Updated: Oct 5, 2019
One of the primary challenges Millennials face in their spiritual growth is the decline in personal Bible reading and study. That’s not to say Millennials are not exposed to an ocean of faith-based content. They are devouring long-form podcasts, blogs, and video preaching on YouTube and Social media.
In some ways, the quick 60 second grabs of polished preaching on Instagram helps mask a lack a personal engagement in scripture.
If Millennials don’t engage the Bible for themselves, where will they go when the big questions of life interrupt their lives? I know for me personally, my journey with the Bible has been intrinsically linked to my relationship with God.
My message to Millennials is this: You can’t just ingest Christian content (books, podcasts, videos) – you have to read the Bible for yourself.
Here are some of the things I am teaching Millennials:
Challenge 1: A culture with no lamp.
King David wrote in Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” David knew what it was to walk through dark valleys in life. It was the scriptures he turned to in his darkest moments.
Today, our culture has no lamp. The rapid Western swing towards a Post Christian culture puts a heightened demand on the need for people of faith to have a lamp they can turn to in the dark.
We have a generation who loves to worship, but are at risk of having a shallow foundation in the Bible.
It is long-form reading of scripture that brings depth and substance into our souls.
Personal Bible reading helps individuals develop their own spiritual well, receive a revelation on Jesus, and builds a strong foundation of faith. Bible reading is a keystone habit - do this, and a lot of other healthy disciplines fall in to place.
Challenge 2: Lack of direct engagement.
Direct source engagement means that I can’t get all my biblical content through preachers or authors. I can’t abdicate my responsibility to wrestle with ideas (doctrines) in the Bible for myself.
Think of it this way, I can't pay someone else to work out on a treadmill for me, and I lose the calories. The benefit comes to the one putting in the work. So it is with our journey with scripture. Better to spend 30 minutes in personal study, writing out some messy, disorganised observations, instead of listening to a 3-minute, word-perfect preaching video snippet.
Process is better than polish.
I am a heavy consumer of books, podcasts, and videos - and they help me immensely. But they are a supplement, not a substitute, for my own scripture reading. It’s amazing how easily I am drawn to do a devotional or someone else's commentary on a passage of Scripture than read a chapter of the Bible for myself. But the gold is in the PROCESS – no shortcuts. Bible study can be hard work. Yet people grow in the DOING, not just in consuming at the end of the content development chain.
Challenge 3: The need for practical tools (Bible study methods).
I remember a number of years ago reading some of the research coming out of a study on a very large mega-church. The central finding was that churches need to teach people to be ’self-feeders’. In other words, Millennials need to understand how to bring real questions from their lives and find answers for themselves in the Bible.
So, teaching Millennials how to do word studies, deep-dives, chapter overviews, character studies, and thematic summaries is essential. These tools are not for scholars or ministers - they need to be put in the hands of the everyday person.
The good (amazing content that is available online), is squeezing out the great (personal study of the Bible). We need to change this.
I don’t want my big idea to be missed. Nothing can substitute for personal reading and study of scripture.
If Millennials don’t know scripture, they have no lamp in a dark world. By encouraging direct engagement, and helping them learn the process of Bible study, it will enrich their faith in a way nothing else will.
After all, it’s one thing to see someone else’s photograph of the Eiffel tower in Paris; it’s another experience all together to stand on the cobblestone street and take it in for yourself.