Monday, February 12, 2018
Recently we heard that Facebook is populated with the forty and fifty-year old. There are some younger and older folks on it, but that group is in the majority. Our speaker informed us that folks forty and older have learned in a linear fashion, having a beginning and building from that. 1 + 1 = 2 and so on. However, the thirty and younger individuals are taking a different approach. They are interested in spiritual things, but it may not be religion as such, nor the Bible in particular. They have questions, but only in what is of interest to them. Beginning with Genesis and moving through the history of Israel to the beginning of the church may not be their interest. You could quote all your favorite passages to prove what their real need is but be wasting your breath and their time. So, how do you reach them with questions which they may be curious in finding the answer to? You must know what their interests are! There is the challenge.
A more linear crowd was in Peter’s audience. He charged them with crucifying God’s Son. This created a question explaining their interest. “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter gave the answer in verse 38. However, he did not stop but continued his linear thought. Yet, they responded to his answer by being immersed (v.41). Philip asked the Ethiopian treasurer, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” The eunuch was intrigued by the question and asked, “How can I unless someone teaches me?” Philip gave him the answer because the treasurer asked, “See here is water, what is to prevent my being baptized?” So, Philip immersed him.
If Peter had replied to the inquirer, “Hold your questions and don’t disturb me with any other comments until I’m finished with my sermon,” he may have lost his audience. If Philip had replied to the treasurer, “How can you be a student of Isaiah and be so ignorant of what he is talking about?” Water or no water, he may have waded into the pond by himself.
If Peter had been more interested in making Cornelius into a good Jewish proselyte rather than perceiving the real question needed at that time, what would have been the outcome? Would he have been answering what they were interested in getting a reply to??
In all the cases given, linear teaching was being used with questions. If you talk with someone who is not interested in that form of teaching, how will you know what questions and subjects are interesting to them? Will, “I’d like to invite you to attend our church services” peak their interest? Would the question, “Would you like to study the Bible with me?” excite them? If you were told, “I am interested in spiritual things,” that might excite you until they asked, “Are you interested in séances?” Perhaps such passages as Micah 5:12 would satisfy you, but will it convince or interest them?
Culture changes and so do teaching technics. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries debating was popular, because it was entertaining, and people knew the Bible. Points were seen because of that understanding. Challenging one another was acceptable. Today, some members don’t understand whether an argument is valid or not. If the preacher is known and respected, he is accepted as the winner whether he embraces the Bible or not. Personality wins arguments, not logic. Comfort zones become the standard rather than scripture. Our culture has also been influenced by affluence. If we have the right outward appearance, they will come! Our doors are open, if they can’t find them, it isn’t our fault!
For some the important question is, “Do you want to go to heaven?” Try that question on someone who believes he has found it here! How do you reach those who are lost but believe they have found the abundant life through a different way of thinking?
The Jerusalem church refused to preach the gospel to Gentiles for 9 to 11 years because they thought they were not worth saving! Is that what the twenty-first century church believes about those who are not interested in linear learning? Just another question. Is it one you are asking?