Biblical Illiteracy (2/08)

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– a call for an educational strategy on the local level

By Jim Mazurek

I sat straight up in my chair, eyes glued to the television.  Bryan Jarrett was speaking to the youth of the Assemblies of God at General Council (Denver, 2005), and his strong, emphatic words, really caught my attention.

Some say that your generation is the most biblically illiterate generation in American history.   No one denies your passion, no one questions your spiritual hunger, but a lot of people are questioning your substance.

Our forefathers are questioning your ability to defend what you believe.  They don’t think you can give an answer for the faith that is within you.  They know you can tell us how it feels, but can you tell us where it’s found?

 (Download complete message at

His message was a clarion call to young and old, to work together, to make a complete and effective “handing off of the baton”, so that in the future the work of the ministry will go on as it should. 

As I listened, many questions popped into my head.

  • Is the same thing true about our Assemblies of God youth in Latin America?

  • Is our present generation of Latin American young people likewise, the most biblically illiterate in our history?

  • What happened in the United States to warrant such an indictment?  Is the same thing happening in Latin America?

I believe the answer to these questions is quite possibly “yes”. 

Growing up as an MK in Chile, life was filled with Sunday school, VBS, kid’s camps, teen camps, national youth conventions and so on.  One of the highlights of our year was to welcome George Davis and Juan Romero as they came flying down from the clouds in George’s little Cessna.  Even though I was only eight or nine years old, I knew their coming would bring a lot of fun and exciting new things about Sunday School that would renew our enthusiasm, bigtime.  There was a strong, concerted supply of occasions for Christian education on the local church, district and national levels. 

Despite the relative drop in the price of airfares and the incredible leaps in technology, I fear that in Latin America we have lost a great deal of that earlier ethos and failed to replace it with something of equal or greater value.  We live in time where song lyrics have become the main source of doctrinal instruction for many, and not the best doctrine is being presented at that.

Last September, via election, I was asked by our brethren on the SEC committee to fill the post of “Coordinador del Servicio de Educación Cristiana” (Coordinator of the Christian Education Service of the AG in Latin America), left vacant at that time by our dear fellow worker, Roy Smeya.  It is a position I had not sought, but one which I accepted with gratitude as an expression of God’s will.

During the following two days of meetings, this same subject came up.  We were all aware of the fact that a good number of years ago, the “Nivel Iglesia Local” (Local Church Level) had been dropped from the Plan Básico, in consideration of the fact that each national Assemblies of God organization has their own Christian Education department; and in fact several produce their own educational materials.  Nevertheless, after hearing a passionate appeal from Harold Calkins, for SEC to do more on the local church level, particularly the area of Sunday School, the Lord moved others to speak, and with a strong sense of unity, the committee brought back the “Nivel Iglesia Local” to the Plan Básico, naming Bienvenida Columna of the D.R. to be the leader of this department.  Work is being done right now to create the job descriptions, goals, and strategies for this area.

Even though many national churches may be doing very well in this area, I believe a national pastor or leader has the right to ask, “What does SEC recommend for the discipleship of new believers?” or “What does SEC recommend we use for the training of workers and leaders in our local church?”   Today, the Plan Básico addresses all sorts of questions regarding Bible Schools and higher education, but right now, SEC has nothing in print that will answer that pastor’s questions.

We know the materials are out there; but we need to use the great sphere of influence of the Plan Básico to help make these become better known and perceived within a strategy of overall Christian Education for the local church.   Every local church should have a strategy and the resources to provide quality Christian education on every level; from the brand new convert all the way to the local church leader and Bible institute candidate.

We need each of you, our fellow-educators, to participate with ideas and suggestions on how we can rebuild and fortify this all-important area.  You may contact me at

“Lord, may there never be another generation called the most biblically illiterate of our times.”