“If You Have Your Bibles…”

by | Mar 6, 2018 | City Lights

If You Have Your Bibles . . . turn to [passage reference]; if you don’t have your Bibles, repent!” [laughter]  Thus the speaker began the meeting.  But if I would dare to borrow a line from Queen Victoria, “We are not amused” when it comes to people not having their Bibles.

I was watching a film clip on my computer of a Billy Graham Crusade meeting, ca. 1970’s thereabouts.  One thing that struck me as the camera panned the audience was how many people had their Bibles and were opening to Graham’s text.

Today, people don’t have their Bibles with them in church.  Okay, they have the Bible on their cell phones.  So, get with it Hall, this is the 21st century.

Yes, we have to come to terms with technology and yes, technology in the form of PCs and inexpensive, but high quality desktop printers, has been a great help to us in the ministry here.

That said, there remains cause for great concern.  It’s nice that the Bible is available electronically such as on a cell phone.  I now do much of my personal Bible study on my PC with an electronic Bible.  My problem is that that is not all there is on hand-held devices.  Owing to a certain amount of cranial thickness, it took me a while to figure out that the heads down focus on one’s device is not always a concentration on the Biblical text, like uh, during a sermon.

It is just as easy, during the sermon, to be texting a friend, even the person next to you.  Okay, I admit it, as teenagers sitting in the balcony of our church, we were passing notes to each other and yes, we most certainly would have taken advantage of the current technology had it been available.

The problem, however, is much deeper than a more clever way to communicate.  You’re probably way ahead of me on this issue but what we have before us is a nefarious something called “tech addiction.”

Perhaps you saw the article posted on the internet by one, Farhad Manjoo, “Even the Tech Elite are Worried about Tech Addiction.”   He writes, “What is interesting is who has been pushing the issue [of tech addiction]. Several former Facebook executives, the very people who set up the Like-based systems of digital addiction and manipulation that now rule much of online life, have begun to speak out in alarm about our slavishness to digital devices.”

He continues, “And their worries seem resonant. Now that we all have phones, and we’re all looking at them all the time, how can we deny that they hold some otherworldly, possibly unhealthy bondage over our brains?”  There’s plenty of cause for concern not too far into the article.

What caught my eye, however, was the same author’s opening statement in a related article, “The Rise of a Visual Internet”: The thing you’re doing now, reading prose on a screen, is going out of fashion.  Text is on the decline; audio and visual is on the rise.”  No.  Say it isn’t so!   Actually we’ve known about this for some time.  A generation ago, Neil Postman, a sociologist, in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, warned us about how television undermines the ability to do linear thinking, that is, the medium itself does not allow the mind to reflect on a proposition and derive inferences from it.

Bear in mind that the people who run the media machines are themselves not caught up in the media they are purveying.  In order to market their product, they have to think, reflect, gather data and analyze it.  They will be happy to filter information, using traditional linear reasoning, convey the message they want you to hear and do the thinking for you all the while making you think you are getting an objective window on the world.

I’m very glad that the surgeon who operated on me 14 years ago learned his craft through reading textbooks and receiving logical, rational instruction as well as hands-on experience supervised by an instructor functioning with the same logic and rationality using language that has precise meaning.  I’m doubly glad that he was not driven by his emotions as he was operating on me.

Why am I concerned that prose is going out of style? because the Bible is prose!  It is words, words that are to be read, re-read, memorized, and reflected upon.  The hip ministries supposedly have picked up on this visually oriented age and are committed  to providing a more visual experience in seeker friendly worship.

After the worship band performs its “set,” (some of whom leave right after their “performance”) people expect the message to be served up with a preliminary video blast after which the preacher, wearing jeans and a shirt not tucked in, delivers the message from a bar stool.

The Scriptures cannot be re-configured into a series of YouTube clips.  Whereas it is true we have to take into consideration our media driven age, we must be careful that we don’t unwittingly succumb to it by dumbing down the message.

The problem is not new. It goes back to the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul had to contend with how he presented his message in Corinth.  Yes, the Jews demanded signs but the Greeks sought wisdom.  The Greco-Roman world placed a high value on rhetoric, that is, on how one delivered the message.

If Paul did not speak in a certain way, his message was not heard and thereby he was not qualified to be a preacher in the minds of some.  Like today, if the message is not packaged in a certain way, it will not be heard.  Marshal McLuhan was quite prophetic when speaking about our age, “The media is the message.”
What was the Apostle’s response?  “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (I  Cor. 1:17).  Mind, this is not to be understood in such a way that it is a virtue to be intellectually lazy.

For me, being faithful to the Scriptures with eloquent simplicity is the order of the day.  That is very difficult to pull off.  It takes hard work and the anointing of the Spirit.

Please pray for us as we, by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s power, preach and teach the whole counsel of God.  And yes, have your Bibles handy.

Household Words

At a recent members’ meeting of The Bronx Household of Faith, we had reports from our various ministries, “A Look Back at the Year 2017.”  These are mostly ministries to teens and some to younger children.  We would be happy to send you a copy of that report upon request, in electronic or hard copy form.  We’re proud of our “front line” workers and equally proud of those who labor in an unheralded but vital support role.

Hope Academy will be holding its fifth annual fund raising banquet on Saturday,  March 3rd.  If you are within striking distance you most likely have received an invitation.  If not, please let us know so that we can include you in the loop.  HA is meeting a real need and the word is getting out.  One limitation in being able to serve more youth, is finances.  Please pray for God’s provision so that we will be able to respond to the requests that come to us.

In addition to our internal ministries which are directly under BHOF, there are those of our number who are engaged in ministries that function outside the “borders” of BHOF.

A basketball team from New York City Christian Athletic League (NYCCAL) just participated in a city-wide tournament where they lost the championship by 2 points in the final minute.  Edwin Santiago reported that other leaders commented on how well the boys took the loss and how impressed they were with the way they conducted themselves.

Expect Hope, a ministry of Hope Christian Center under the directorship of Emily Prins, has just opened its doors to receive pregnant women who would otherwise choose abortion having no place to go.  They are about to receive their first residents.  Please pray for Emily and staff in this vital ministry that provides an alternative to abortion.

–Bob Hall