Biblezines: Media as a Tool for New Generation Outreach

Presentation of the Letter of Christ
( [email protected] ) May 14, 2004 12:51 AM EDT

Christian magazines have thought of innovative ways of presenting the letter of Christ in a method of attracting more youth of this generation. “Revolve” and Refuel, Christian magazines designed to outreach to today’s Christian youth resemble any other secular magazine in terms of format presentation and with the focus with which teens are attracted.

"Girls, cash, and cars" and "Beauty secrets you've never heard before!" headline the covers, and with small print, "Are You Dating a Godly Guy?" "What scripture really means" and "100 practical ways to live your faith."

Revolve and Refuel are teen ‘Biblezines,’ the biblical message produced in outward appearances like secular magazines, designed for the New Testament to fit easily into youth culture. Both Refuel (for guys) and Revolve (for girls) proved to be successful last month in April, being top hits in Christian bookstores.

"(Teenagers) find the Bible to be too big," said Laurie Whaley with publisher Transit/Nelson Bibles of Nashville, Tenn. "It's intimidating. It looks like something their parents carry. (We thought), 'What if we could take the message of the Bible and put it into the format of a magazine ... and help teenagers understand that the Bible can be relevant to where they live today.'"

The topics that both ‘zines’ cover include messages of the entire New Testament, at the same time attaching advice for teens. In Refuel, the ‘biblezine’ applies the Biblical material to topics like sex, drugs and dating. On side notes, it includes topics such as "How to handle a Jalapeno," "How to teach your dog a trick," and "Random ways to be friends with a girl," which includes advice like "Be lab partners," "Read the Bible out loud to each other," or "Cheer her on at her sporting events." To scare off a girl who likes you, Refuel instructs "Talk to yourself," "Get too serious too fast," and "Dye your hair mauve."

On the magazine for teenage girls, Revolve includes beauty tips like "Classic style is always best," and dating advice: "Revolve girls don't call guys." Other questions answered by revolve answer female personal questions such as "If I'm going out with a guy, is it bad to make out with him?", "Making out is a really dangerous thing. So your best bet is to avoid heavy make-out sessions 'til you are married."

Despite their differences, both Biblezines try to help teenage Christians apply the Bible to their daily lives. Revolve teaches passages such as John 4:14, "After drinking living water you will never thirst again," and then suggests an application to bring a cup of cold water to your friend after a hard work out. Teaching Titus 1:2, which says, "God promised us eternal life before time began," Revolve suggests, "Reflect on your destiny for 30 minutes today."

The print orders of Revolve increased from 40,000 to 300,000 in its first nine months and several of the bookstores around the local area recommend the “Biblezine.” One worker who has been employed in Christian retail stores for three years, Josh Adams, believes that Biblezines make necessary efforts in reconciling with the New Testament.

"…that's the biggest criticism we get, and it was the least of our worries," Whaley said. "You don't really find a mandate of how the message of God is to be relayed to people. The mandate is that it is relayed. The format of something isn't what makes it pure or impure or right or wrong, it's the content."

Pastor John Luther of Hope Lutheran Church in Springfield states "…youth are generally over-stimulated and used to fast-paced magazines. So, magazines can focus on points and raise questions based on visual impact."

On the other hand, Jack Crabtree, a Bible teacher from Reformation Fellowship, believed the Biblezines distort the message and have additives that do not purely deliver the Word of God with rightful images that teens need.

"What I saw ... was not the ... truth of the gospel," Crabtree said. "(It was) a certain set of values out of a broader Christian culture being promulgated ... The point of the text of the Bible is to call our broader Christian culture into question and ask whether it's in conformity with truth, not give us lenses to pretend like our culture is the truth.

“Conservative Christianity has become uncritical about the means you use to communicate the gospel," Crabtree said. "What they're doing is trying to make the message of the Bible interesting to teens by trying to appeal to their interests ... lifestyle and their choices. ... That's always a mistake. You can't make the message of the Bible interesting by reformulating it into the values and interests of people, because the very nature of the message is to call into question the interests of people."

It is not to say that the creation of Biblezine has ill-purposes for today’s youth and that the message of the Gospel can only be learned in studying the Bible alone. Yet also prudence of not attracting teens to heavenly treasure with secular interest is also essential