You’ve just learned that a male member of your youth group has starting dating a non-Christian girl and they’ve had sex on at least one occasion. He had made a profession of faith as a young child and lived, until recently, as a faith-filled disciple of Christ. How will you minister to this student? What notes do you want to strike as you bring the truth of the gospel to bear on his life? How you move toward him depends on at least two things—your general approach to Scripture and your general approach to people. These two overarching aspects will shape the way you specifically minister to this teen. It’s important to be self-reflective about the ways we think about the Bible and about people if we are to be wise, compassionate, and gospel-centered in personal ministry. Let’s look at possible approaches to Scripture in this first article.
If you tend to view the Bible as a sourcebook for timeless principles in living, you might turn to 1 Corinthians 6:18—”Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” Or perhaps 2 Corinthians 6:14 comes to mind—”Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” Both verses could provide very direct exhortation to your student. Or if you tend to mine the pages of Scripture for examples to follow or avoid, you might think of Samson and the way in which his heart was led astray by Delilah (Judg 16). Or if you tend to view the Bible in systematic theological categories, you might engage your student in a discussion of how a holy life (sanctification) is a necessary outgrowth of justification (e.g., James 2:17). Any of these uses of Scripture might be beneficial to your teen, and none are wrong in and of themselves. But something is missing. Or better, someone is missing: the person of Jesus Christ!
If we don’t ultimately view the Bible as an unfolding, cohesive story of God’s redemption that comes to completion in Jesus Christ, our use of Scripture in ministry situations has the potential to miss him—and so will our hearers. Those we minister to need more than commands, principles, examples, and systematic theological categories per se. Rather, they need to be connected in vital relationship with a Redeemer. Because the Bible tells the story of God’s rescue mission that centers on the Redeemer Jesus Christ, wherever we are in Scripture we want to ask the questions, “How does this passage fit into the broader story of redemption? What difference does the death and resurrection of Jesus make for the way I would understand and apply this passage to my brother or sister?”
Approaching the Bible in this Christ-centered way in no way minimizes the importance of commands, principles, characters, and doctrine in Scripture. Rather, it puts all of them in a gospel-centered relational framework that avoids dispensing superficial “Bible bandaids.” Having advocated for this approach to the Bible, the next article discusses a general biblical framework for approaching people.
This blog is adapted from the book CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet (New Growth Press, 2009).