I was brought up in a world where the Bible stories were part and parcel of my education, not at home – my parents did believe, but didn’t believe in churchgoing – but at school. Scripture lessons were there to teach Scripture.
But I didn’t know this. I don’t think the church knew it either. I was on the edge of a major cultural change.
By the end of my senior school, Scripture lessons were no more, replaced by RE or RS. The Bible stories, that had formed and shaped whole generations, were no longer told.
We ceased to hear them, we couldn’t listen out for them. No one opened their month to share them. They were uttered no more. They were told no longer.
The decades have passed. The noise of our culture has pushed the Bible stories to the margins of life, the great stories of God’s dealings with the world He made, in love, grace, and compassion. God’s story has in so many ways been silenced. The praiseworthy deeds of the Lord we love and serve are no more known or remembered.
New generations are rising up. They will struggle to make sense of the God who loves them, because they’ve not the basic wherewithal to start their thinking.
It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. In generations past, even my generation, the jigsaw pieces were scattered before you. All you needed was someone to show how the picture came together. Now the pieces are in a box, and the box is tidied out of the way.
With no stories of God, there is no God to put your trust in, no God to remember about their deeds, no God to show a better way to live.
Which makes me think …
For several decades, a clear focus of the world-wide church’s mission has been to the 10/40 window – that slice of the world between latitudes 10 and 40 across the northern hemisphere. It’s been a good focus. It’s an area where the stories of God have been at best forgotten and at worst never heard.
Today, we have our own 10/40 window – not based on geography but on generations. The cultural move of Scripture at the heart of the teaching curriculum to Scripture not spoken of has taken a couple of generation to occur.
If you are between the ages of 10 and 40 in the UK, there is a very good chance that the stories of God, as told and re-told in the Bible, are not just forgotten – they’re hidden from sight.
Our 10/40 generation has grown up having no knowledge of the ways of God, no memory of His creation story, no awareness of our defiance of God, no hope of His promise of rescue, no chance of the power of responding to Jesus Christ, and no opportunity to receive His gift of eternal life.
The writer of Psalm 78 talks of opening their mouth, uttering the things of old, telling the next generation. The psalm has 72 verses. It tells again and again of God’s story with His people, His love and faithfulness, their sin and failure, His forgiveness and renewal.
These are the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord the psalmist longs to share so that generation after generation can know these stories, these promises and these hopes, that generation after generation would put their trust in God, not forget His deeds and keep His commands.
I’ve just shared in the 20th anniversary celebration of the great ministry to primary schools, Open the Book. Those story-tellers are right on the frontline of our 10/40 generation. They have the opportunity to tell the stories of our wonderful God, stories that can shape the values and ideals of children and their parents today, and stories that can open a window to knowing the living God, their heavenly Father.
Open the Book, which started in Bedford 20 years ago, shares with our 10/40 generation the Good News of God’s loving purposes, enacted over time and history. Their story-tellers once again make known that there is a God who loves this 10/40 generation, who stands knocking at the door of their lives and longing to come in and eat with them, and they with Him.
I want to be like the writer of Psalm 78: “We will not hide them … we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.”