Teaching Bible study to youth seems to usually fall under three categories: 1) Shoot…it’s _____ again? There’s Bible study tonight… 2) These youth are driving me crazy – what passage can I choose to convict them and get them to be less annoying? 3) God shows up through Scripture, and I am so privileged to have the opportunity to share it on a regular basis.
I wish I could say I always approached preparing Bible study from the third perspective, but alas, the craziness of life seems to distract me enough that the first two show up regularly enough. Yet when I’m most ready to throw in the towel and let myself be convinced that having Bible study to adolescents is nothing more than a glorified hangout with a cute Bible story tossed in, God reminds me of the compelling nature of Him and the Scriptures.
This past year has been filled with a number of these moments, but none more stark than this past week. While it can be easy for many of us who grew up in the church, or who spent 4 years in college inductively studying books of the Bible, to glance at a passage (particularly from the Gospels) and feel like we know it like the back of our hands, it becomes so apparent that given fresh eyes, the Jesus of the Gospels is as compelling on the 20th read-through, as he is on the 1st. With the beginning of Lent, the high school boys’ group studied the baptism of Jesus, the 40 days in the desert, and the temptations from satan.
This group of boys, maybe as much as myself, had heard this story to some degree, remembered the temptations bit, and were quick to want to rush through the text. So in my effort to help them unearth more of the text, we sat in what it looked like for Jesus to have the heavens open up and for God’s voice to speak to him (this epic, glorious moment), to then deny himself everything and intentionally choose to fast for 40 days to gain more clarity and an even more intimate relationship with God. That after this, he was not just tempted to use his own power, but rather had to choose into saying that his relationship with God mattered more than any of his physical needs. And in that denial, God then sent angels to care for his every need, without any asking from Jesus himself. There was a moment in the study where the boys’ eyes brightened, they got really quiet, and you could hear the “ohhhh…”’s quietly echo through the room, where this realization that God actively and completely provides for our needs if only we focus on our intimacy with him first became very real. That this wasn’t just some nice story about Jesus being in the desert and how He of course resisted satan because He’s God, but that this was a real story of a man who gave up everything for the sake of knowing God more deeply and that we are challenged to do the same.
It is moments like these where God reminds me of how leading these youth is not simply for their transformation, but that through looking at Scripture through their eyes, I am myself reminded of my own need for Jesus, of my own lack of faith, of God’s endless love for me. That their “oh’s…” become my “ohhhh” of all the ways I tend to skim past God, the ways I mistake my head knowledge for intimacy, the ways that I forget that my development and relationship with Jesus are more important to God than any “ministry” I will ever do.
And so it’s nights like these where I’m reminded that there’s a 4th paradigm to teaching Bible study: That God loves me and desires for me to know Him deeply and leading youth into Scripture is an opportunity for me to slow down and see God through fresh lenses.