We live in a world that doesn’t view the Bible the way we do. And we have students and children who come to our churches that did not grow up with the same assumptions that we have about the Bible. We must do what the 1st Century Christians did for those first generations of Jesus-Followers and give them an understanding of why we believe what we believe.
Andy Stanley–Orange Conference, Main Session 2013
7 Guidelines for Communicating the Bible in a Biblically Illiterate and Skeptical World from the 2013 Orange Conference. #OC13
1. Choose a passage of scripture and stay there.
I know that there is major debate about whether we should teach/preach verse-by-verse or verse-with-verse, but really–nothing is more confusing to a person who doesn’t know the Bible or the Bible narrative than hopping all over the Bible and using a whole bunch of passages of scripture like a proof text for a college paper. People coming into our churches don’t know the difference between Saul the King, and Saul the persecutor, Joseph the father of Jesus and Joseph and the technicolor dream coat. When we hop around the Bible we imply the Bible is complicated and confusing. By the way–this isn’t new: Henrietta Mears called this the Hop-Skip Method and believed it was the primary reason for the “boredom and disgust” of children in the Sunday School of her day
2. Give people permission not to believe or obey the scriptures. (I Corinthians 5:12)
“When you have a crowd of people who you suspect are non-Jesus followers, marginal, or not-sure-I-believe people, you have to give them permission not to believe or obey, because this isn’t even for them. . . . When you give non-Christians an out, they respond by leaning in.”
3. Teach in a manner that emphasizes the identity of Jesus over the authority of scripture.
Even though the Bible is the infallible, inspired Word of God our faith is not based upon “believing” in the infallibility and inspiration of the Bible. The foundation of our faith is based upon believing in an event in history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
People must come to grips with the identity of Jesus before they can come to grips with the authority of the Bible. . . . the issue is always, “Who is Jesus?”
We shouldn’t expect rational people to believe that Jesus rose from the dead [simply] because “the Bible says so.”
“Do you know why we believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Not because “the Bible says so.” It’s because Matthew says so, Mark says so, Luke says so, John says so, James says so and Peter says so and they were all willing to die for what they said they believed.”
“Because the Bible says so” only works when the people you are talking to already believe what the Bible says. For those who don’t, “Because the Bible says so” makes us look foolish. And it doesn’t help our kids who will go into a hostile world where they will have to defend their faith.
4. Don’t refer to the Bible as a book.
It’s not a book. It’s way better than a book. A book implies that it is fiction. The problem is that most adults think the Bible is full of stories not history. Each week we share parts of history. Our kids need to know it is history not fiction.
“The Bible was written by over 40 different people over a several hundred year period and it tells one unique story about how sin came into the world and God fixed it. Isn’t that great? Now today we are going to look at this little piece of it.”
5. Cite authors not the Bible.
Every time you say something about an author you tie what you are saying to history, not stories.
“Today we are going to look at a letter written by James. James was the brother of Jesus. What would your brother have to do to convince you he was the Son of God?”
6. Acknowledge the odd as odd.
There are some odd things in the Bible. Most of what’s in the Bible is odd. We don’t need to be afraid of it, that’s just the way it is. It’s old.
We don’t have to worry about the odd things in the Bible because “the Bible says so” is not the reason we believe this but because Jesus believed this. I take the old testament seriously because Jesus took it seriously.
7. Don’t create the impression that one must choose between faith and science.
Science is the study of natural things. It attempts to find natural explanations for the world around us. Every time sciences discovers how something works we should be able to respond, “So that’s how God did it.”
How do you communicate the Bible to support lasting faith?