posted on September 05, 2012 07:11
By Thomas Rasmussen, Youth Director for the Danish Union of Churches Conference
“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2 Cor. 2: 1-2).
For the first time in 30 years, we experienced church growth in Denmark last year. We give thanks to God, and we wonder: “What have we done differently?”
One thing is sure: no two young people are alike. They are all different—all created in the image of God, but with different needs, different abilities, different ambitions. But if we take the message of the Gospel seriously, they also have one need in common – they need Jesus.
Throughout the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of studying with youth from many different backgrounds – Danish, African, Christian, Atheist, Muslim – you name it. I had not been in ministry for more than a year before I suddenly found myself with seven students who wanted to prepare for baptism, and I had to figure out what to study with them. I had several options: I could go through the 28 Fundamental Beliefs; I could teach them everything we believe from the book of Revelation; I could preach everything we believe from the Gospels. I could choose from one of the many study guides that are available. But I decided not to do any of the above. I did not want to go through the 28 Fundamental Beliefs—I wanted to go through one.
In my experience with youth, I have found that many of them do not know how to read their Bibles, which either results in them not reading, or they become extremely frustrated when they do read. Some choose to simply read the parts they agree with because they do not know what to do about the rest.
When I was taught Biblical Theology in college, our teacher, Dr. Pedersen, went through the Bible as one grand narrative. He taught us how to see the Bible as a field. Our fundamental beliefs are the fence posts. They mark the boundaries of the field. They mark the boundaries of our Biblical view – our world view. But they do not necessarily tell us what we believe about everything. In order to know that, we need to look to the field – we need to look to the Bible.
And so, for the last few years, we have been challenging our youth and our pastors to read the Bible as a whole in baptismal preparations, and our youth have been blessed because they feel that they are learning to actually read and understand their Bible, and when we look and read through the fundamental beliefs afterwards, they can see that we’ve still gone through them, but we have not gone through them topically. We have not gone through them using proof texts. Because when we do that, we teach youth what we believe, but we do not teach them how to read, and if we want our youth to get to know Jesus and grow in their understanding of who He is, we need to give them the tools that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12: 32).