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Erwin McManus on Reaching Younger Generations: 'The Bible Is Not an Antiquated Text'

Erwin McManus on Reaching Younger Generations: 'The Bible Is Not an Antiquated Text'

The writings of the Bible were completed about 2,000 years ago, but on Wednesday, author, filmmaker and pastor Erwin McManus reminded church leaders who are trying to reach young people that the Bible will continue to be relevant into the future.

McManus, pastor of Mosaic in Los Angeles, Calif., was interviewed by Geoffrey Morin, chief communications officer for the American Bible Society, for "The Biggest Story" webcast. The event, which was put on by Willow Creek Association and ABS, focused on how Christian leaders can reach the younger generations with the Gospel.

The statistics pertaining to Bible engagement among Millennials – which the Pew Research Center defines as those people born between 1981 and 2000 – are sobering. ABS research shows one in three Millennials are antagonistic toward the Bible, church and God, and seven out of 10 rarely or never read the Bible.

But McManus says young people are setting down their Bible's not because they're running away from God, but because they're searching for authenticity and truth. Young people see the Bible as the impetus behind the "monotonous culture of the '50s where people pretended to be affected by God but actually lived very hollow lives," he said, though they don't realize what they're looking for can be found in the scriptures.

"We're not changing people's minds about what they're running from, we're changing their minds about what they're running to," he said.

McManus, who is 55-years-old, says his age can actually serve as an advantage when it comes to reaching young people. Today's youth are a "fatherless generation" in search of age-old wisdom they can apply even to their future.

"The Bible is not an antiquated text. The scriptures are the text that will lead us into the future," said McManus toward the event's end. "So I want everyone who believes in the scriptures to know we're already one step into the future, not just simply rooted in the past."

He said he was once approached by a reporter who said she was confused as to how he was having success gathering young nonbelievers to his church while proclaiming such an "intense" message and calling them to live at a higher standard. Humans don't have a longing to be "less," he told her, they want to be more.

"We think that this generation has walked away from the scriptures because we've called them to too much, but I'm saying they've walked away from the scriptures because we've called them to too little," he said.

He also said some preachers and teachers need to change their approach to reading and presenting the message of the Bible. Preachers should let others know how certain truths have changed their own lives, he said, and should approach the scriptures with a sense of awe.

"If you come at the Bible as if it's a document of encyclopedic information, you've pretty much killed any kind of life change in a seeker and unbeliever," he said. "But if you come to the scriptures with surprise and curiosity and a sense of anticipation and wonder, it will translate in the way you communicate it."

Mosaic has hosted events where those in attendance would study entire books of the Bible together in a single day. Attendees were invited to ask questions about the text and, McManus says, they wouldn't leave until all of the questions that were written down had been answered.

There weren't any rules restricting the questions they could ask, except they couldn't ask questions for people who weren't there and they had to ask questions they truly cared about.

"The Bible has been trapped in modernity," he said. "Everything has to work perfectly. And if everything doesn't fit in a Lego-oriented functionality, then we don't deal with it as Christians."

He once felt pressured to know the answers to everyone's questions, he said, but has found relief in learning that he could say, "I don't know the answer to that, but I'll find out," in response to a question. His goal in helping people with such questions, he says, is ultimately to help them see God clearly.

McManus says it's important for Christian leaders to not only seek answers to questions but also to tell stories, including stories about how Jesus' words have motivated believers to make an impact on the world. He also says God can use a variety of story-sharing mediums, including film, books and spoken narrative, to prepare people to receive the Gospel message.


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