Category Archives: teenagers and christian culture

the word on the street. a bible for youth?

Christian culture affects the faith lives of our young people. I’m afraid that the way that we market Bibles for young people leaves them with a distorted view of Christianity and without the ability to personally grow as disciples.

I’ve been looking for a slim-line, faux-leather, publication of the NRSV as it is the translation that I use right beside the NIV. I don’t use it exclusively and I don’t think others should either (there are some textual issues: note the differences between Matthew 16:24 in the NRSV and the NASB, for example). The NRSV’s that I have are big, hardcover, and impractical to carry around. So I’ve been in everybook store that I pass looking for it. I can’t find a single one. Not a single one. (there is this one, but it’s 3 times taller than it is wide!)

But I have found a lot of other relatively helpful publications of the Bible: The Message, and the Word on the Street, and the Sportsman’s Bible, and the Leadership Bible, the Prophecy Bible, etc. I didn’t realize that there were that many Bibles–or is there just one and someone is making quite a bit of money…. Notice that this doesn’t concern the mass inventory of KJV, NKJV, HCSB, NIV, etc (though my mind is still out on the ESV–I need to look into that more). I hope that we don’t forget that the Bible is the Bible and these things are all commentary, artifice, or well-intended interpretation. There really is no Bible particularly for Men, Women, Teens, Fisherman, Leaders, etc; there is the Bible and these things can be used as tools to make the Scriptures accessible to different styles of living.

However…

The thing that strikes me as I peruse the Bible section is to see things like the Word on the Street, by Rob Lacey sitting right next to KJV, NIV, etc.

This isn’t about critiquing the Word on the Street as much as it is a critique on how Christian culture affects the faith of our young people.

I first came upon the Word on the Street when some one handed it to me and said “this would be perfect for the youth!” I opened it to the beginning and saw this:

First off, nothing. No light, no time, no substance, no matter. Second off, God starts it all up and WHAP! Stuff everywhere! The cosmos in chaos: no shape, no form, no function– just darkness … total. And floating above it all, God’s Holy Spirit, ready to play. Day one: Then God’s voice booms out, ‘Lights!’ and, from nowhere, light floods the skies and ‘night’ is swept off the scene. –from Genesis 1, The Word on the Street

How do you feel about that? Heavily interpreted. Heavily. Granted, the description on the book and in most online retailers is that this is a “retelling” of the Bible. However, even major Christian publishers such as Zondervan have this book in the Bibles for Youth category! Despite the claims that it makes for itself as a “retelling” it is being marketed as a Bible for youth, among other things. The cliche argument comes up: “well at least it gets people into the word of God.” Does it? A work such as this that doesn’t even include the entire canon of scripture, by its own nature, creates a theology of its own that is apart from the Scriptures themselves. So does it get people reading the Word of God? The real question is: is this kind of product the best way to get young people to read the Bible?

If the scriptures contained in the Old and New Testaments contain everything necessary for salvation, what kind of role does a “bible” like the Word on the Street need to take in the Church? Do we need to pass these out to students or do we need to teach them? Do we need to paraphrase the Bible and call that a Bible or do we need to teach students?

My personal stand: Though this may be a tool to get people started, I don’t think we should recommend resources like this and not do some extensive follow up with accepted translations of the scriptures. I will invest my time and energy in studying the Scripture in English translations that are accurate, peer-reviewed, and affirmed by the Church so that I can teach students to read, understand, and enjoy the Scriptures as they come to us in their cannonical form.

Though resources like Word on the Street may be tools to get people started, I don’t think we should recommend resources like this and not do some extensive follow up with accepted translations of the scriptures.

What do you think?

Teenagers and Christian Culture: have we gone to far?

There is an age gap in the church. So we are trying to fix it. One way to do that is to really reach out to teenagers and young adults. In a fast-paced, skeptical world, we often need to evaluate how we are presenting the Gospel and the church in order to reach these people.

In some areas, I’m afraid we’ve gone to far…way, way to far.

“Christian culture” breaks my heart. “Christian marketing” breaks my heart. “How-to-Christianity” breaks my heart.

The problems that I have with “mass-market Christianity” are:

1.  Many resources are “dumbed down.”  While this may make them accessible, they also lead to a misunderstanding of the depth of our faith and Scriptures.  They present a “that’s all there is” idea.

2.  It is hard to prevent the proliferation of false doctrine.

3.   The assumption that young people cannot engage in the full, mature life of the church and scriptures.

4.  How it leads the church into “passing the buck” to mass market Christian resources to make disciples.

5.  Mass market ideas create a “Christian culture” that we then need to combat.

I am convicted:

I’m afraid that I’ve passed the buck to others in making disciples.

I’m afraid that when presented with some teaching opportunities that I’ve just pointed people towards a resource instead of taking the time with them.

I’m afraid I’ve passed the buck. I’m afraid the Church has passed the buck. Christian culture is not always the best teacher. Christian culture does not do a good job of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Christian culture can never take the place of the people of God “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I [Jesus] have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

I repent. Will you join me?

Read more:

  1. Bibles for Youth
  2. Quiet time? Spiritual disciplines for youth (soon)
  3. Youth Ministries (soon)