Essentials in Youth Ministry: pt. 2 – The Bible

A little while back, I wrote a blogpost on PS23 concerning a defense of youth ministry. Two weeks ago, I continued speaking on youth ministry by starting in on its first essential: prayer. If any ministry (particularly youth ministry) is going to be God-honoring, there are basics which it must (yes, must) include.

The first essential is prayer. As I stated in that blogpost, all members of the local church’s congregation need to be praying for the youth ministry (youth workers, parents, pastors, elders, lay-folks, and students). They need to be praying for the salvation of students, growth of the professing Christian students, student’s openness to the youth workers, direction from the youth pastor, etc. Prayer must be a “must” in youth ministry.

Today, I want to look at the next essential: a proper presentation of the Bible.

 Proper presentation of the Bible

Let me start with the Bible and why it is so important. The Bible is important for four reason that I can discern.

  • Its Contents: (1) the Bible is God’s perspective of the world and mankind; (2) it contains much information that only God knows (cf. Acts 1:7; Job 1-2) and if He did not reveal it, we would not know it; (3) the Bible is the story of redemption, that is, the greatest story told; (4) the Bible contains the very words and actions of Jesus (John 14:26). You want to know anything about Jesus, read the Bible!
  • Its Authority: God says that He delights in people who “tremble” at His word (i.e., take it seriously as to obey it) (Isa 66:2). This shows simply that the Bible has authority as the word FROM GOD, the Master and Creator of the world. Jesus models this authority of the Scriptures by rebuking the disciples for their disbelief in the Scriptures (Luke 24:25).
  • Its Necessity: simply, without the Bible, we cannot know the true God (Rom 1:20; Psa 19:1-3), we cannot know about salvation (Rom 2:15; 10:13-17), and we cannot know how to trust/obey God perfectly (Deut 29:29). In the end, we cannot meet all the demands of God without His Word (2 Tim 3:16-17).
  • It Satisfies: Psalm 19 and 119 are so very helpful in this. In Psalm 19 alone, the Word of God is said to restore, make one wise, it gives joy to the heart, causes discernment, is sweeter than all worldly treasure, and profits great reward. Jesus sums up that the one who knows and does the Scriptures, is blessed (John 13:17).

So if that is why the Bible is so important, then I believe it is natural to assume that any God-honoring ministry would have the Bible at its center. Youth gatherings should have the Bible as the center of their meeting. Youth worker gatherings should have the Bible as the center of their meetings. Training seminars, parent lunches, camps, one-on-one discipleship, birthday cards, etc., etc. Because of the Bible’s importance in every situation of life, it must be at the center. John Calvin: “Anyone who is not satisfied with the Scripture wants to know more than he should and more than it is good for him to know.”[1]

Even more than this, the Bible must be properly presented. Here might be a shocker to the average church in America today: the Bible is not subject to YOUR interpretation! Read that sentence again…

In discussions about a particular passage of Scripture, I have had a number of people say, “well, that is not how I interpret that passage.” My immediate response: “the Bible is not subject to your interpretation. It means what it clearly says.” God did not give His church a book in which everyone has an opinion on what it says or what it means by what it says. Rather, the Bible is God’s clear revelation to mankind about God, mankind, and the relationship between the two. Why would God, the Creator of all things, write a book which anyone could choose how to understand its contents? He didn’t! Rather, God gave the church a book of 66 books that can be understood by children through adults (Deut 6:6-7; Col 4:16). More can be said here concerning the perspicuity (or clarity) of Scripture, but I think I have made my point (and this is not the point of this blogpost). Simply put: the Bible is clear concerning its contents, meaning God has clearly communicated what He wants us to know so that we “may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17).

Since this is true, then a God-glorifying youth program must have the Bible presented to them properly, that is, rightly interpreted and clearly presented. This then begs the bible-studyquestions: Is the youth leader skilled to “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15)? Does the youth leader have the proper skills and training to open the Bible and understand its truths? Here is where I beg men who have no seminary training to go and get it! I attended an excellent Bible college in which I was first taught hermeneutics, doctrine, spiritual disciplines, and love for the church. However, I learned very quickly when I was in my first ministry that I did not know how to handle or accurately interpret the Word. Sure, I knew a lot and had more Bible answers than the middle schoolers I was leading. But I knew I was not doing it right, because I would hear other preachers, both young and old, that could. So, I found a seminary that loves God and His Word and trains pastors and went there so that the next group I minister to could get a proper handling of the Word from me.

But knowing how to interpret is not the only issue. The next question is equally critical: Can the youth leader present the Bible properly, that is, clearly? This is hard work! Since God has given a clear Word to His people, those who are teachers must communicate clearly. And do not be fooled by being able to present the Word of God clearly as merely talking; it must also be clearly presented in the youth pastor’s life. Has the youth pastor proved himself as a life that is changed by the Word so as to be an example to the youth (1 Tim 4:6-16)? If the youth leader can handle the Word accurately and communicate it clearly in teaching, yet not have his own life changed by it, he is unfit to be the leader and the students are not being properly presented the Bible and its life-changing power. The youth pastor must must communicate the life-changing truths in his own life first. That is a clear presentation of the Bible’s clear propositional truths.

The Bible, in youth ministry, must be taught properly! It must be in the hands of men who can present its truths and apply it to the students and himself. Without this, any youth ministry may look “cool” or “hip” or “culturally relevant,” but it will never be honoring to God. The proper presentation of the Bible must be central for a youth ministry to be in line for God’s abundant blessings.

Steve Lawson sums up for me: “Scripture is the sole instrument through which God has chosen to convict, convert, counsel, and comfort believers. It is the chief instrument through which God has revealed His character to the world. The Bible is a living book (Heb 4:12a), full of divine and supernatural life, the very life of God Himself … Furthermore, only the Word of God can sanctify a believer and transform him into the image of Christ. There can be no spiritual growth in our lives apart from the Word of God (1 Pet 2:2). Scripture is  also able to counsel believers, leading us into successful living (Ps 119:24, 98-100, 105, 130). The Bible touches every aspects of the Christian life, giving sound instruction for holiness and righteousness.”[2]

Youth workers: I plead with you; make the Bible and its clear truths essential in your ministry.

[1][1] John Calvin, 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus, Crossway Classic Commentaries, edited by Alister McGrath and J. I. Packer (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1998), 156.

[2] Steven J. Lawson, Psalms 1-75, HOTC, edited by Max Anders (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003), 102-103.