Yes yes, I do realize that it is the end of DECEMBER and here I am working on a book club from November. That’s just the way things go sometimes, right? If I should retitle this “December Book Club” that would only work for like a few more hours, so that’s a dead end.
Peter Enn’s book, Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible, is what we’re working through and chapter three is when the author starts giving specifics about what to teach to whom and when.
In most Sunday School settings, there are lots of lessons about Old Testament characters, in addition to stories about Jesus. Enns argues that “the proper foundation is now what it has been since the first Christmas: Jesus.” He makes the point that “the Bible as a whole is going somewhere, and that “somewhere” is actually a “someone”.”
Before you think Enns is suggesting that we focus only on the New Testament, as was done to the exclusion of the Old Testament in church circles for many years, he is making the case that for our youngest children, we begin with and focus on the person of Jesus. He says “the apostles didn’t start with the background stuff. They got right to the point and talked about Jesus.” As children get older and more mature, then it is time to address the Old Testament and larger context of the New Testament.
This resonates for me because of my years as a volunteer in various churches’ children’s and youth ministries, as well as my time developing curriculum and leading children’s and junior high/senior high ministry. Kids in the earliest grades see things in black and white, and understand concrete ideas most readily. This changes as they get older, but in terms of the focus for grade 1-5, Enns stresses the validity of building a foundation of Jesus and worrying about Old Testament historical context yada yada as children get older.
One thing that makes me bristle is the focus on depravity in children in evangelical circles. We are so concerned that children “come to Jesus” that we sometimes resort to scare tactics rather than focusing on the freedom, direction, purpose and fulfillment Christ brings while here on earth. The focus is so heavily weighed towards the hereafter that it’s no wonder why people tend towards “fire insurance” (a terribly crude term) and a once-and-done mentality rather than seeing how a commitment to following Jesus plays out in our every day decisions. That’s probably why I love this line so much:
What should not be emphasized is the child’s miserable state of sin and need for a savior. …We must remember that our children’s salvation is not our work, it is the work of the Spirit. …To introduce children to the wrath of God right at the beginning of their lives, without the requisite biblical foundation and before the years of emotional maturity, can actually distort their view of God.
That’s not to say that even within the life of Jesus there aren’t many intense, adult-rated moments. Using common sense, it should be obvious that age-appropriateness is of the upmost importance. However, in my experience, common sense and age-appropriate sensitivity isn’t always used when approaching the Bible. People often fear they’ll be “watering down the Word of God” by leaving out certain parts or focusing on some things over others (although I wonder if they’d be so cavalier with the things in Bible of a sexual nature). People think they should start with Genesis and work their way through the Bible, book by book. Have you ever tried doing that? Let’s just say that most folks find their eyes glazing over by the time they get a chapter or two into the books of the law.
Enns takes a logical approach that considers child development and the overarching movement of the Bible narrative. It is the person of Jesus that draws people, it is the stories of how He treated children, how He related to women, how He reached out to outcasts and misfits — these are the stories that draw us to Him. By letting the life of Jesus speak for itself, and by studying the impact He had on the lives of the Apostles, we set a solid foundation on which they can delve into the depths of the Old Testament, historical background and prophetic fulfillment of Jesus’ life.
This chapter has two more sections, one that deals with middle grades and one that deals with high school ages. I think these areas need their own review, so I’m going to lump them together into a future post.
What is your take on this different way of teaching the Bible to our youngest children? Does it seem like a good approach to you? What objections do you have to it?
Today’s post is a lazy (or pragmatic) woman’s attempt to kill two birds with one stone. Lisa-jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday has become part of the rhythm around here, and I’ve enjoyed the community involved there. This month I’m also participating in an online book club organized by Abi Bechtel. We’re reading Telling God’s Story by Peter Enns. Therefore, today’s post is based on the word prompt “Truth” and the first thing that came to mind was informed by book club, so I’m hybridizing the two.
Set the timer to five minutes.
Two nights ago my son asked me about heaven.
He asked if it was really gold.
He said he used to feel scared of it, but now he feels better because he read in a kids booklet that there’s no crying or sickness there. This was a relief.
Then he did it. He asked what happens to the people who don’t have Jesus in their heart when they die. Do they go to heaven?
I want to be truthful, but I want to give him security. How can I do both when I feel like there is such a broad cannon of interpretation within Christendom? How can I tell him the questions in my own heart about the strict interpretation I was trained to accept? How do I tell him what is true?
The words of a former professor, Greg Boyd, popped into my head. I studied with him while at Bethel for more than one class, but his World Religions class was the scene of this truth bomb. I have come back to it again and again.
He said something similar to this, but this is not an exact quote…
Imagine you are a beggar with a loaf of bread. Another beggar comes to you holding a loaf of bread. It is moldy and dry. The beggar is breaking off bits and eating them. You say to him, “That bread may make you sick. It may not. But I can tell you for sure that the bread I have is good. It is life giving and you will not get sick from it.” And you share your bread with the man.
It goes along with the concept of there being a wideness in God’s mercy, which I love.
So what did I tell my son?
I told him that many many people who love the Lord have studied the Bible for years and years. These people have come up with different ideas about what it says. I gave him a couple short examples of what I meant.
I told him it is up to God to decide about who hangs out in heaven with Him, and He wants everyone, but that the simplest, most straightforward, reading exactly what the Bible says, is by asking Jesus into your heart…which he’s already done.
It’s not a fantastic answer.
Is it true?
Yes, sort of.
See what I mean?
Sorry if this was hard to follow today. It was hard to corral my thoughts into a linear, succinct form.
May I ask how you interpret some of the hard, fast rules of entrance into the pearly gates? If you are a person of faith, how has your understanding changed from when you were a child? How do you handle the Big Questions of faith with your kids?