Sometimes the Bible is Boring

I’ve always enjoyed watching movies. They draw me in and excite me. The story. The characters. The music. The emotion. The images. It’s quite an experience. Some movies are better experiences than others. Some I’ve seen several times and others just once. I don’t discriminate based on the genre. I’m open to sci-fi, romantic comedy, suspenseful action-packed thrillers, animated films, etc.

In the past month I’ve seen two movies in theater: Interstellar and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. These 2 were hyped a lot, and in my opinion, they didn’t disappoint. I have no desire to do a movie review, but Interstellar in particular was quite the experience. It delved into some of life’s biggest questions. It took you on an emotional roller coaster. It was one of the most visually stimulating movies I’ve ever seen. The music was heavy, uplifting, engaging and overwhelming. It brought you in close to the story it was telling.

When I walked out of that experience my mind was racing. I thought about many of the different ideas and questions the movie raised. And then I had a question myself:

How do I get students to read their Bible when they are watching movies like this?

Now before you think I’m one of those bible-thumping-narrow-minded-movie-hater Christians, hear me out.

See, I work with students. I’m constantly thinking, praying and strategizing about how best to connect this generation with Jesus. And as technology continues to broaden the realm of experiential possibilities through movies, it makes it more difficult for someone like me to say to a student “read your bible.” I mean before we even get to “how?” think about “why?” a student would even want to.

Why would they want to sit down and read a book with black letters (and some red letters if they have a certain translation) on thin, white paper when they can go watch a movie like Interstellar?

Why would they want to read a book that was written a long-time ago and is sometimes difficult to understand when they can go watch a movie like Interstellar?

Why do they want to read something that seems boring like the Bible, when they can go watch something exciting like Interstellar?

Why do they want to read at all, which takes effort, when they can go and passively watch a movie like Interstellar?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a few weeks, and it’s one that isn’t going away. It’s one that’s in a category of questions the church has been wrestling with forever. And the answer is not to condemn movies or to try and sway kids not to watch them. That’s a losing battle. The answer lies in our approach. We have to listen to what is going on in culture and then begin speaking into it.

Because the question is not just “how do I get students to read their Bible?” It’s more than that.

How do we do ministry?

What does church look like in our current culture?

How can I explain the significance of following Jesus?

How do I do________ in an “Interstellar” culture?

As I’ve thought about this and talked with others, here are 6 suggestions that I think can help this generation connect with Jesus.

1) Bring out the life and energy found in the Bible.                                                                                               

Notice I didn’t say, “Bring the Bible to Life.” That would assume that it really is boring and we have a lot of work to do as ministry leaders. But it isn’t. It’s exciting! There’s action. Drama. Scandal. Murder. Miracles. PG-13 type material. Dead people come back to life. People walk on water. And a central figure named Jesus who comes on a rescue mission to save all of humanity from the consequences of their sin. It’s incredible!
“Boring” and “Bible” should not be synonyms. If you teach or preach, commit to bringing out the life and energy already there. And oh yeah, bring your own energy to it!

2) Engage as many of students’ senses as possible when teaching.

This generation experiences sensory overload on a daily basis. With computers, phones and televisions in front of them constantly, it’s good to give them a break. However, it’s also influenced the way they learn and gives teachers other means of connecting with them. Show movie clips. Show pictures. Use props. Draw a diagram. Tell stories. It will make your teaching more effective. CS Lewis was maybe one of the best to ever engage the whole person. Read any of his fiction, especially The Chronicles of Narnia, and you will see how he used many different elements to engage the senses.

3) Help students see the sustainable fulfillment that comes from a relationship with Christ.

Movies, video games, etc. has made us believe we have to always be having an experience, and if we aren’t, we’re missing out. But that’s just not true. High experiences are temporary. Life is lived in the mundane. And in that mundane comes a fulfillment that can be found through a daily relationship with Christ. Through that relationship lies a greater future than anything on this earth could offer.

4) Encourage students to use their God-given talents and gifts.

There are a ton of opportunities for this generation to express themselves in creative ways. We do a disservice to the God who made them when we discourage creativity. We must encourage it! Help students figure out who God has created them to be and celebrate as they live it out.

5) Connect them to the larger story of God on a regular basis.

One of the amazing things movies can do is cause people to long to be a part of the world that the director has created. They can make people feel like they are a part of something bigger. And more, they cause people to feel like they can make a difference. We have largely underwhelmed people with the Gospel if they do not grasp many of those same truths when they read the Bible or hear someone teach from it. Because we are a part of something HUGE—the redemption of all humanity. And we all have a part in that mission. We must connect students to the reality of what God is doing and wants to do in their lives.

6) Allow them to ask questions.                                                                                                                                    

This generation is Bible illiterate. And that’s okay. If we act as if it’s not okay to ask questions about their faith it discourages growth and eventually belief altogether. I’ve written more about that here.

I’m going to keep watching movies. They’re pretty great. Maybe another suggestion could be “Take a student to a movie.” I don’t know. What others suggestions do you have?

Have a Quiet Time

bible-reading

Last week I wrote a post titled “The Reason You May Be Struggling to Believe in God.” While there are lots of reasons people struggle, the reason I talked through was this: most people haven’t tried a relationship with him. I went on to show how a relationship with God can come before belief and can actually be what helps many to believe in him. And then I clarified that’s it’s not just a “whenever I feel like it” relationship, but a personal, daily one. If you haven’t had a chance to read that post you can check it out HERE.

At the end of the last post I asked the obvious question: “This all sounds great, but how can I have a personal, daily relationship with God? What does that look like?” I’ve heard from many people who said last week’s post was encouraging and challenging and were looking forward to today’s post. So let’s jump in.

You can have a personal, daily relationship with God by following Jesus’ example in Mark 1:35. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Now I just lost many of you with the “very early in the morning” part. But stay with me. Before Jesus started his day he personally connected with God, his heavenly father. It wasn’t something done with a large group of people. It wasn’t something he did in public for everyone to see. It was just a designated time for him and God to relationally connect through prayer. You could say he had a “quiet time.”

Several years ago I was taught to have a quiet time each day. I was told that more than anything else in my life a quiet time would grow my faith the most. I was told it would be a tool to having a personal, daily relationship with God. And it has been.

So how can you have one? It’s not complicated. It’s quite simple actually. And there are many different ways to have one. But what I wanted to do is give you a way so that you could begin having a quiet time if you don’t already.

What You Need

Place. Find a place where you can be uninterrupted for a period of time. It should be familiar to you and somewhere where you can stay awake and engage with God. Laying down in your bed is probably a bad idea. For me, it’s my study at my house.

Time. For Jesus, that was first thing in the morning. That’s what I do and prefer. By doing it first thing, it shapes my perspective on the day and allows me to pray for what is ahead of me. It also ensures that I do it. I know for me, it would be easy to forget or be distracted from having a quiet time daily if it wasn’t first thing in the morning. You may have another time of day that works better. Maybe you are more alert in the afternoon and have a break where you could work it in. Try that. The time of day isn’t as important as having some time during the day. Also, the length of time will vary. For some people they spend 15 minutes and for others they spend an hour. Again, the length isn’t as important as devoting some period of time each day.

Readable Bible in print. You shouldn’t have trouble understanding what’s being said. If you are, try a different version. That might mean moving away from the KJV. Versions that I use are the NLT, NIV and ESV. It should also probably be a physical Bible in print. I have a Bible App on my iPhone and iPad and love it. But when I do my quiet time, I use a physical copy of the Bible so I don’t get distracted by notifications popping up, texts, phone calls, etc.

– Notebook and Pen.

What You Do: One Example of a Quiet Time to Try

Pray: Say a short prayer asking God to speak to you through his Word. I regularly pray through Matthew 4:4, “It is written, Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” That reminds me of my daily need to connect with God and hear from him.

Read: Pick a passage of Scripture to read through. It can be 5 verses, a paragraph, a chapter, or more. If you’re just starting out, try reading where the chapters are divided with headers in each chapter. In the past I’ve gone through one chapter of Proverbs each day that corresponds to the day of the month. I recently read through Jeremiah and now I’m going through Matthew one chapter at a time. Whatever passage you choose read through it slowly, at least once, trying to digest what is being said.

Write: Now, try and boil down 1 main idea from the passage you just read and write it down. If it’s a longer passage there may be more than 1 thing you write. Then, I try and answer a couple more questions:
-What does this passage show me about myself?
-What does this passage show me about God?
-What does this passage tell me to do? / How can I apply what I’ve learned?

Pray: Now you are ready to pray. In the book, “Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods” a very helpful prayer guide is given for your quiet time. It models Jesus’ teaching on how to pray in Matthew 6:5-14. Here it is:

-Praise. Start by thanking God for who he is and what he has done for you in your life. Take time to specifically acknowledge how he has provided for you. Tell him why and what you are most thankful for. Express your love for him.

-Repent. To “repent” means to agree with God that what you have done that he says is sinful is so, to be remorseful for it, and to ask him for help turning away from it. Take time to repent for specific sins that God brings to your mind.

-Ask. Ask God to answer personal prayer requests you have. They can be for you, friends, family, others you don’t know, situations you believe God should step into, etc. Writing these down helps you to remember who you’ve prayed for and helps you look back and see the prayers God has answered.

Yield. Acknowledge that God is God and you are not. That you want his will to be done on this earth. Commit to trusting in him for the prayers you have offered, the sins you need to avoid, and for providing for you. Ask that he will help you to obey what it is he has revealed to you today through your quiet time. Finish with thanking him again.

So how can you have a personal, daily relationship with God? Have a quiet time. It will be a game-changer for your faith. And you will begin to connect with the God of the universe, your heavenly father, like never before.

I’m not perfect. I miss days having a quiet time. And on those days, I miss out on what God wants for my life. So what do you say? Give it a try. What do you have to lose? And what might you gain?

Pic Credit HERE