Journeys begin with a single step. Often the first step is forgotten by the time we reach our destination. My journey of faith, of searching the Scriptures to know what I believed, began on a Saturday when I was 16.
It was a rainy day. Normally this would not have mattered, but this was supposed to be a day for an outing of our church youth group. Most of the kids stayed home due to the weather but the few of us who had nothing else to do showed up anyway.
We were just sitting in the fellowship hall talking while the rain beat down outside. After a while the conversation turned theologically deep. For some reason we began discussing the points of theological distinction between traditional Christianity and its cultic off shoots. (yes- we were nerds!) We were focusing on the person and nature of Jesus Christ when the youth pastor turned to me and asked, “Bart, can you prove from Scripture that Jesus was God?”
I was only 16 at the time and had been seriously studying the Bible for less than a year, but I thought I could hold my own in such a debate and I reached for my Bible to find verses to support my answer. As I did the youth pastor stopped me and said, “You should just know this!” Implying that even at my young age I should have all of the major doctrines of scripture, and the supportive Biblical texts, committed to memory.
I did not at the time think to question his assertion, to ask, “Are you kidding? Nobody knows this stuff like that!” Unreasonable as his challenge might seem to some, I took him at his word and began a life long process of personal study and memorization. The knowledge gained has served me so well over the years. I am a Christian who knows what I believe and why I believe it. My faith has not wavered in the 37 years since, built firmly on Biblical truth.
It was a single moment in a seemingly nondescript location but it was a moment that helped shape my life. It is a reminder of how important our words can be and how important it is for adults to interact with and challenge young people. I do not think that all teens are capable of committing large chunks of Scripture to memory, but I do think that most teens can do much more than we think they can. The church has raised a Biblically illiterate generation that is ill prepared for the intellectual and philosophical challenges of the world in which we live. Maybe it is time we talk differently to younger believers. If we dare them to be better and to know more, some of them might actually do it.