As I understand it, some of the great stained-glass windows of historical (and perhaps even modern) church buildings were designed for a time when the average parishoner couldn’t read. Here, great accounts from the Bible were shown in pictures, which would help to remind worshipers about what they had been taught from the pulpit or another teacher. When the specific words of the Bible hadn’t been committed to memory, the sight of a scene frozen in colored glass would bring them back to mind.
When I was younger, little songs that we would sing in children’s church served a similar purpose. Whether we learned about Zacchaeus or Noah, or just simple facts like “Jesus Loves Me” and that we should let our little light shine, these simple tunes helped us remember simple – but powerful – truths. (I’m sure that I didn’t fully appreciate that at the time, though.)
Today, illustrated children’s Bible story books, along with well-produced online videos and smartphone or tablet apps, help achieve the same goal. While the accounts from the Bible are sometimes editorialized or sanitized a bit by the authors, the result can still teach truthful messages to those who don’t yet have the have the ability to read, or who haven’t yet learned to study the Bible on their own.
I’m not here to bemoan the evils of today’s society (after all, evil has been present since the Garden of Eden, so it shouldn’t surprise us), but it occurs to me that there are many today who don’t know the simple truths of God’s message. While people in this situation may be able to read, and have access to the knowledge of the ages (at least, where it is recorded on the Internet), they are functionally illiterate when it comes to the word – the good news – that God has given to humankind.
I propose, though, that there is one method of teaching people about God’s message that has never gone away. No technology or format ever obsoletes the value of an individual Christian’s testimony, both in word and in deed. Our lives, accompanied by our story about how God has changed us, add to the volumes of examples that corroborate God’s message to humankind.
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:16 NLT
Whether our culture and environment are accepting of Jesus’ teachings, subtly opposed to His message, or outright hostile towards Him, we are called to let our light shine (just like the kids’ song says). The method of delivering this message may change, but the call – to obey Jesus and to live according to His teachings and example – have remained the same since He first delivered those words in the first place.
Still, even as we attest to the change that Jesus has made in our lives, telling and showing others the positive difference that He imparts to us, I wonder: Do we need a new way to make the message of the Bible known to those who don’t know about Him? Is there something – some format, technique, or construct – that will both instruct and remind others (even those who don’t know the Bible) what it teaches us?
Perhaps the answer is what others are already doing with technology – sharing the good news from God using modern means. Still, I wonder if there is more that we could do, and I would ask readers to think about this. If you think of something, feel free to share it here, or use any method that you can to get the word out. Children and adults today need to know (and be reminded) about Jesus, just as much as those who sat in churches and stared at stained glass did, in years past.