Thursday, July 26, 2012

On-Air Radio Talk–Sports and Gospel

Why do sporting events draw so many viewers as opposed to the communication of the gospel?

I had the opportunity to spend about 25 minutes on the local Christian radio, KRSA, to talk about whatever was on my mind.

With the Tour de France just having ended and the London Olympics starting and going for the next couple of weeks, I talked about sporting events drawing the attention of millions of people and why people are so drawn to them. I then discussed our communication of the gospel and why it doesn’t seem to have the draw that sporting events do.

People watch sporting events not primarily for the stats, the scores, and certainly not for the rules and regulations. People watch because in each competition, in each event, there is a story that unfolds that grabs our heart and our emotions.

Similarly in our communication of the gospel, we can opt to talk about theology and doctrines, or we can choose to talk about the story. Which grabs the attention of someone unfamiliar with Jesus? Which do most people enjoy? It’s not that theology and doctrines aren’t important or have no value. There is much that is important to rules and regulations in sports, but the focus is not on them but on what happens – the story that unfolds. It should be the same with how the gospel is communicated: for the presenter, theology and doctrine forms a framework but that is not what we are to communicate. Rather we should be focusing on the story: its appeal and enjoyment. Jesus should be seen as the hero in whom our fears die and our hopes born.

Full discussion audio

Monday, July 09, 2012

Falling into the trap of doing Bible study

Pretty much all Christians agree that regular time spent with our Father is an important aspect of the Christian life. There are certainly plenty of tools to help us along: Bible reading plans, daily devotional books, e-mail devotionals, etc..

While we pursue this “spending time with God” objective, there is a trap – a trap of falling into Bible study. I find that simply reading a section of the Bible or reading a devotional thought, often seems as if I haven’t really accomplished anything. Some devotionals aren’t helpful in this regard either, because they close with questions such as, “What is God telling you in this passage?” or “How can you apply this passage to your life?”

These devotionals turn “Spending Time with God” into a scheduled business meeting: I read a passage from the Bible, perhaps and associated devotional thought, and then before I leave the “meeting” I somehow must convey back to God what it is all supposed to mean. The temptation is to do Bible study, then and there: pull out the commentaries, Greek resources, dictionaries, etc. Until I can check off a few accomplishments, my “Time with God” isn’t done.

Is that right? All of us at one point have been children with parents or guardians, people that we associated with as family. Some of us are now parents or grandparents with children of our own. When we spend time with our families, do we treat our time as business meetings where each person must complete some sort of checklist activity until we are free to go? I think not!

However well-intentioned questions at the end of devotionals may be, however well-intentioned teachers may have been in instructing us in the how-to’s of spending time with God, I suspect many of us, myself included, have missed the point. It is not a business meeting where we must somehow develop responses to a set of questions, or find solutions and applications to what we just read. Often I think we do this to assuage some sort of guilt feelings about not doing enough. We feel that if we put more effort into Bible study somehow it is more “quality time” than simply reading and praying.

Most of our family conversations isn’t about teaching or searching for applications. It’s simply about sharing what is going on, finding out about one another’s lives, and communicating our hopes and fears. Only occasionally do conversations become problem-solving sessions. Even then many times we don’t just sit there and hammer away until the problem is solved. Rather, we will likely go our separate ways and perhaps sometime during the day when we are involved in something completely different, an insight may form in our minds.

Our time with God, I suspect, is supposed to more resemble our family conversations. We share our hopes and fears, our problems with God. He in turn speaks to us through the Bible, through other works of inspiration, through reminders of what we may have seen and heard in the past. Sometimes it may be good to spend some time then to figure out some things, but mostly it shouldn’t be about trying to figure out what God is trying to say to us and how what we read might be applicable in our immediate lives.

I’ve experienced some of the most insightful thoughts form long after I’ve read or heard a passage or devotional. They’ve had a chance to simmer and meld with other words, passages, and life experiences. Perhaps it can be likened to a raw carrot: it is perfectly edible and good on its own, but when it is placed into a pot, with some liquid and other ingredients (herbs, spices, other vegetables, meats), and allowed to simmer and stew for some time, the result is good in a way that is different from simply its raw form.

Bible study is good and has its place. But don’t let your “Time with God” constantly turn into Bible study.