Many errors in Christianity arise because people identify a legitimate problem, but provide the wrong solution. This is often a recipe for disaster. As any doctor will tell you, the wrong solution to a legitimate problem often makes things worse.
I saw an example of this recently in a brochure advertising a youth ministry training day in our area. One of the workshops was entitled, ‘Bringing the Bible Alive through Drama’. This title implies that the Bible is lifeless, and needs other external helps (e.g. drama) to inject life into it.
I don’t know why this title was used. I don’t think that those who came up with it would have expressed the implications of their words in the way I have just done. Yet the use of the title is ultimately trying to provide the wrong solution to a legitimate problem. It is, in the final analysis, a serious error. Why? It’s because the Bible doesn’t need to be brought alive. It is not lifeless. Just ask the writer of Psalm 119, who reflected upon the written law of God and wrote: “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (v. 25) and “Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!” (v. 40). Or ask the writer to the Hebrews who, after an extended exposition of Psalm 95, concluded:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:12-13)
The Bible doesn’t need to be brought alive through anything. It is alive: it is God’s word, wielded by God’s Spirit, working and acting to accomplish God’s purposes.
However, we can and should go further here: whenever we are presented with an erroneous solution to a legitimate problem, it is not enough just to identify the error; we should also provide the right solution. In this case, the authors have actually identified a real problem, even if they have expressed it wrongly and provided the wrong solution. The real problem behind the title is that often our own presentations of the Bible (whether to youth or adults) are, indeed, dull and lifeless.
As a Christian teacher, I am guilty of this. Too often we can take the living (and often very dramatic) word of God, and present it in a formulaic, boring manner. This is the real problem that needs to be addressed. If we are truly gripped by the great truths of the Bible, it’s not good enough to just stand up and speak about this truth in a three-point lecture using the sort of voice and manner that make us sound like we’re reading the back of a Cornflakes packet. If it’s a dramatic point, use drama. If it’s serious, sound and act serious. If it’s joyful, be overjoyed! Teachers need to work hard and deliberately at this. For example, I benefited greatly from lessons from a voice coach who taught me to relax my voice and speak in a way that reflects the reality of what I’m saying. I have a long way to go, but I believe it’s worth it.
We can’t bring the Bible alive; it is far more alive than we are. But often we do need to bring the Bible teaching and the Bible teachers alive.
For future reference, I’d change the title of the workshop to ‘How to teach the living word of God through drama’.