Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

11 Mar

Published Article-Scripture as Cure

Posted in Uncategorized on 11.03.11 by Merlyn

Scripture as Cure

By Rev. Marcus J Carlson

I find myself thinking about the nature and authority of Scripture constantly. Scripture has taken quite a beating over the past few decades in the world, and in the American church as well. Unfortunately, the Lutheran church has been no exception to this trend, which is unfortunate because the entire nature of our faith tradition is founded on the notion of “Word alone.” The American church seems not only to be softening its view on the Scriptures, but walking away from them altogether.

I have asserted for many years that if you walk away from the source, you will die. Our failure to embrace the authority of the Bible is one of a handful of factors contributing to the decline of the church in the United States today. Yet, ministries to children and youth have not been impacted as much as the larger church by the rejection of the Scriptures. In most church environments, there is still an expectation for the church to teach children and youth the Bible. Admittedly, in many cases this teaching has weakened significantly, but in general not as much as it has in the church at large.

While I am saddened by this shift in the church, I refuse to embrace it. I try to reverse this trend without holding to a literal or fundamentalist approach to the Scriptures. In recent years, Scripture has become even more central to my ministry, teaching and working with children, youth, parents and other adults.

In our attempt to become more relevant and to attract people to the church, we have become fearful of the Scriptures and have done a great disservice to ourselves and to the world. More important, we have done a great disservice to

the Gospel. Here is the secret: the Scriptures are relevant enough on their own. They do not need an apology or an explanation.

Contrary to what we might believe, people do not come to the church to hear the same thing that they can hear outside of the church—they come for something different. People come to the church, looking for the radical life change that comes from something bigger than themselves, not a watered-down version of the Word of God. They are not looking for “Jesus light” or a little bit of spirituality to sprinkle into their lives.

This is most profoundly true with children and youth. In fact, I have observed more passion, interest and curiosity around the Scriptures from children and youth than ever before in my career. They are hungry, and the church has not always done a good job of providing a hearty meal for them.

Parents too are becoming increasingly curious about the Scriptures. They often struggle with feelings of inadequacy about their own Bible knowledge or their ability to teach their children the Bible, let alone be the spiritual leaders of their children.

I have discussed these issues before, and the good news in the midst of this season of challenge for the church is that it is also an opportunity. It is an opportunity for the church to stop apologizing for itself, for God and for the Scriptures. We have the tools, the answers and the One in our midst already. The Bible speaks for itself and will always be relevant—and contrary to what we might think and what others might say—the people in our churches and in our communities want to engage with the Scriptures, especially our children and youth.

The Scriptures are the cure. They are the cure for the needs of our people and our ministries. The Scriptures are the cure for a world that is hurting and desperately needs to know the love of God. The Scriptures tell The Story, our story. We need to reclaim the use and the authority of the Scriptures; we need to rethink how we view the Scriptures as well. Without seeing the Scriptures as authoritative, they simplybecome a nice story or an idea, and eventually can lose all meaning and application for our lives.

The Scriptures are authoritative. They are infallible. They are the inspired Word of God. The words of the Scripture have power, meaning and authority. The Scriptures are a relational document that tell the story of God in the world, the story of salvation. The Scriptures point us to our salvation, to the Kingdom. The Scriptures show us the path to abundant life.

The Scriptures are also the cure to all that ails our children, youth, parents and families. Being a family united in Christ is no easy task in today’s world. The challenges are overwhelming, and the resources, dangers and temptations are many. While there are many issues facing children, youth, parents and families as a whole, there are three issues that I would like to address. I see these three issues as the greatest roadblocks to emotionally and spiritually healthy children, youth and adults. The three issues of narcissism, entitlement, and moralistic therapeutic deism are the greatest challenges to the spiritual formation and development of children and youth in the American church today.

Narcissism is simply selfishness to the extreme. Narcissism asserts that “it’s all about me,” and all that really matters are our own needs, wants, desires and feelings. Narcissists overreact to criticism and lack empathy. This selfishness rarely helps the narcissist and almost never helps anyone around them. It is a roadblock to an authentic relationship with God.

Entitlement is a growing mindset amongst teenagers and parents. It is more predominant in some areas of the country than in others, and is often more predominant in areas of higher income. Entitlement is simply the belief that we are entitled to the things we desire—on our terms and without consequence. Entitlement asserts that we deserve almost anything we want, and we should not have to wait to get it. It believes that we deserve to be catered to by individuals, groups and organizations. This can be seen in many educational and sports organizations and institutions.

The National Study of Youth and Religion, funded by the Lilly Endowment, resulted in some interesting findings published in 2005 in a book called Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. The study and the book concluded that most Christian American teenagers and their parents are suffering from a view known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). This belief held by the vast majority of churched Christians in America is that God created the world and is no longer involved, active or at work in the world. God just wants people to be nice and

He wants them to be happy, and their main goal and God’s desire is for people to feel good about themselves and be happy. Those who hold to MTD only see a need for God in the midst of a crisis. This is a Biblical and theological problem with dire consequences in the long-term.

These three issues are connected to each other. The cure for each of these three issues is found in the Scriptures. In order to move beyond these challenges and others, we need to return to the Scriptures. We must give the Scriptures authority in our lives.

If we do not choose to submit to God and His Word, we will by default submit to something else—our feelings, our wants, our desires or our agendas. If we do not submit to the Scriptures, then we will continue to miss out on the abundant life promised us in the Gospel of John.

May God grant us the wisdom and the strength to submit to the Scriptures!

No Comments »