Chapter twenty, "The Genealogy of Faith"
I heard more stories in Russia. For example, I was told about an incident that happened in the early 1950's when three charismatic pastors were organizing house churches... They came up with a very bold idea. They planned and organized a youth congress in Moscow and invited all of the young, unmarried members of their various house churches--from eighteen to thirty years of age--to meet and encourage one another... What some people judged to be "foolish" about the idea was thinking that a week-long meeting of almost seven hundred young believers in Russia during the early 1950's could possibly escape the notice of the communist government. Sure enough, the authorities did take notice. When the event was over, all three organizing pastors were arrested and sentenced to prison for three years each... The primary purpose in bringing the young people together was to gather the scattered parts of the Body of Christ in one place. The goal was to hear what God was doing with other people and to simply enjoy the experience of Christian community. At the beginning of the conference--evidently without much forethought or planning--the young people were given an interesting challenge. None of them had owned a Bible. They had never had hymnbooks or songbooks or recordings of religious music. So, in an off-handed way, the three pastors decided to determine how much Bible truth was present in that group of young people. They said, "This will be like a game. Every day this week, we want you to gather in small groups. And we want to see how much of the four New Testament gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--you know and have memorized. In your groups, see how much of the gospels you can recreate. And then do the same thing with songs and hymns. Let's see how much of that can be reproduced by memory." At the end of the conference, when they compared and combined the efforts of all the different small groups, the young people had recreated all of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with only a half-dozen mistakes. They had also recreated the lyrics of more than twelve hundred songs, choruses, and hymns of the faith from memory. (163, 164, 165)Ripken writes, "it became clear to me in an instant why and how the Christian faith had survived and often thrived under decades of communist oppression in the Soviet Union. I also understood what had enabled so many Russian believers to remain strong and faithful... Under communism... Scripture and holy song was its lifeblood. Now, in a much freer day for the church, Scripture and holy song did not seem nearly as important."
Isn't this an amazing story?! Think about it. None of them had owned a Bible. They had never had hymnbooks or songbooks or recordings of religious music. And yet. The young people had recreated all of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with only a half-dozen mistakes. They had also recreated the lyrics of more than twelve hundred songs, choruses, and hymns of the faith from memory. This is vibrant, living faith. This is the faith of those who LOVE AND ADORE their Savior and Lord. What an example of Deuteronomy 6:4-9!And Psalm 119:11! Because Jesus was everything, they risked all to pass this LIFE, this LOVE, to their children. Christ was ALL. What a testimony! What a challenge! What a contrast!
It saddens me that most believers don't read the Bible. It's heartbreaking to know that there are believers who have access to the Word--access in abundance--yet don't value the Bible as the Word of God. There are people who identify themselves as Christians who choose not to read God's revelation. Perhaps not realizing that in these words are LIFE. Some have good intentions to read it at some point. They wish they could find time to squeeze it in just in case it's still relevant. But their excuses outweigh their good intentions. The Bible is taken for granted.
I'm reminded of a J. Vernon McGee quote in his commentary on Jeremiah:
I am not impressed that the Bible is still the best seller of all books. Who is actually reading the Bible today? Ignoring the Bible is really no different from throwing it into the fire as Jehoiakim did. (149)© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible