What to do if someone doesn’t use enough Bible in their communications.

Sometimes people will tell me they switched churches because they “weren’t being fed enough meat.”

Other times people will tell me a book they read didn’t include enough scripture.

Occasionally I’ll hear people criticize friends’ blogs for not talking about God explicitly enough.

Whenever someone tells me something like this I immediately think to myself:

“You would have hated Jesus.”

Seriously, have you read the parables? Talk about lacking meat! Talents? You’re telling me about talents? Give me some OT! And don’t get me started on the good Samaritan.

The worst of all is the prodigal son. God doesn’t even make a cameo. Sure, I guess I could infer the father is like our father God, but I don’t do “infer.” Inferring is a slippery slope to storytelling. And storytelling might lead to art which is usually pleasing to the eye first and functional second, which is horrible and kind of exactly what God did with the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:9.

The truth is, we have a God who loves art and storytelling and subtlety and directness and the swirl of honest communication. Will there be times when we have meat and Bible verse after verse? I sure hope so. Will there be other times when we have art? I sure hope so.

Don’t fight the idea of poetry and beauty and storytelling. There’s a guy in the Bible who didn’t and I really like him.

His name was Jesus.

 

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Comments

  1. Shark Bait says

    I love me a good analogy, I does.

    My entire persona as Shark Bait is based on the belief that life, and faith, can be a metaphor; and that ideas we understand, make ideas we don’t, easier to grasp.

    Plus, I like pretending to be a fish.

  2. the Old Adam says

    There are many ways to tell a story.

    And the Lord is quite capable of acting in and through all of them, when it comes to creating faith.

    But we can’t forget to tell it, somehow, someway (when the time is right)…to speak of Christ and what He has done for the ungodly…’us’.

  3. lee says

    I wonder what would happen to a person that ate only meat. Like “Supersize Me,” but they threw out the bun, lettuce, pickles, and tomatoes.

    Remember, the Bible is just one part of a complete diet.

      • lee says

        Ha. I meant that the bun would violate the all-meat diet. BTW, are we SURE that there wasn’t a McDonald’s somewhere 15,000 years ago? I seem to recall getting a dinosaur toy in my happy meal when I was a kid – proof that McDonald’s and dinosaurs co-existed.

  4. michelle says

    I wasn’t at all prepared for how much I was going to like this post.
    “You would have hated Jesus.” Seriously.
    Good word, Jon.

  5. Sam says

    First, it’s hard to use Jesus as an example of not using the word of God since He literally was The Word of God. Also, there almost seems to be an assumption that parables were used to be more relatable or something so people could understand Jesus better. In fact they were for the exact opposite reason – so that everyone would *not* understand and only certain people would. Also, in the Jewish culture of the time people were *far* more familiar with the scriptures than your average believer today, so perhaps Jesus didn’t need to spend a lot of time reading/reciting it as much as he needed to correct peoples understanding of the purpose of it.

    Don’t get me wrong, literature from authors with a Christian worldview is often great (Lord of the Rings anyone?), but it is not in any way a good substitute for the Word.

        • Michael Wong says

          Just how effective is oral transmission of stories? I hear people say that they could completely memorize the text, and they speak of their devotion in doing so, but I have trouble believing that to be true. We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that even WRITTEN versions varied enough that no two were identical, so how accurate would orally transmitted versions be?

      • Kementari says

        Literacy was much higher in Jewish Culture, men and women, who read, studied and memorized the Scriptures.

        Even the Greek Culture was highly literate. (At least the men.) It was the rest of the world where there was very little writing, except among the elite.

        • Michael Wong says

          No, that’s just not historically accurate. Literacy rates were abysmal, even in Judea and Greece. That’s why there are so few author’s names which survive from the era. That’s why huge chunks of historical knowledge often come from the writing of a single famous man, like Josephus.

          • Scott says

            Actually, we know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the book of Isaiah matched to the Masoretic Text (the version of the Old Testament used to create our modern day Bible) about 99%. So the oral tradition was VERY valid. Anyone who studied in the synagogue of Jesus’ time memorized the Torah before they were even teens and could recite HUGE chunks from memory at the drop of a hat.
            Literacy was also high and thanks to the Scribes (interpreters of the Law), many copies that were near exact duplicates were passed out from the temple and into synagogues. There’s a lot of good info in The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, by the way, if you ever want to read some summarized info on it.

          • Felipe says

            While it may be a later historical development, textual accuracy is VERY important in the Jewish culture. I imagine oral was also important (indeed God spoke the universe into existence). I think dichotomizing the difference between the oral and written text is a modern category of thinking. At the end of the day we have an abundance of English translations of the Bible ourselves. It doesn’t mean that only those of us with the best translation have the Word of God.

  6. Amy says

    When I use the phrase “not enough meat” it doesn’t have anything to do with the format – but with the content. I’ll take stories, poems, songs, Bible verses etc. The “meat” I’m seeking is discipleship. Preaching the gospel is great – wonderful in fact – but if all my church ever did was talk about salvation and not what to do after you’ve been saved – How do you live a Christian life? What does the Bible say about charity? Managing my finances? Friendships? Church structure? Spiritual gifts? Ministry? Gender roles? etc. etc. That’s the meat I’m looking for when I say I’m “not getting fed enough meat”.

    Fortunately I’ve not had this problem at any churches I’ve joined, but I have seen it at churches I’ve visited . . . and yes, some of the responsibility is on the individual, BUT when you’re a new Christian, in a new phase of life, etc. it can be hard to even know where to start – which is why the church must play a leading role in discipleship, from the pulpit, in small groups, etc.

  7. Tony Burgess says

    I think we spend too much time parsing out the word of God and not enough time doing what he says and that is to love one another as yourself. Being a good neighbor. Caring for the widows and orphans. This might sound harsh but perhaps we worship the Bible more than we worship the one who inspired it.

    • Luke says

      A straw man argument is misrepresenting an argument, then attacking that misrepresentation to discredit that position. I don’t see that happening here.

  8. KC says

    In an adult Sunday school class I attended, I heard a guy complain because we were going to study the gospel of John, and it was too elementary for him. I have experienced more spiritual growth by talking with my kids than I have by interacting with some adults. They love stories and they love adventure. Kids have a way of cutting through all the fluff and getting right to the heart of the matter. They have also been known to ask the most obvious life questions, which can also be the most challenging to answer. My kids have reminded me to “Keep It Simple Stupid”.

    • groundedGeek says

      Wow. That seems kind of pretentious of him. I can’t say I haven’t been in his shoes, however. But often if we find ourselves in a small group that is working through some scriptures that seem “old hat” to us, perhaps we need to realize that we might be there to be used by God to help feed others, rather than be fed ourselves.

      • Stephen says

        Agreed. Also we might remember that even the elementary truths can be unpacked and explored to find much deeper meaning. Preaching the Gospel every week (as one commenter mentioned) does not mean one doesn’t also speak to how to live after receiving the Gospel. We don’t graduate beyond the Gospel. We just dive deeper into it. That is how we learnt o handle our marriages, finances, and other activities mentioned above.

  9. Lisa says

    The question I have here and what I believe to be important is whether we as believers are using discernment (God given, holy spirit led) when listening to and learning from a sermon, song, what have you. Whether it’s meat or not. Is it from God? I’ve heard many “how to live a good life” sermons or speeches in my day, and it’s neither meat nor milk. It’s certainly not Jesus Christ.

  10. Joanna says

    I think the fairly common “but Jesus didn’t directly quote the old testament all the time!” argument for sermons that use very little bible misses a really important point. Jesus being God, everything he said was the word of God, regardless of whether it was something that had been written down before in the old testament. Your pastor telling stories from his childhood is not God and thus his words and stories don’t hold power and authority in remotely the same way. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use poetry, art or storytelling, even in fairly abstract forms. Those have a place, but that place is supplementing bible engagement by helping people connect it to their world, not replacing interacting directly with the bible.

    • Rebecca C says

      The argument is wrong anyway. Jesus referred to the OT constantly. The thing is, he referred to it in a way that Jews understood at the time, which tended to be purposely subtle, and embedded in stories. Jesus didn’t come up with the idea of using stories, it was a popular method with rabbis at the time.

      Just because he didn’t quote an entire line of Scripture and its reference like we like to do, doesn’t mean he didn’t talk about the Bible all the time. He pulled from Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Isaiah (iirc) particularly often.

      Unfortunately, modern day Christians tend to be very biblically illiterate, and that is especially true about the OT. We can tell you about David & Goliath, or Daniel & the lion’s den, but we struggle to realize when Jesus is making a subtle reference to Isaiah. That, and it just isn’t our cultural method. We need to look back at how they taught and understood in Jesus’ culture, and it adds a whole new dimension to his stories.

      Not that I’m good at this by ANY stretch of the imagination. Only in the last year have my husband and I been actively studying the OT and looking for mentions in the NT. It really does tie together beautifully. Despite growing up a PK, I never caught that Jesus referred to the Bible quite often. It has opened up the Bible as a whole in a fascinating new way.

  11. Robyn @ Living the Simple Life Now says

    This is exactly why I stopped blogging on Christian topics! :( I have an M.A. from seminary and am a pastor’s wife. But a few years ago when I blogging on Christian topics, I felt like everyone was trying to “out spiritualize” everyone else. Church members were critical of my posts. It felt like a contest.

    I had a similar experience when I was blogging about my son’s food allergies. People would questions my parenting. I mean, you have to be able to take some of that stuff when working online but both made me hate blogging for a few years.

    Now? I blog on happiness and simplicity. If someone can be simpler or happier than me, I just want to learn, not feel challenged!

    I completely agree, some people would have been offended by Jesus. I used to have this set as the ringtone on my phone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5Svz6YFtkI

  12. Steve says

    I’ve worried about this myself on my facebook page. Sometimes I feel like every single post I make has to involve God or Jesus. Heaven forbid if I post 3 or 4 things in a row that don’t….then I’m really in trouble I feel.

  13. Rebecca B. says

    Speaking of Jesus-juking…..I was listening to a positive hiphop/r&b station on the radio and the rapper guy said Jesus juke. I couldn’t wait to come here and share. I will have to look the singer up….see if he’s a SCL fan.

  14. Amanda says

    In all respect, Jesus quoted the OT repeatedly. He frequently said to the Pharisees, “Have you not read?” He told parables to disguise the truth from those that were not his. Now, I would reference Scripture, but you know…

  15. Vicki says

    It’s not really a false dichotomy. It’s left brain vs. right brain. Do you feel underfed if sermons are not academic enough, sprinkled with loads of scripture citations? Or does that feel dry and empty, and storytelling moves you more? I read somewhere that the majority of churchgoers are SJ types in the Myers Briggs type system. According to “Prayer and Temperament” (by Chester P. Michael and Marie C. Norrisey) 40% of the general population are SJ’s but they comprise 50% or more of those who regularly attend church. I think most of the complaints people have about church (and other Christians in general) may be attributable to the more irritating traits of SJ’s generally, since they tend to dominate the scene. NF’s would probably be more drawn to the storytelling, poetry and literary forms in the Bible. These things are pretty much lost on the SJ’s. I’m pretty convinced Jesus himself was either an INFJ or an ENFJ (although I lean toward INFJ, since he had the habit of withdrawing from the disciples in order to spend time alone, in prayer, which is very introverted behavior). Most of the clues to his personality seem to point to NF traits generally.

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  17. Rick LaFleur says

    I think that I love the irreverence of using the phrase “You would have hated Jesus”. And I am a pastor! Perhaps it is just me enjoying the freedom Jesus bought for me…or it’s abject sacrilege?! Love it either way!

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    I’m sort of a media guy. I’m a musician, a 30-year graphic designer, my dad was an actor on stage, screen, and television. (No, he never made it big.) I’ve been exposed to show biz people, filmmakers, marketing people, poets and songwriters. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t hate creative types, nor does he hate the human desire to be “creative” or expressive. But one thing I have observed: We don’t suffer from a lack of artists, storytellers, or self-expression. We do suffer from a lack of biblical literacy and rightly applied biblical values. I’m just sayin’.

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