More than Teacups . . . a Plea for Biblical Literacy

By Megan Gariss

I was in elementary school during the mid-1990s when “Magic Eye” posters were all the rage. As you may remember, these posters produced three-dimensional images out of two-dimensional patterns. For some in my class, seeing the image was no problem—they could simply glance at the poster and quickly discern the hidden 3-D image. However, for most of the class, myself included, viewing the image was hard work.

We all had different methods of looking at the “Magic Eye” poster, each guaranteed to help the viewer discover the 3-D image—be it a penguin on a raft or the rings around Jupiter. Some would cross their eyes; others would touch their noses to the posters and then pull away, ever so slowly, while others still guaranteed that walking in a circle while singing the chorus of “Shenandoah” would bring about the desired results.

All too often, I’m ashamed to say, my friends and I gave up and relied on the descriptions given by what we assumed were the “gifted” students. But it wasn’t the same. We longed to see the hidden image for ourselves.

I am now 23, and for the past three years I worked as a campus minister at a university. I genuinely loved working with this generation, with my generation. This generation has two great strengths. The first is that we want to experience community. The second is that we are eager to be the hands and feet of Jesus making a difference in our society.

A Two-Legged Stool

With that said, however, I’m afraid for many it is like sitting on a two-legged stool. The problem is, my generation is one that does not know Scripture well enough. Typically, we try to fight spiritual battles more with song lyrics and Francis Chan quotes than with the truth and knowledge of Scripture. Granted, great lyrics and outstanding authors can bring fresh insight, but the words of the Lord can’t be replaced by these things.

If I could ask one thing of your generation, it would be this: please teach my generation how to study Scripture. Too many of us are biblically illiterate. Many of you are preachers, teachers, elders, and godly moms and dads. You know truth; you know how to study truth. You bring us feasts of good spiritual food every Sunday morning, but it’s time you invited us back to the kitchen with you to learn the recipes for such wonderful meals.

It’s time we learned how to study the Word, how to grow, how to obey. Many of you have great reputations; you’re known for being proficient chefs—masters, in fact. But unless you invite us to put on an apron and stand beside you, biblical illiteracy will starve us. Teaching truth matters, but teaching us how to read and discover truth . . . that’s real ministry.

Knowing What God Thinks

A. W. Tozer once called it “tragic” that we “have had our seeking done for us by our teachers.” He said that in the mid-1950s, but his words are perhaps even more appropriate today. My generation hasn’t had to work to get information. It’s available with the click of a mouse; and yet, with all the resources in the world, I can’t Google what God thinks. You are one of our best resources when it comes to developing a deeper understanding of God’s Word. I am here to tell you, my generation longs to read and understand the pages of Scripture just as many generations have before us . . . we just don’t know how.

We need to know what goes through your mind as you read the psalms of David, for it’s through those discussions we learn it is OK to dialogue with God in raw, uncensored moments. Tell us what you think when you read of Ezekiel’s ministry, for it’s in those conversations we learn that God has always called us to faithfulness over success. Please, help us dig through Jesus’ genealogy, for it’s through such an exploration we learn that misfits have always been included in God’s family tree, and we are no exception. We need to hear why Paul talks to the Corinthian church about meat sacrificed to idols, because that’s the type of passage that teaches us that we, as believers, will often need to give up our “right” to be right, for the sake of others. And don’t be afraid to tackle John’s Revelation with us, for even those complex passages assure us that, in the end, God is still on his throne.

What I’m asking you to do is to have us in your homes at your kitchen tables, or meet us at Starbucks, and teach us how to study Scripture for ourselves. Share truths with us that we may be missing—but more than that, share with us how you found those truths.

I recently traveled back to my dad’s home church, which my grandparents still attend. I led a workshop that dealt with this issue of biblical illiteracy and I gave the same plea to the members there.

Afterward, my grandmother and I were talking about what I was seeing, and she began telling me how she developed her own Bible study. She assured me she was no expert—that there were a lot of people smarter than she, but she recounted the daily conversations she had with the Lord because of the text she had read that day. She told me about the journal by her chair that held her thoughts about hard passages and healing promises. She guided me through her daily routine that has become the backbone of our family. It was a sweet conversation that I knew would be added to my box of precious memories.

We Need You

There was a secret to looking at those “Magic Eye” posters. Truth be told, the eyes could indeed be trained to see the image. My friends and I simply had no trainer. So it is for my generation. We look at the pages of Scripture and we’re told there’s an image we’re supposed to see, something that’s supposed to pop out of the pages. So we cross our eyes and lean in close, but often all we get are watery eyes and blurred vision.

If we inherit anything from your generation, don’t let it simply be the teacups and tales of days gone by. What we need are the tools you use to discover truth in a way that goes beyond the shallowness we’re so used to.

For us, walking through Scripture is like walking on foreign ground. We need experienced guides. We need you.

Megan Gariss serves as women’s ministry intern at Savannah (Georgia) Christian Church. She is a graduate of Ozark Christian College and Missouri Southern State University (both in Joplin, Missouri), where she spent three years working as a campus minister.

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9 Comments

  1. May 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    What an insightful and helpful article on teaching young adults! I particularly honed in on Megan’s thought that we need to change the venue: “What I’m asking you to do is to have us in your homes at your kitchen tables, or meet us at Starbucks, and teach us how to study Scripture for ourselves.”

    She’s right. As one who teaches college/young adults in my church, I’ve learned this generation has grown quite skeptical of the church building as the place and Sunday morning as the space for biblical learning alone. After all, in a 24/7/365 web culture where information is just a mouse click away, there emerges a deep need for relational small group and individual mentoring all through the week, day or night.

    Consequently, we need some fresh discipleship models that are fluid and not trapped within a time or space, accessible 24/7/365 and transparent in design to allow any person–no matter their biblical literacy–a place to land.

  2. May 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Thanks for a great word, Megan.

    What is expressed here is yet one more reason why we as church leaders need to desperately be working to establish churches that are intergenerational…where all generations regularly interact. This is very Biblical and a logical way for faith to be share. And as Megan pointed out, older Christians need to be talking about how they study the Bible and how this relates practically to living life.

  3. Denise rounds
    May 18, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    I’m a mom and new grandmother, I learned to study the Bible through Precept Bible studies – visit precept.org. They exist to teach God’s people how to know God thru the study of His Word. They teach the inductive method = study God’s Word as you learn how to study God’s Word -> knowing God and life change followed my study. I can’t recommend it more highly!!!!

  4. May 19, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Excellent work Megan. Appreciate the humble self-disclosing approach to the issue. Loved the line: “I can’t Google what God thinks.” In the words of your homiletics professor, “That’ll preach!”

  5. Stacie Donaldson
    May 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Megan, I’m certain you won’t remember this, but years ago (probably during those mid-1990s you mentioned), I had just graduated from OCC, and was in charge of the children’s programming at a revival where your dad was preaching. A couple of nights, I had the privilege of riding to the church where the revival was held with you and your dad, and you entertained us the whole way!

    Today when I read your name at the top of this page, I thought, “How did that sweet six-year old write such a great article?”

    Seriously, Megan, I am so encouraged to see someone your age with such a desire to know and understand God’s word, and I am convicted as well, to be one of those who will be intentional in sharing more than teacups with those younger than I am!

    Thanks for such a beautiful article…please write more!

  6. William Reed
    May 26, 2011 at 10:42 am

    A great book to help anyone is “Knowing Scripture” by R. C. Sproul. It will help you to read the Bible and understand.

  7. Laura Mortenson
    May 26, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Wonderful article! I would suggest BSF (Bible Study Fellowship)- both young adult and adult classes (with classes for children from birth through high school) are available in most areas), both in the states and internationally. (You can find more information at http://www.bsfinternational.org). It is an organization dedicated to teaching people to study the Bible in systematic and interactive ways, making it alive and applicable while staying true to history and Scripture.

  8. Troy Gariss
    May 29, 2011 at 1:34 am

    Meg, great article!

  9. September 17, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Yes please!

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