Doing the Bible by Kaitlyn Jack

posted in: Devotional | 1

When I was a teenager, I remember frequently thirsting for more specific theological messages about the Bible. And I’m not even talking about “theology” that has to do with big words like egalitarian, paedobaptism, or Calvinism. I just wanted to dive into practical ways to live out faith and learn more biblical basics, which are both something that theology covers. How could I do God’s word? I was told to not let people look down on me because I was young (1 Timothy 4:12), but how was I supposed to move on from that? How does the Old Testament connect to the New? What are all these names of places in the Bible that I don’t know? Can someone explain to me why our church practices [insert tradition here]?

Sunday school and youth group were too-often filled with vague messages. This shortcoming was not the fault of my fabulous youth leaders who cared for God’s next generation super well, but there was probably a disparity in what was thought to be “suitable” teaching for teenagers. I was probably not asking as many questions as I could have been, and I was impatient and unwilling to listen to my elders at times. But I do think there was a holy urging within myself to learn more.

So I was left with these thoughts like these:

  • Why are we learning about the Christian buzzword kindness when we could be learning about Jesus’ radical compassion?
  • Why learn about the already-familiar forgiveness when we could dive into the topic of God’s unimaginable gift of grace?
  • Why do we continue to talk about what we can’t do because of God’s rules, when we could talk about our spiritual superpowers or how missionaries tell stories of literally healing people?

Do you get what I’m saying? There were more specific topics to dive into, but they were infrequently addressed. I think this might be a disparity in many churches because I still hear sermons where generalizations abound and the specifics of how to practice faith are left to individual interpretation.

This pattern continued when I went to college. The hunger to learn more about the Bible led me, among other reasons, to go to a Christian college where Bible classes were mandatory. Unfortunately, the mandatory aspect of the Bible courses created two groups of people: those who took the classes simply to get the credits done, and those who took the classes because of the wealth of knowledge our Bible professors could share. To make matters worse, the university had “honors” level courses for Bible classes, and “general” level courses, so an unhealthy dynamic took place where students who genuinely wanted to be involved in theological discussion were excluded from the “honors” courses because they did not have a high enough ACT score (a policy I frequently spoke against in course evaluations).

The overall culture I experienced was both beautiful and disappointing at times. I learned SO MUCH about the Bible that I never had access to before, but it was hard to see some of my peers go through the motions of treating the Bible as “facts to be studied” instead of “Word to be lived.” Don’t get me wrong, I loved the college I went to, but sometimes the gospel message was still dampened for the young adults that attended. And many of the tools we used were things I could have had access to before college. I just thought, if we are still dulling down the Bible at a Christian university, then when do we start treating teenagers/young adults like the bearers of God’s Word that they are?

In the middle of this story, Spoke Folk became one of the first places I was able to get solid answers to deeper questions. The more impactful tours were the ones where I took advantage of the wisdom God had given our counselors and peers by asking questions about God’s character and how they have lived out practical ministry at home. On my first tour in Ohio 2013, I felt God’s love for the first time in a room full of mostly strangers. (Shout out to pre-glasses Kaitlyn in this picture of that tour’s program.) I loved watching the older participants taking bold and crazy actions to make sure people knew that Jesus loved them.

In the middle of this story, Spoke Folk became one of the first places I was able to get solid answers to deeper questions. The more impactful tours were the ones where I took advantage of the wisdom God had given our counselors and peers by asking questions about God’s character and how they have lived out practical ministry at home. On my first tour in Ohio 2013, I felt God’s love for the first time in a room full of mostly strangers. (Shout out to pre-glasses Kaitlyn in this picture of that tour’s program.) I loved watching the older participants taking bold and crazy actions to make sure people knew that Jesus loved them.

Recently I have been reading through the book of Acts. Throughout this book, the early church was wasting no time. They sought Jesus even after he was dead, and asked him questions when he arose. They urgently met in community to praise God for bringing Gentiles (non-Jews) into the fold of God’s people. They discussed whether or not Jewish and Gentile Christians both had to follow the Old Testament laws. And they started some very active ministry by sending the first missionary journeys out from Jerusalem and Antioch!

Therefore, as we prepare for future tours, I encourage participants and counselors alike to mentally prepare to be intentional with every ounce of time for those twelve days. And even when we’re home the remainder of the year, it’s crucial that the same interactions happen. Have those one-on-ones with people, and don’t be afraid to ask a counselor/youth leader to share some of their wisdom. Ask what a verse, a sentence, or even a biblical word really means, because there are online tools to help you learn what the original meaning of every single word in the Bible. (Fiddle around a little bit with BlueLetterBible.org. This link [https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/jhn/3/16/t_conc_1000016] will take you to John 3:16, and if you click on the Strong’s code next to each word, it will take you to a description of that word in Greek. For example, click on “g25” for “loved,” and we see that the Greek word agapaō means “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.” People who study the Bible look up words like this because the original languages often have deeper meanings for words than the English translation.)

Maybe the original languages of the Bible isn’t your thing, but maybe you have a lot of questions. Sometimes it’s hard to even phrase what you want to ask. Opening up to Spoke Folkers is a good place to start. The more you talk to people about how you’ve grown, how God is working in your life, and ask how God is working in theirs, you will form a greater picture of how you could further God’s kingdom in the future. At home, I would encourage young folks to apply for a temporary job at a camp or youth ministry, which in my experience have been similar environments to Spoke Folk tours because of… well, the presence of Jesus! I would also encourage the older folks to take young adults under their wing, because many students WANT mentoring relationships but are too afraid to ask. Overall, my message is to not get frustrated with your circumstances if they seem far from God, but pray for God to show you what you can do to learn more about him and share him with others. If you don’t see something you can do, ask Spoke Folkers or church friends if they see an opportunity in your life, or start with the daily habits.

Blessings to you all,

Kaitlyn Jack

  1. pj

    You are certainly letting the Holy Spirit work through you Kaitlyn. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

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