Growing up in church, kids always got special treatment. At my church, for example, there was some unwritten rule giving all adults in church “special” permission to “discipline” us as though we were their own kids. Doyle Braden was an arm-grabber, as I recall. Mr. Lettow would flick the backs of our heads. Sean’s dad pinched ears. Hard.
Church kids didn’t have to listen to sermons. We were allowed to draw on the backs of bulletins and take naps. The sermon was for “grownups.” The kids, well, we were told “Bible stories.”
I remember my Sunday School teacher pulling out the flannelgraph and using felt-cutouts of camels, caves, and men with beards retell (okay- summarize) the stories of the Bible. Noah and the Ark. The Fiery Furnace. The Good Samaritan. Great stories, all told in kid-friendly ways. You know, like on Sesame Street.
And that was the problem. Our little kid brains had a hard time telling the difference between Bible stories (which, I presume our teachers believed to have really happened or, in the case of the Samaritan, to have really been told by Jesus) and every other story we had been told. After all, David and Goliath had a giant, but so did Jack and the Beanstalk. Jesus was resurrected by the power of God, Sleeping Beauty was revivified by the Kiss of a Prince. To us, it was all kind of the same.
To make matters worse, our teachers often oversimplified the stories, diluting them into moralistic tales that they were never meant to be. Adam and Eve, Jacob and Esau, and Achan, taught us that is was bad to tell a lie. David and Jonathan showed us that sharing made us a good friend. Jonah was a lesson in obedience. Sunday morning Bible stories were like lo-tech Saturday morning cartoons. Only boring.
Looking back, I recognize that each “story” was an opportunity to share the gospel; to demonstrate our need for a savior and to recognize God’s provision in Christ. But instead, we learned that sharing and using good manners made Jesus happy. As we grew up, those stories were left behind for more practical topical Bible studies and the abstract “meat” of Pauline theology.
Of course, we eventually learned that The Three Little Pigs, The Seven Dwarfs, and all the other protagonists in our childhood stories weren’t real. How were we to know that their Bible story counterparts were?
I suppose what I’m getting at is that we need to be careful how we communicate things. The Bible isn’t God’s Cautionary Tales. Sure, there are lots of examples in the history of the Creator’s interaction with creation, but there’s more to it than that. Everything recorded in the text points to humanity’s relationship to God, made right only through the life, death, and real resurrection of Jesus. The way we talk about that history will affect how it is understood by those we tell.
Why do I need God’s word on my heart if I’ve got it on my iPhone?
I often hear pastors lament the fall in Biblical literacy among believers today. People just don’t know their Bibles anymore. Supposedly mature Christians don’t know who built the Ark or that the Children of Israel were not actually all children.
The ignorance may be due, in large part, to the fact that we have technology designed to do our remembering for us, making it easier and easier to not know the information we depend on every day. The internet connection in my pocket means that I don’t need to memorize a recipe, driving directions, or order confirmation numbers. I don’t even know anyone’s phone number anymore. Appointments, birthdays, and reservations all live in my phone and computer, quietly waiting until it’s time to remind me of their pending arrival. The infinite capacity of the interwebs leaves more and more free space on my biological “hard drive.”
Access to digital copies of the Bible should change the way we interact with scripture. For instance, we don’t need to lug around Life Application Study Bibles anymore. (Good riddance highlighters and gold script name embossing!) We don’t need to settle on one perspective for study notes or even a single translation or language anymore. These days, our Bibles hyperlink to commentaries, maps, satellite images, and dramatic reenactment video clips. Metadata tagging make chapter and verse numbers obsolete. Sharing scripture is no longer an expensive (and heavy!) endeavor; now it’s just an upload/download away.
So do YouVersion and Bible Gateway mean I don’t need to know scripture? No. The Word is more than just information- it is “the power of God unto salvation.” That power is applied to my life- not when I download scripture to my Kindle, but when I hide it in my heart. We need to have the Word in our minds and on the tips of our tongues for it to powerfully affect every aspect of our lives. Temptation doesn’t wait for Bible Gateway to load. We need to have access to that foundation of Truth even (especially!) when our batteries are dead.