Youth pastors, as a general rule, are a pretty interesting collection of people. We’ve been known to grow goatees and wear cargo shorts on a regular basis but we’ve also come to be known for certain other things. If you ask students of a ministry what their youth pastor tends to teach you might hear a variety of things. Don’t do drugs! Don’t have sex! Respect your parents! All typical battle cries of a youth pastor. But youth pastors also tend to harp on spiritual disciplines. Read your Bible, Go to church, lather, rinse, repeat. We even get to the point sometimes of putting out a guilt trip to those who didn’t read their Bible this week in the hopes that they might “feel the spirit tug on their heart” and read their Bible next week. But this summer, my view of the Bible has changed.
Now before the fundamentalist inside you starts writing me hate mail let me explain. I’ve always known that scripture was important and I’ve always understood that the reading of my Bible was essential for my growth as a Christian, but over this summer my view of the latter has slightly evolved. My view of the inerrancy, validity, and necessity of scripture has not and will not change. I still see scripture as the infallible, authoritative and inerrant word of God. But recently I’ve begun to ask questions with regard to my involvement in the scriptures. As I think of some of these issues I’m reminded of the movie, “Book of Eli”. If you haven’t seen the movie, Eli has the last copy of scripture and is trying to transport it through a post-apocalyptic world to a place where it might be copied and sustained. This concept of a post apocalyptic world in danger of forever loosing something that we as Christians, and as a society, have held dear for so long is rather frightening at first glance. What would happen if the Bible was somehow gone tomorrow? What would I do? What would you do?
Could Christianity as a whole, survive without scripture? How ‘bout the church? Could Christianity survive without church? As I pondered questions like this I was led to the core of my belief system and the basis for my life. These were foundational questions, because I’ve built my whole life on scripture and I’ve structured my career as well as my whole worldview around and in church. I’ve spent the last four years of my life pursuing a Bible degree. What if it was all gone tomorrow? I’m still here, God is still here, but I have no Bible, no Church, no Christians…
It was and is still a scary thought but I find comfort in the fact that my faith is not solely grounded in a book not even in the Bible. Sure, scripture is a foundation for a defense of my faith and is valuable as a source of trust but my faith goes deeper than the words printed in the 66 books that we call inspired cannon. It also goes deeper than the church which I’m very thankful for. I’m glad that my faith isn’t based on the church or on other Christians but that’s a different blog for a different day.
My faith is grounded in a relationship with a personal God. That relationship, no matter the circumstance or the dictator, cannot be taken away. The Bible could be taken away, church and the freedom to worship in public could be gone as soon as tomorrow but no one and nothing can remove my relationship with my creator. God has been revealed to us through creation according to Romans and I’m convinced that our relationship could, and would continue without the spiritual discipline of reading my Bible.
Now this idea comes with a lot of implications and I’d like to put out those fires before they start. I’m not giving license here to ignore the spiritual disciplines of reading the Bible and going to church. They are very beneficial to our growth as Christians as well as the furthering of the kingdom. I’m also not trying to downplay the importance of scripture. It is vital. What I would like to do is bring balance to our view of spiritual disciplines. There are those out there that would adamantly proclaim that it is impossible to maintain a healthy, growing relationship with God if you are not in your Bible and at church regularly. I have to respectfully disagree. Spiritual disciplines are tools in order to aid the Christian in their walk with God. They are not a walk with God in and of themselves. Let us remember the point of our ministry… It is not religion, or spirituality, or legalism. Paul tells Timothy that “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Too many times, as Christians, we get frustrated with what we call unfaithfulness. We want to read our Bibles for 10 minutes per day and what happens… we oversleep or forget and then we beat ourselves up and confess our blatant sin at small group each week. To be honest, that was me, and as I look back on it I see a lot of unneeded legalism and guilt in a life of a person who was truly pursuing God with all his heart. Was God really disappointed that I overslept and failed to give him that five minutes. I really don’t think so.
Now, balance is balance and while it would be legalistic to get to the point where you are depressed every time that you fail to spend an extra 10 minutes in your Bible, it would be lazy and sinful to completely forsake the word and claim that it’s not necessary. Balance is the key in almost every area of life and I think it ought to be our goal to strive for that middle ground, especially in areas such as this.