My wife and I have four children and one on the way. If truth be told, I’m not a great fan of vegetables. My children all enjoy their vegetables. Why? In part because Melanie shared her enthusiasm, while I avoided expressing any complaints (and tried to set a consistent example too, of course).
Parenting isn’t a “choose your own adventure” book where you can go back and see what would have happened if you chose differently. So I don’t know what would have happened if we had gone with a negative suggestion approach. But I can guess. “Here, dear little daughter, try these gross green things: they’re peas, you probably won’t like them.”
And yet I have been pondering how we may inadvertently do that in the church. Take, for instance, the language of disciplines. Or specifically, the “discipline of Bible reading.”
I’ve been involved in an online discussion that I sparked by linking to my post on Bible read through plans (see here). In a nutshell I suggested in that short post that reading plans requiring the reader to read from multiple Bible books at the same time are not a good idea.
The responses to my apparently radical suggestion seem to have fallen in two categories. On the one side there are people who have resonated with my post and shared through their comments about their delight in reading God’s Word and finding such “bitty” approaches annoying and unhelpful. On the other side there are people who strongly resist any questioning of the value of such a discipline and insist that the majority would read less Bible without such external duty structures.
Here’s where the vegetable bit comes in. What are we saying to new Christians?
Option A – “The Bible is such a delight to me, I can’t get enough of it. You should dive in too. Go for it. Read it aggressively and relationally with a passion to hear the heart of the God who reveals Himself there. There will be bits you don’t understand yet, but don’t worry, enjoy the Word and through it, enjoy the Lord!”
Option B – “Reading the Bible is an important discipline. If you are not dutiful in this you will not grow as a Christian. You won’t like it though. It’s hard going and to be honest I haven’t got much of an appetite for it. The only way to get it down is if you cut it into little pieces and force yourself to get it down every day – a bit like a combination of vegetables and Cod Liver Oil. So good for you. So hard to take.”
My fear is that we are discipling with an Option B approach. Why? Do we believe that is the most helpful approach to take? Let’s pray that we will have the appetite ourselves, so that others will get infected too. Bible reading. Prayer. Church. Witnessing — Disciplines? Duties? Perhaps not the best language to use.