Recently, at the church I am helping out at as an interim pastor, we had some guests come to our Sunday service.  They were a nice family.  They were actually family members of our choir/music directors.  The father was Hawaiian and the mother was Japanese.  Their three children ranged from age eight to thirteen (two young girls and an older brother).  Like many churches we dismiss for Children’s Church during the Sunday sermon.  So their three children left to join the class.

My wife taught the class with the help of another woman.  After church I asked how it went with the children.  To my wife’s surprise these children knew very little about Jesus, not to mention the Bible and characters like Noah and Moses.  At one point one of the children held up the Bible and said, “What’s this book?  It’s so big and doesn’t have any pictures.  I wouldn’t want to read that book.  It looks boring” (Of course I am paraphrasing and will get yelled at later for not quoting her correctlyJ).  As my wife and the other woman would answer the questions, the children showed continual signs of unfamiliarity with what we as Christians often take for granted.

Needless to say my wife was quite astounded.  Afterwards the choir directors explained to us that the children’s mother was into some Eastern religions and often dismissed Christianity to her children.  Therefore her children had a rather ignorant and stuffy attitude about Christianity.

We learned from that experience that we take far too much for granted as Christians and don’t often appreciate the vast amount of resources and understanding we have in regards to our faith.   Our children are three and four years old and they know who Noah is and the Biblical story encompassing him.  If you ask them if they know who Noah is they would look at you as if you asked them if they ever heard of candy.  They know much about the Faith because we have taught them and they have been surrounded by a faith community that has put forth the time and energy to inform them.

I am very concerned about this issue in our day.  It seems that many Christians are unaware of this problem and think that everyone else has been churched like they have and all went to Sunday school at some point and learned how Jesus fed the thousands with five loaves and two fish.  But the reality is…there is a growing segment of our culture who do not have a clue who Jesus Christ is—I know, I have met a few!

I have a book called The Art of Reading Scripture.  In it, one of the essays addresses pastors and teachers within the Church and how they address their audience.  The author explains that the days of assuming your audience knows what you are talking about are long gone.  NEVER ASSUME YOUR AUDIENCE’S KNOWLEDGE OR GRASP OF THE FAITH.  Assume the opposite…that they haven’t got a clue—because many of them haven’t.

This may be due to the fact that they haven’t had the convenience of being taught much about the Faith.  Or it may be that at the age of eight they learned to check out mentally during our sermons or lessons because we either used large theological words and concepts (that few people grasp) or because we preach/teach almost apologetically—because we are not fully convinced that what we have to say is of any merit or consequence.  Either way, we need to have a fresh approach and invest time and energy in passionately educating our flock in the things of God.

Much of the evangelical church has moved too far away from catechisms (probably because of anti-Catholic sentiments and an over-emphasis on only getting people converted so that they can die and go the sweet by and by) and it has been to our own detriment.  We need Christians who truly understand their faith so that they can effectively flesh it out in day to day life and share the good news with others.

Hosea 4:6 says, “My people perish from lack of knowledge.”  This is a major epidemic in our Church today and if it is not addressed now and continuously we may find that we have bred too many shallow Christians for the world of tomorrow.  Please, let’s get back to catechisms, discipleship classes, mentorships, Bible studies, and solid Christian education.  There are far too many alternative forms of Christianity through Christian-like movements that are confusing our people.  We cannot be mad at them for straying when we have done little as shepherds of God’s fold to attend and keep them.  Having a nice choir with exciting sermons is not enough.  We need to deeply root our family of Christ in what John Wesley called “a right-living faith.”  Bring back the creeds, confessions, memory verses, sword drills, conversations (allowing the tough and uncomfortable questions) and praise/worship songs (with scripture put to music—not just catchy melodies with meaningless words).

Never before has the Bible been so readily available; yet never before have so many people been so Biblically illiterate.  We can change that!

 

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