Growing up in church in the 1950’s-60’s and pastoring a church in the 2010’s is a comparison of apples to oranges. I know, I’ve done both in the same church. I minister to people who ministered to me.
Back in the “good old days” things were, well, simple. We had one version of the Bible, the “good old” King James. That was it. All the pastor took to the pulpit with him was his Bible. He spoke and we listened (well, most of us; someone once defined preaching as “the fine art of talking in someone else’s sleep!”).
But that was then. This is now.
I’ve lost count of the Bible translations now available. It’s not uncommon to ask a Sunday school class and find that no two people have the same version. When I enter the pulpit I still have my Bible but now I also have to be wired for sound, make sure my PowerPoint slides are in order, and be mindful that I’m being recorded! I often quote 2 Corinthians 2:16, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (or a loose paraphrase, “Who can afford all this stuff?”).
Trying to keep up is challenging. Technology has affected the sacred as well as the secular. One must be mindful that despite all the changes some things remain the same. Things like God and you.
In May 1962 C. S. Lewis answered a letter sent to him by poet and playwright T. S. Eliot (1888-1965). Among the requests made by Eliot was if Lewis would be willing to write a review/criticism of the recently published New Testament of the New English Bible, published just the year before. Lewis declined. He felt he did not know enough about the Greek of that period to do a fair evaluation. He then makes this insightful comment:
“Odd, the way the less the Bible is read the more it is translated.”1
It’s impressive to have a shelf of Bible translations. And it’s exciting to attend a church with all the whistles and buzzes. But if one Bible isn’t read and God isn’t worshiped it’s just all so much junk.
“Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant” – Isaiah 55:3.
- Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 1346.