Back to the Basics

A couple of weeks ago I asked our 20s & 30s what kinds of things are roadblocks to them asking their friends to attend Bible class and the assembly. One main thing came to light that may be true of people where you live as well. They said our Bible classes and sermons assume people know the Bible. Many people still don’t know the basics. There gave a couple of suggestions on how to address this:

  1. A class on the basics of Christianity. I asked them what questions they had and their answers were everything from “Who is God?” to “Why do we do such and such in the worship service.”
  2. Avoid statements like, “We all know the story of Melchizedek, right”. Those statements inadvertently divides the class into two groups – those who know and those who do not. I am trying to work statements like that out of my vocabulary.
  3. Consider outsiders when choosing class topics. We did a marriage series a few months ago and it excluded some people. That doesn’t mean there is no place for something like that it is just important that we consider everyone and not just appeal to people who are in the same stage of life we are in.

We decided to start a class on the basics and many of them have volunteered to help teach it. I guess I assumed for a long time that people already knew the basics but it turns out that many who have been in church their whole lives still don’t know. It amazed me that they actually asked for a class on this. We often assume basics are the last thing our young adults want to hear about but maybe they are more interested and in need of those topics than we think. All you have to do is ask them and see what they say.

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

17 Responses to Back to the Basics

  1. I love #2. Reminds me of campus ministry back in G-ville where this guy oft said in Bible class, “That reminds me a lot of Hosea…” (g)

  2. ozziepete says:

    I recently had a college student who attended church and Bible class her whole life ask, “Are homosexuals going to hell?” I know there are a lot of issues to discuss there (thanks Rob Bell) but I would hope if you’ve been raised in the church that you’re pretty clear on on the answer to that. I guess something was missing from her spiritual education.

    We’ve decided to address this by having a Question Session before Wed. Bible class that we hope our young adults will turn out for.

    • mattdabbs says:

      We have to be open, honest, transparent, or whatever other word you want to use. It is great that we can have an environment that people can ask their real questions and get an honest response. As far as the homosexuality issue goes, do you draw a line between the desire and the actions? I know people who are homosexual and while they have decided not to act on their desires they are still attracted to the same sex. I personally draw the line between the desire and the action. Whether homosexual or heterosexual we have to learn to contain our desires and keep them within the proper, biblical context. If you say the desire itself is sin, men attracted to men and women to women it seems you doom people with basically no chance at all. Just wondering where the rest of you guys are on this.

      • Jerry Starling says:

        I make the same distinction between desire and action. We must also keep in mind Jesus’ teaching on looking for the purpose of lusting. I would certainly apply that to homosexual desire as well as to a man looking at a woman to lust after her.

        Jerry

  3. Jerry Starling says:

    I learned a long time ago not to assume people in the church know the stories of the Bible. Even fewer know the overall story: Garden to Paradise. Tree of Life to River of Water of Life lined with the Tree of Life. Waling with God to Eternal Tabernacling with Him in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

  4. guy says:

    Hey Matt,

    So i’m just curious, since you keep up with reading so much better than i, what do you think of Eerman’s stuff about the NT being forged? Or that some books we have are pseudepigraphal? Just thought maybe you’d looked into some of this.

    –guy

  5. Tina says:

    What would you all consider “the basics”?

    • mattdabbs says:

      Who is God?
      Who is Jesus?
      Who is the Holy Spirit?
      Where did we get the Bible?
      What is the difference between the Old and New Testaments?
      What is the Gospel?
      Why do we worship the way we do?
      What is our mission?

      to name a few…

  6. mattdabbs says:

    Wendy,

    That would be assuming too much. Those three questions don’t assume that there is no connection in their identity. How you answer those three questions would reflect their relationship and divinity. I am just making the point that these are the questions people are asking. We often assume people already know these things but they really want to learn about this. It is important we don’t talk over where people really are in their knowledge of scripture.

  7. Matt, I think the important thing is that we teach at a lot of different levels, and perhaps at different levels in different forums. I don’t want to go all the way to only teaching a cycle of basics, because I want to cultivate a mentality that we’re all pushing and growing constantly. on the other hand, I don’t want to consistently teach at a level that leaves people out.

    I wonder as well if some of this isn’t really about topic selection, but about how we teach. In other words, material that seems complex or perhaps advanced can become much more accessible through intentional teaching methodology. On the other hand, material that is quite basic can become inaccessible through poor teaching. Truth be told, I think the latter is often more our problem. It’s not that we’re teaching material that’s too advanced, but teaching basic material poorly.

    • mattdabbs says:

      There is no way I am saying that is all we do. We have Wednesday night, Sunday morning, Sunday night, and sometimes other Bible studies mid week for various groups and devotionals. There are plenty of opportunities to make sure there is a range of topics covered. The problem we are facing is that many who have been in the church a long time don’t know the basics and all of the brand new people and brand new Christians don’t really know much at all. This is very relevant as society in general becomes less aware of what Christianity and the Bible are all about. I think some times we are on auto pilot and don’t even realize there is an issue. That is what this post was trying to address. Thanks for your insights and input…always good to hear what you think on these things.

  8. guy says:

    Matt,

    About what determines the basics list, just a couple thoughts:

    (1) i’ve always wondered if Hebrews 6:1f wasn’t a list that showed what the early church considered the sort of “basics” of training a catachumen/babe in Christ. What do you think?

    (2) While i do not mean to critique your list at all, i think it’s a fine list, it strikes me that a lot of “basics” list in the CoC leave out the ‘basics’ of what it means to follow Christ in a daily-practical sense. What are the ‘basic’ ethical norms distinctive of a Christian lifestyle? Maybe some lists include such things, i just haven’t personally encountered any. Do you think this omission is telling about our priorities or values or aims?

    –guy

    • mattdabbs says:

      Guy,

      How do you teach people to follow Jesus if they don’t know who he is? My point is if we are assuming people even know that when some of them don’t then you can teach discipleship and ethics all day but they won’t understand who they are following and why it is so important. So to those who have been Christians for some time many do need to hear what you are talking about but I am talking about even more basic than that so that we can then have the next conversation that is slightly more advanced which would include the things you are talking about.

      • guy says:

        So you mean to address non-Christians? Or you mean to say that there are even some Christians who can’t answer such questions? (Do you really think a person can become a Christian without at least some minimal answers to some of these questions?)

        –guy

    • mattdabbs says:

      These are the questions people are asking me…Christian people. I am not making these up out of the blue. There are many reasons why Christians would ask these questions. I think the biggest reason is that they want to be strengthened in their faith because they have so many friends who are not Christians who believe in all sorts of other things they want to know where they stand and why. Does that make them any less Christian?😉

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