I read a Barna report about how young people today take a different approach to the Bible than previous generations and I have to admit that as I look at the overall landscape, I do see it. Of course, not all young people hold these perspectives but enough do that it should raise some questions.
The report is not saying that young people do not value the Bible or that they never read it. Rather, it refers to the perceptions of young people toward the Bible, which would, in turn, affect the way they approach Bible study. The report notes the following changes in young people from older generations. For descriptions of the following perceptions, go to the Barna Report.
- less sacred
- less accurate
- more universalism
- skepticism of origins
- less engagement
- Bible appetite
The first question I asked myself is, “How did it get this way?” Once I figure that out, I believe answers to how to change the tide will become more evident.
Surely it did not get this way overnight. And, change will not come by throwing on a few bandaids. The seeds were undoubtedly planted over the course of time and the roots go deep. If that is true, it means change must begin with the older generations as obviously we have been the ones who planted the seeds. What have we done, or not done, that led young people to view the Bible in these ways?
Surely we must also factor in the influence of the world with all of its relativistic and universal thinking. In light of Romans 12:1-2, any change of perspective is going to be a transformation “by the renewing of the mind.” What must that look like in discipleship efforts with young people?
I must say that I am encouraged by the last point on Barna’s list. Young people do have an appetite for the Bible, an “interest in gaining additional Bible knowledge” that scores higher than other generations. That’s encouraging. That gives hope that the tide can change. But it also brings me back to those of us in older generations. If we don’t have as much of an appetite for the Word, perhaps then we haven’t been modeling an approach to the Bible that communicates its worth and sufficiency. Have we forsaken our first love? If so, let’s be reminded of Jesus’ words to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:5 —
Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.