That means stress over grades, sexual temptation, loneliness, awkwardness—and how to honor God in each of these areas. But also notice how the power for everything that pertains to life and godliness comes to us—through the knowledge of God.” We can find all the answers we need in Scriptures, even on issues of adiaphora left to the discernment of the pastor and the congregation (things Scripture neither forbids nor commands). When we experience anxiety, Scripture is relevant. When we experience sexual temptation, Scripture is relevant. Whenever we question our identity, Scripture is relevant. Yet if this is so, why don’t the youth listen?

Besides their haughtiness, McKiddie argues they don’t listen because many of them are spiritually dead. They don’t “long for the pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2). However, this is “no excuse to water down the Bible or ignore it,” says McKiddie; it is just all the more relevant. But there are also the youth who are genuine Christians but exhibit a lack of interest in church and the Bible. There are adults my age who have been Christians their entire lives and lack biblical knowledge. Parents simply need to fulfil their vocations as parents by indefatigably teaching the relevance of Scripture in their children’s lives. Past childhood, it then comes down to individual responsibility as they venture into adulthood.

McKiddie lists three ways in which we can make the Bible relevant to the youth:

  1. Impress our need for what the Bible teaches us, showing that we cannot ultimately meet that need on our own.
  2. Show where the Bible talks about the same thing teenagers experience, and point to the solution it gives (which will usually be different than our natural response).
  3. Show how that answer ultimately comes to us through what Jesus has done for us.

For example, the most common question the youth ask themselves is, “Does God care? Where is He in my suffering?” The relevance of Scripture breaks through the veil of their ignorance during these times of doubt and wonder. Isaiah the prophet proclaimed, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God’? …He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:27, 29-31). We often question where God is in our suffering, and yet He gives strength to those who trust in Him. This has been evident in the lives of the Israelites, the Prophets, and the Apostles. If great men such as the Prophets and Apostles depended entirely on God for their strength when they were weak, then how much more will God lend us His strength today. Ultimately, Christ suffered death on our behalf. He suffered the wrath of God so we don’t have to. Although we will not suffer God’s wrath, we will still suffer in this world for the sake of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) because the world hates Him and those who love Him (John 7:7).

In an effort to invite the youth to church and to learn the Scriptures, don’t try to make it relevant because it’s already relevant. Don’t try to make it sound or look cool because in comparison to the rest of the world, it is not cool. Trying to make Christianity “cool” is a false ideology, particularly because suffering is a real and inevitable part of the Christian life, which is not a cool thing at all. Instead, let us learn how to teach of its eternal relevance by showing the youth how Scripture is relevant to each part of our lives. Let us learn how to teach them that they need not worry, for God has already given us the answers. All we need is to know where to look and trust Him to reveal His wisdom to us and supply His strength.

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