We recently returned from our second Great Homeschool Convention where we exhibited and sold my Bible courses. The conventions are definitely a fun and exciting environment. We enjoyed meeting and getting to know fellow vendors, seeing all of the interesting products on display, and talking with customers. We were also encouraged by hearing people tell us that they were looking for curriculum like ours.
Our experience at conventions is helping us to differentiate ourselves from other Bible curriculum publishers. And that makes complete sense because even on an individual level, we understand ourselves better when we meet others. Am I artistic, intellectual, patient, kind? We can better answer those questions when we get to know others.
Book by Book
So here’s my attempt to define BibleBridge: Bible Study Lessons in light of our recent convention. First, BibleBridge helps people study the Bible book by book and chapter by chapter. We believe that is the best way to study the Bible. Yes, there is a place for topical studies, but to really get into the Bible, it needs to be examined one book at a time.
Why? Because by focusing on one topic or theme, topical studies skip over large portions of Scripture. They are like a person looking for a lost watch. The only thing that matters is finding that one item. Other things found during the search process don’t really matter. But if all of Scripture is God’s Word then everything we find matters.
To get into the meat of Scripture, we must engage it in a consistent and structured way. And we believe the best method is book by book, chapter by chapter.
Bridge #1: From Sunday School to College
Second, BibleBridge builds bridges. The first bridge is between the Sunday School years and the University years. We see a large gap between studying the Bible in Sunday School with cartoons and comic strips and listening to a college professor say critical things about the Bible. Yes, there are youth group messages and church sermons, but those are primarily encouraging in nature. What will prepare Christian teens for the shock of academic Bible study in a university setting? What will help youth realize that Bible study is a serious academic exercise requiring intense thought and years of training in ancient languages, history, and culture?
Unfortunately, since Bible is not a required class for college acceptance, we often drop the ball with the world’s best-selling book. We put a lot of emphasis on teaching Scripture in the early years and then essentially neglect it before students leave for college. But arguably, that’s when they need it most. Statistics show that students who grew up in the Christian faith are likely to leave it behind during the college years.
If we do teach Scripture in the later years, we often don’t teach it in a way that is appropriate to that age level. As students grow, their level of engagement with a subject naturally changes. For example, we don’t ask five-year-olds to write an eight-page essay paper nor do we teach Algebra to first graders. We lead students into deeper levels of study as they mature. That should be the same with the Bible.
Is it possible that by neglecting the Bible or by failing to take students deeper into the meaning of Scripture as they mature, we have given them an implicit message that the Bible is irrelevant?
By giving high school students pat answers to difficult theological questions we are telling them, “Don’t wrestle with this issue. Here’s the answer.” But they want to wrestle. They need to wrestle. It’s how they will grow and stay engaged with Scripture. Jewish schools called yeshiva place students in pairs to discuss and debate the meaning of Scripture. Why haven’t Christians realized the importance of this activity? It’s better to debate and wrestle with the Bible than to treat it as an irrelevant artifact of ancient history.
For those of us who attended Bible college or Seminary, we had plenty of opportunities to discuss and debate with our roommates and Professors. And in the process, we learned to keep the focus on the argument and not make the debate personal by attacking our interlocutor. But many Christians never have that experience. They go from hearing an encouraging Sunday school message or sermon to listening to a college professor teach critical ideas about the Bible. And if that is their first exposure to such ideas, they will experience an intense shock, which could lead them to conclude that the Bible was simply a trivial part of their childhood.
So our goal is to build a bridge. A bridge between Sunday School and college or a bridge between the academic world of biblical scholarship and those without formal Bible education. How do we build that bridge? By going through the Bible book by book and giving an initial exposure to the challenge of Bible translation, issues of biblical interpretation, and ideas from ancient history and literature.
Bridge #2: From One Denomination to Another
The incredible thing is that the way we build this bridge creates a second bridge: a bridge between believers of various denominations.
The Christian church is divided. There are three major branches of Christianity: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant. But there are also believers who don’t fit into one of those three categories, such as the Mennonites who were persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants. In addition to those divisions, there are thousands of Protestant denominations.
We don’t need more divisions. We need bridges. And the way we build bridges is by listening to each other. Instead of name calling or labeling other churches as liberal or Bible-thumpers, we should seek to understand where others are coming from. Why do they think that way? Where do they get that idea?
BibleBridge provides various views on controversial issues of biblical interpretation, so we can begin to understand each other. And understanding each other will lead to a less divisive church in the future. For more on why I think high school students should be exposed to biblical controversy see my post: 7 Reasons to Expose Students to Biblical Controversy.
But we must not merely throw a bunch of controversy at our teenagers and hope they find that a solution. We should help them prioritize what really matters. We should help them keep the controversy in perspective. Jesus did this when he was asked which commandment was the most important. Instead of replying, “They are all important because they all come from God,” he said,
The most important one . . . is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29–31)
And Paul prioritized the most important thing when he wrote,
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3–5).
For more on keeping things in perspective see my post: 3 Goals of High School Bible Teaching.
Bridge #3: From the Head to Heart
Keeping things in perspective involves building a third and final bridge: the bridge between the head and heart. The goal of Bible study includes head knowledge, but it also involves developing a passion for God, and character development as seen in the fruit of the Spirit. For example, when David writes, “As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you” (Psalm 42:1), that should cause us to think questions along these lines: How did David have such a passion for God? Am I passionate about God? How can I become more passionate about God? And pondering the suffering of Joseph or Job naturally encourages us to endure hardship in our own lives. By including personal reflection questions and creative assignments we can help students make the transition from the head to the heart.
So we are building three bridges:
- The bridge between Sunday School and College
- The bridge between Christian denominations
- The bridge between the mind and heart
Finally, why should we bother to build these bridges? Because of the following reasons.
- The Bible is the best-selling book of all time.
- The Bible contains the most important truths in the universe: the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self. And those truths lead to eternal life.
- The Bible will help our children live fulfilling lives. It will inspire them to serve others, endure hardships, hope in God’s promises, and be comforted by God’s presence.