Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Youth Ministry

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post from Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed.  His starting point is what happens when ministry turns from the “phraseological” to the “real”, that is, when ministry turns from pastor as teacher/dispenser of information and wisdom and the congregation as empty minds waiting to be filled, to pastor as guide/mentor for the congregation to discover God at work in their lives and theology as distinctly tied to real life as lived by the congregation.

McKnight zeroes in on the specific case of youth ministry.  Quoting liberally from Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker by Andrew Root, he looks at how Bonhoeffer’s approach to youth ministry during his time as a Sunday school teacher at Abyssinian Baptist in New York City moved youth ministry from the “phraseological” to the “real”.  He then moves on to quote Bonhoeffer’s theses on youth work and the Church.  These are prophetic words which a youth-obsessed modern evangelicalism would do very well to heed.  Here are some of the big-money quotes:

…the spirit of youth is not the Holy Spirit and that the future of he church is not youth itself but rather the Lord Jesus Christ alone. It is the task of youth not to reshape the church, but rather to listen to the word of God; it is the task of the church not to capture the youth, but to teach and proclaim the word of God.


Youth enjoys no special privilege in the church-community. It is to serve the church-community by hearing, learning, and practicing the word. God’s spirit in the church has nothing to do with youthful criticism of the church, the radical nature of God’s claim on human beings nothing to do with youthful radicalism, and the commandment for sanctification nothing to do with youthful impulse to better the world. “Christian” [and] “youth’ is a rather harsh and not very credible word combination. The issue is not ‘modern” or “old fashioned,” but rather solely our thinking concerning and from the perspective of the church.

Read “What Happens to Church Ministry When…?” by Scot McKnight

Fr. Stephen Freeman: There Is No “Bible” in the Bible

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post by Fr. Stephen Freeman on the nature of Scripture.  Freeman is an Orthodox priest; as such he writes from an Eastern Orthodox perspective which has a significantly different understanding of the proper relation between Scripture and tradition than evangelicals and others of a Reformation mindset are accustomed to.  It should be expected, then, that some of what he has to say will rub you the wrong way.  But on the whole, he offers a refreshingly different perspective on Scripture which serves as a desperately needed corrective to the naked biblicism which is so prevalent in evangelicalism.

It is commonplace in evangelicalism for pastors to emphasize the importance of Bible study by saying things such as “God gave us a Book“.  Many of you can probably report having heard this or similar things along the way.  But think about it:  It is only within the past five centuries that such a phrase would have made any sense at all.

For the entirety of the Church’s history we have had Words from God, whether passed down orally as in the very early stages of church history, or in written form.  But it is only in the past five hundred years that we have had one Word from God, with all these words gathered together in one place and readily available to all believers.  This was a result of the printing press, an invention that went hand in hand with the Reformation and was largely driven by the Reformation to facilitate getting all the Scriptures together in one place and out there in the hands of all believers.

But with this development, Freeman contends that there was a radical shift in how people thought of the Scriptures.  Now people began to think of Scripture as a unified whole, with all parts being equally inspired and equally important to the life of the believer.  This shift also had implications for discipleship.  Living as a disciple changed from being an apprentice of Jesus Christ to being a student of the Bible, from living in vital community with the Church to maintaining a “personal relationship with Jesus” through what he says to you by way of personal Bible study.

It is common in evangelical preaching to draw applications from Scripture and speak of them as things which its authors are saying to us.  In reality, the authors of Scripture, and especially of the New Testament, never had us in view when they were writing the things they wrote.  Paul, James, Peter, John, Jude, etc. never had any idea that they were sitting down to write the New Testament.  Instead, they were writing letters that were intended to speak to specific situations in specific church communities where they ministered.  They never had a clue that their writings would make it out of the churches to which they were addressed, much less make it out of first century Rome, much less make it into what we now know as the Bible.  We get to listen in on the conversations which the New Testament writers were having with their respective church communities because those writings were preserved for us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Read “There Is No “Bible” in the Bible” by Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Freeman is rector of St. Anne’s Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  His blog, Glory to God for all Things, is one of the most widely read Orthodox sites on the web.

Scot McKnight on the Politics of Bible Translations

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post by Scot McKnight.

In American Christianity there is an overabundance of good Bible translations.  The problem of how to render a book in English that was originally written thousands of years ago in languages that nobody speaks anymore is a very thorny one indeed, and all of these translations take different approaches to solving that problem.

So the ongoing rhetoric about which Bible translation is the “best” is really not about that.  It’s about politics.  The defenders of the various translations do a good job making us think it’s about faithfulness to the original text or general equivalence vs dynamic equivalence or other fine points of translation theory.  But it’s really not about any of that.  It’s about being loyal to your tribe.  You use and cite the Bible translation that happens to be all the rage in your particular segment of evangelicalism or mainline Protestantism, and you absorb and then spout off all the arguments your tribe uses as to why its Bible translation of choice is the best.  Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have their own Bible translations as well, but they aren’t anywhere near as into the Bible translation wars as we evangelicals are.

The reality is that there is no one best way to solve the problem of rendering text in English that was originally written in old languages that nobody speaks anymore.  The Bible translations we have all get excellent marks for faithfulness to the original languages from those with extensive knowledge of those languages.  So let’s just quit with the politics of Bible translation already.

Read The Politics of Bible Translations by Scot McKnight