Teaching Kids Biblical Literacy
A couple years ago my brother in law Tyler, my father in law Ken, and I went to an archery range. As we took up our bows and began firing, I figured out that I suck. Their arrows would fly straight toward the bullseye. Mine would stick into the wall, the ground, the hay and all other non-bullseye locations.
As the evening progressed, I strived to get better. What I discovered is if I went a little high, I could adjust a bit lower. A little left, adjust right. There are four basic directions I could go wrong or adjust accordingly to toward the opposite direction. Using these different directional aspects as my guide I could gradually narrow in on the target: the bullseye. There are a few directions, anchor points, or principles that serve you as you zero in on the goal.
That’s the same principle is at play in parenting. The psalmist of Psalm 127 poetically describes children as arrows. And like real arrows we must allow certain key anchor points or values guide our leadership toward the goal: to send of fully devoted disciples of Jesus.
I mentioned having principles that govern my parenting and leadership in the student ministry. These are the key cultural markers I want to drive into my kids and students before they fly off. I’m going to talk through the first today: A Bible Culture. Let’s explore that.
Biblical Literacy Matters Today More Than Ever.
I was sitting in a coffee shop with one of the best men: Don Jacobsen. Don is an old guy. Faithful to his wife, a godly dad, a disciplined follower of Jesus, a sincere friend, and a compassionate and driven leader. He gets up at 5am, reads his bible, prays with his wife, and pursues his goals. He has grey hair and weathered skin. And yet he still goes to the gym. I like Don. If I get old and end up like Don I won’t have lost at life.
Coffee in hand, I asked him pointedly: “If you could give any message to the next generation what would it be?” He stroked his silver goatee and paused a while. After some serious thought he said, “I fear the upcoming generation is biblically illiterate.”
He went on to say something like: As Christians, the thing we have is the Bible! And yet, I know some of the more well known pastors out there personally, and without naming names, there’s some that really don’t know or read their Bibles with any seriousness. What’s going to happen when the next generation loses the Bible?
I was stunned as speechless by that response. As Christians, there is no revelation of God besides the Bible. Without the Bible there is no clarity on the nature of God. the Bible reveals Jesus. It’s where we meet God and God speaks to us! So, what happens when a new generation of the Church arises, and while they may have Bibles, there is no intense culture of reading them. What happens when a a culture of apathy about the Bible settles in?
When the truth is lost lies arise in its place. When doctrine is lost error prevails. When the Bible is lost human ideas invade. When God’s self-revelation is closed the door is opened to speculation.
I see a generation of Christians that has closed its Bibles and opened a Pandora’s Box of theology. I see a culture around us that has divorced itself from Theism and began living with Atheism instead. And what’s born out of this new relationship is a loss of meaning and objective moral truth. And then we’ve tried to construct a society on that lack of objective truth.
That’s why so many people have turned—on the one hand—to other religious truth claims like eastern religious philosophies, meditation, and pseudo spiritual ideologies—and on the other hand—to an intense almost religious devotion to secular political ideologies whether on the right or on the left. Why? Because human beings were made for meaning, truth, beauty, and a well-thought through worldview and in the absence of Christianity it’s not an un-spirituality that grows up, but a devotion to other ideologies —even secular ideologies—at level that is spiritual.
Make no mistake: even if you choose to be lax as a disciple maker in your home, someone will disciple your kid into a worldview. Someone will advance their ideology upon your kids, whether spiritual or secular. And if not you, it will be the teacher, their peers, a YouTube personality, the general culture moods on social media, the broader political culture, an instagram Influencer, or another adult. Someone will disciple them with their distinctive worldview and values. The question is not “If" but “Who?” In fact, I would argue that that is happening constantly even while you disciple your kids.
So, what can be done?
I want you to consider Newton’s first a second law of physics:
The first law states that a body remains at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by a force.
The second law states that a body's rate of change of momentum is proportional to the force causing it.
So, let’s say there’s a powerful discipleship force that’s acting upon your kids in the wrong direction. What can be done to combat it? It must be met with an even greater and opposite force in the right direction. In other words, if the culture is discipling our kids toward the absence of truth, we must meet that with an even greater push for biblical truth.
Here’s what I’m calling for: A Bible Culture In Your Home.
 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (ESV)
This is one of the most powerful promises you will ever be given. God promises something unbelievably important here: that he WILL ALWAYS fulfill His Word. Let’s say that again so it sinks in: GOD. WILL. ALWAYS. FULFILL. HIS WORD. God says it with tremendous force here! Isaiah writes from God in the first person. It’s like Isaiah is writing on God’s behalf, and God takes the pen and says: “Let me get this part Isaiah…” and writes it himself! I’m going to fulfill my Word. It won’t fail. You can take that to the actual bank. Period. Love God.
Here’s why this matters: God doesn’t promise just anything. He doesn’t promise you just anything you want. But he does promise this: His Word won’t fail.
I believe this so much that all I want to do is just get a close to His Word as possible.
I want to fill my heart, my mind, and my soul with it. I want it tattooed on my body. I want it written on my heart. I want to read the Bible to sleep at night. Then I want to dream the Bible. I want to wake up and have my first thoughts be the Words of the Bible. I want the Bible to be the foundation of my marriage. I want to memorize as many Bible verses as I can. I want to flood my kids minds and imaginations with the Bible. I want them to pray Bible verses. I want my wife and I to love, study, cherish, and live the Bible. And you better darn well believe I want the kids in our youth to love, study, know, and be consumed with the Bible.
I want to create a Bible culture.
Why? Because I’m convinced that the closer we get people to the Words of the Bible the more they will see God’s effective power in their life. That’s where God concentrates His promise of effectiveness, so that’s where all the power is! God is essence holding up His Word and saying: "I’m going to execute power through my Word.” So, I want to get God’s Word into the hands and hearts of everyone I love. I don’t know if I can make this any clearer. I don’t want to give them my thoughts. I don’t want to give them my ideas. There’s no PROMISE associated with that junk! God only promises to execute power through God’s thoughts.
So, I’m trying to advance God’s Word and God’s ideas with every fiber of my being. I want to pour my being into God’s Word and I know that I can trust that the rest is up to Him.
What about you? Are you making a bible culture in your home? If not, you may be asking: where do I even start? Let me give you some practical tips:
One: Read Your Bible.
This seems silly to say. It’s not though. If Don is right (and I think he is) many of us as parents aren’t reading our Bibles. And if we do, we often don’t prioritize reading them as often as we should. I’m not here to shame you. I’m here to inspire you. You’re primary job as a disciple-maker in your home is not to push the Bible on others so much as cherish it yourself and let it ooze out of you. Kids will mimic you. Even teenagers. More is caught than taught. What will your kids catch from you? In ten years, what will they say they remember about growing up? That dad loved the Word? Let it be so. Get up and study the Word daily and let them see the fruit of a biblical life.
Two: Read Your Bible With Your Kids.
Once you are reading your Bible and seeing it’s power in your life, you’ll see why reading the Bible with your kids is so important. Teenagers often aren’t big readers. But whatever. Why let that stop you. I’m finding it incredibly hard to motivate teenagers to read bible reading plans with me. But when even one catches on I see the fruit. I’m not unwilling to bribe kids. I’ll get gnarly. I’m having our group leaders asking questions during zoom groups that come directly from the Bible passage. What if you got gnarly? What if you invited your kids to join a bible plan with you? What if you joined theres? What if you created a rhythm around asking your kids questions about that plan at the same time even week?
Three: Incorporate Bible Into Existing Rhythms.
This is easy with little kids. We read the Bible before bed. But it’s harder with teens. But it’s possible. What if every big holiday (e.g. Easter, Christmas, New Years) you made a point to do an intentional time of reading a passage associated with those holidays? What if you took a day out of the week and did a twenty minute family devotional? What if even one verse a month and said: Let’s memorize this verse as a family? My kids are memorizing Provers 3:5-6 all year. The ones I’m working on are 5 and 2 because the baby can’t talk yet: though she can listen along. The five year old has got it down and the 2 year old chimes the rhythm. Teenagers can do this.
Don’t get discouraged. Whatever you do, it won’t perfect. Jesus died for our failures. But what matters is the attempt. Jesus the the Holy Spirit to give power in these specific kinds of efforts. Pray and ask God to bless your efforts and trust that He will bring about the fruit.