Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dumb on Boredom: Don't Play to the Slack Crowd

Tom used to launch spitballs during Bible Study. Our youth pastor would open up the Bible, start talking about some text or other, and Tom would just goof off and do something to interrupt the the whole Bible Study. I wondered why he even came - why come to something called a Bible Study if you aren't all that interested in studying the Bible?!

Pastors and Bible Study leaders sometimes respond to these situations by preaching to the lowest common denominator in their crowd. If a certain congregant/house church member falls asleep during their sermons, the pastor might preach for less time next week. The poor reading skills of some congregants might lead to the pastor embracing a more readable but less literal translation to replace the existing pew Bibles. Complicated theological subjects get to be avoided all together, because (after all) who would understand? The result of this is a slack, shallow theology for a group of increasingly slack and shallow Christians. When you play to the least motivated crowd, you get the people that you aim for - people who can show up to something called a Bible study and then act surprised and hurt that it's not really a games night.

If you go slack on your Bible teaching, you are robbing your people. Lightening up on your campus group could mean that you aren't guarding them from arguments by the school's Atheists and Muslim clubs; it could mean the kids in your youth group don't have the tools to evaluate some random web link that says Christianity borrowed our beliefs from Paganism; it could leave those under your care completely defenseless against the seething doubt that this world of ours pushes against religious faith. Whether you are an army chaplain, a sports player, a campus crusader, a high school kid, or a youth pastor, you need to guard the weaker Christians under your care. But you can't do that if you are spending all your time trying to accommodate the kid in the back who does not care and who gets bored too easily. If he does not want to change, then at some point that becomes his/her responsibility. If you accommodate the slackers too much you will end up harming everyone else. It is not your responsibility to play to the lowest common denominator just because one or two people come to your Bible Study every week hoping that maybe, just maybe tonight will be games night. There are enough of those in the world. We need some place that will offer some real discipleship.

Some of the kids who are bored might get some leniency from you because you think they're not that bright. After all, how could a 16 year old kid possibly understand or care about civilization in early Corinth? Answer: the same way that they are able to understand enough ancient culture to pass their ancient-history exam. These kids can get what you are saying (that's to you, Youth Pastors). The same lesson goes for people on sports teams or Christian clubs or small groups; don't go too light on the meat of real Bible teaching. If you leave your people starved for the sake of 'dumbing things down' for the one guy who isn't all that dedicated in the first place, you're really just fighting boredom by fostering stupidity. And I'm not sure how that method of ministry really serves anybody.

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