Sunday, 16 March 2014


Do the older members of the youth group still learn Bible verses like they used to?

Your curate was challenged on this matter last week by an older pastor speaking to an evangelical ministers' meeting here in Sheffield. He asked us whether we were still learning verses because we seemed to have trouble identifying the Bible passages he was quoting from.

Thirty years ago cc had a notebook with the Bible verses he was learning. The verses were pertinent to the temptations he was facing at that time.

The temptations have not gone away but the notebook has.

Evangelical ministers converted to Christ before the 1960s - the kind of men who taught those of us at the older end of the youth group - were very keen on learning Bible verses because they thought that it would help them with their personal work.

And they were right. Provided biblical quotations can be introduced naturally into evangelistic and pastoral conversations, they enormously enhance our Christian calling 'to speak the truth in love' (Ephesians 4v15).

The rise of the expository preaching movement in the last 30 years has rightly made UK classic evangelicals wary of the chocolate box approach to the Bible. But such caution should not blind us to the fact that there are particular verses that do express wonderful distillations of biblical truth. With proper awareness of their context, they surely deserve to be committed to memory.

Pre-1960s evangelicals were helped by the fact that the Authorised Version was still pretty much standard. The plethora of versions in our generation can perhaps make learning verses verbatim more difficult. But the answer to that of course is to stick with one modern English version for our memorising, for example the New International Version or the English Standard Version.

Regrettably, in our prima donna culture it needs to be said that memorising verses in order to show off one's biblical knowledge and/or make other Christians feel ignorant is entirely the wrong motivation, for 'knowledge puffs up, but love builds up'.


Why the UK media are not that bothered about Syrian Christians appeared on Christian Today.  

Biblical ignorance of Anglican politicians is no laughing matter appeared on VirtueOnline.


  1. Proverbs 6:21-22

    "Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you"

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. 1 Cor 8:1

    Our youth group learned verses in the 1980s from the BNB and NIV.

    I'm 50/50 on its value - I think there is some, as part of having a good knowledge of the Bible, but equally I'm uncomfortable with proof-texting.

    1. Oops, what's the BNB??? I meant to type GNB - Good News Bible.

  4. Many other things we used to do in our youth that we no longer do. Armed with our notebooks of Bible verses, we teenage boys used to meet at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon for Pathfinders - boys in one hall, girls in the other. So much it taught me, even though most of us would have preferred to be somewhere else at the time. Come to faith a few years later, I found I remembered all these nuggets of scripture (but possibly not all the references) and they're all still there in middle age.
    The great evangelist Tom Rees was said never to have preached with a Bible in his hand - he didn't need to, for he had committed long passages to memory, not just significant verses. That was the tradition of previous generations, and indeed of all generations prior to universal literacy, and it dealt with scripture as a text, not just as bullet points.