Archive - January, 2016

What Are the Biggest Challenges Facing the Church?

Children Desiring God Blog // National Conference

What Are the Biggest Challenges Facing the Evangelical Church in 2016?

Children Desiring God Blog // National ConferenceIn a recent Ask Pastor John segment, John Piper shared his thoughts on the biggest challenges facing the evangelical church this year. Here is an excerpt:

…if you start at the beginning, the first and great commandment says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). So I would think, since that is the first commandment, that is the first challenge in every generation. Does the church and does the world love God with all their heart and all their soul and all their mind and all their strength? …if we don’t know God, we can’t love God.

Our worship to glorify God must be based on what we have seen of God, what we know of God, what he has revealed of himself. If we are just worshiping a haze, God is not getting a lot of glory from the warm feelings that we are having in our hearts because of the ignorance of not being in our heads because of the haze over our lives.

I have got this picture in my head of somebody who runs up to me on the road and says, “Here is $10,000. Please go put it in my bank. Here is my pin number, and here is my account number.” And I say, “I don’t even know you. What are you doing?” He just says, “I trust you.” I say, “Why do you trust me?” He says, “Oh, I don’t know. I feel inside like I should trust you.” My response is not to be honored. I feel like this guy is a nut.

However, if he runs up to me and says, “Here is $10,000 in cash. Please, here is my account number. Here is my pin number. Would you deposit it for me?” And I say, “Look, I don’t even know you. Why do you trust me?” He says, “Oh, I know you. We work in the same building. I have been watching you for a year. You are trustworthy. I will trust you, because I know you.” Then I feel honored.

That is the way it is with God. If we say, “Oh, I am just coming to God. I trust him. I don’t have any reasons for trusting him. I don’t need that theology stuff.” God thinks we are nuts. We are not honoring him. We are honoring a haze. And so knowledge really matters underneath the commandment. You have got to love God with all your heart and soul.

So today I think the biggest challenge is: Do people know God? Do people have a knowledge that is trustworthy? Therefore a huge issue is: What is the role of the Bible in the church today and is it trustworthy and are people basing their lives on it in their preaching on it? Are they getting the whole counsel of God so that they can love the whole God?

What Does this Mean for Children’s Ministry?

We are excited to have Pastor John and others join us to help us explore the topic of teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generations at the Children Desiring God National Conference, April 14-16 in Indianapolis. Our Keynote Sessions will include:

  1. Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation // Mark Vroegop
  2. Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God // Bruce Ware
  3. Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform //Albert Mohler
  4. Believing the Whole Counsel of God: How Our Children Can Know the Bible Is True // John Piper
  5. Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God // David Michael

We hope you can join us in learning how to teach the whole counsel of God to the children in your church so they can wholeheartedly love God in response to this knowledge!

Early Bird Registration Closes Sunday January 31

Register by 11:59pm (CST), January 31 to receive Early Bird Pricing!

Children Desiring God Blog // National Conference

 

How Children Learn

The confession of a CDG curriculum writer: I was a science major in college and have no formal training in educational philosophy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have deep convictions about how children learn, and how teachers can best encourage and challenge to them embrace biblical truth. Those convictions—or educational philosophies—underpin every curriculum and resource produced by CDG. How would I summarize our philosophy? Watch this very informative 10-minute video clip by Pastor David and Sally Michael:

To watch the entire video, visit this page, and see “A Vision for Encouraging Faith in the Next Generation. And to experience this type of training and encouragement in person, check out our National Conference, April 14-16 in Indianapolis.

Free Fighter Verse Devotional for Your Family

The Fighter Verses Study

In yesterday’s post, I quoted Albert Mohler, who made a passionate plea for Christians to pursue serious Bible knowledge. Parents, here is crucial portion from Dr. Mohler’s words:

Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. [See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.] Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.

There are many good resources available to help parents “mine” the Word of God with their children. The new Fighter Verses Study Guide is one of these resources. How does it help in the mining process? Here is an example from Fighter Verse 4:

Part 1: In Awe of God

God’s Wisdom and Knowledge

Think about an incident or situation in which you or another person responded with amazement or awe, perhaps a time when you saw someone doing an amazing stunt. What caused that feeling of, “Wow, that is incredible!”? The apostle Paul had the same sense of awe, but for a totally different reason. This is how he expressed his awe:

Romans 11:33-36—Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

  1. What is Paul in awe of? 

 

  1. What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge? 

 

Here is one illustration that shows the difference between knowledge and wisdom:

  • Knowledge is knowing that motorcycles can be dangerous. Wisdom is having the good sense to wear a helmet and to drive carefully.

Complete the “wisdom part” of the next few examples. 

  1. Knowledge is knowing that icy roads can be slippery. Wisdom is… 

 

  1. Knowledge is understanding that if you disobey your parents you will be punished. Wisdom is… 

 

  1. Knowledge is understanding that paint can stain a wooden table. Wisdom is…

 

Wisdom is taking your knowledge and making good decisions and right actions because of what you know. It is taking the information you have and making a good choice in what you do.

Paul understands that God has more than just knowledge. God uses the knowledge He has to make good decisions. That is why he says:

Romans 11:33b—How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

  1. What does unsearchable mean?

 

  • God’s judgments—or His decisions and plans—are so wise that we can’t even understand the goodness and rightness of them. They are “inscrutable” or mysterious to us.
  • We cannot clearly understand the ways of God. His understanding is so great that we wouldn’t understand an explanation of why God does what He does. We just wouldn’t “get it.”

 

  1. When we say, “Oh, my!” what does that mean? 

 

  1. What does Paul mean by the expression, “Oh, the depth…”?

 

  • “The depth” shows Paul’s amazement at the extent or the amount. He is in awe of how much wisdom and knowledge God has.

 

As you can see, the directed questions and comments slowly walk you through the text to discover the meaning.  But it doesn’t stop with this short example…Enjoy this passage further by downloading the entire week’s study material here. It’s filled with other helpful questions, explanations, illustrations, application, prayer points, etc. By God’s grace, you and your family will have a deeper and richer understanding of the passage, leading to a greater love and awe of God and desire to walk in His ways.

Getting Serious about Teaching the Bible

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Suppose an observer came to visit your church’s Sunday school classrooms—specifically first grade through high school. Would they see Bibles in the hands of every student during the lesson time? If so, how long will those Bibles be open? Will the students be actively engaged in looking up texts, reading, and answering questions from the text? (Yes, even first graders can do this, with help, from a short text.) Will they be challenged about how to rightly interpret and apply it? In other words, would the observer see a teacher diligently teaching in a way that expects and encourages his or her students to seriously interact with the Bible—the actual, physical Bible?

Now, someone might object and say, “But they are children! They’re too young for this. They will learn best through videos, skits, and other activities. We need to keep the Bible teaching fun and energetic!” Yes, there may be a place in the classroom for all of the above. BUT, these kinds of teaching aids must never replace or minimize or obscure actual, serious study of the Bible itself.

Here is a timely word from Albert Mohler:

Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention…

Youth ministries are asked to fix problems, provide entertainment, and keep kids busy. How many local-church youth programs actually produce substantial Bible knowledge in young people?

…This really is our problem, and it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse course. Recovery starts at home. Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. [See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.] Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.

Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher. Pastors and churches too busy–or too distracted–to make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry will produce believers who simply do not know enough to be faithful disciples.

We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.

This generation must get deadly serious about the problem of biblical illiteracy…

 (“The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” www.albertmohler.com)

2016 National ConferenceWe are so pleased and honored to have Dr. Mohler speaking at our National Conference this year. Through the years, I have appreciated his unwavering call to churches, parents, and Christian schools to promote serious, vigorous, in-depth biblical teaching. I am looking forward with great anticipation to his message, “Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform.”

(Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Creative Idea: Fighter Verses Encouragement Cards

The Fighter Verses Coloring Book

A while back, I noted how the new Fighter Verses Coloring Book could be used during sermon time for young children (see that post here). Since then, my daughter has come up with an additional idea—using the individual pages for home-made encourage cards. Here is the scenario: We have a family member who is going through some intense and difficult chemotherapy. My grandchildren wanted to cheer up cousin Matt, so my daughter printed out an encouraging FV coloring page for each child to color. The children then mailed the finished pages to cousin Matt—and yes, he was thrilled and encouraged to receive them!

So, along with getting a Fighter Verses Coloring Book for your children, consider getting an electronic copy, too.. One $5 coloring book will provide your children with 52 notes of encouragement to choose from. It’s a great way to encourage your children to minister to others—giving them comfort and hope from the Word!

A Must-Have Conversation

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I wish that Tim Challies didn’t need to write the article, “Before the Birds and Bees,”  but I’m so thankful he did. Every parent should read it. Here is his main point:

I want to say this as clearly as I know how: If you neglect to train your children in their use of the Internet, you are failing in your parental responsibility. If you neglect to monitor what your children are doing online, you are neglecting your duty. If you are going to allow them to use the Internet—and I think you should so they can learn to use it under your care—you absolutely need to train them to use it well. To train them well you simply need to engage them in the tech talk.

Please read the entire article as he discusses three categories of danger that should be discussed and some helpful resources for your family. Also, if you are planning to come to our National Conference in April, I would highly recommend attending the following seminar:

Picking Up the Digital Blitz: Recognizing and Countering the Technology Rush in Our Homes (Tim Keeter)
Many may be surprised to learn that God’s Word has plenty to say about how Christians should handle digital technology—and it’s clear and grace- filled! Our goal in this seminar is to come alongside parents and students (and those who minister to parents and students) in their effort to interact with technology in their homes and personal lives. Practical instruction will address strategies for introducing technologies into the home, training children in the wise and faithful use of technology, and how to identify, correct, and prevent idolatries surrounding digital technologies.

(Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Parents: Biblical Worldview Starts at Home

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Yesterday’s post presented some thoughts by Nancy Pearcey on the necessity to train our students and children to have a biblical worldview. What is meant by “biblical worldview”? Here is a simple definition:

Biblical worldview is seeing and interpreting all of life through the truth of Scripture.

Parents, we have the primary responsibility to teach our children the truth of Scripture. We are also in the best position to help our children see and interpret life as we experience it together with them. Therefore, biblical worldview training should begin in the home. Here are 8 basics things parents can focus on:

Teach your children…

  • that God is the source of all truth and that His Word, the Bible, is truth.
  • a biblical understanding of God’s nature and character.
  • that biblical truth is relevant to everything in life.
  • to evaluate all things through the truth of Scripture: biblical discernment.
  • the enlightening and transforming truth of the Gospel.
  • that a biblical worldview is meant to point them to true, lasting joy.
  • to boldly proclaim God’s truth in a spirit of humility.
  • to expect opposition and to be prepared to stand firm.

For a further explanation of each point and practical tips for application at various ages, download this free handout from the seminar, “Helping Children Develop a Biblical Worldview.”

(Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Heart AND Brain Religion

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I recently came upon these words by Nancy Pearcey. I think she points to what might be a weakness in many of our youth ministries and home discipleship plans:

As Christian parents, pastors, teachers, and youth group leaders, we constantly see young people pulled down by the undertow of powerful cultural trends. If all we give them is a “heart” religion, it will not be strong enough to counter the lure of attractive but dangerous ideas. Young believers also need a “brain” religion—training in worldview and apologetics—to equip them to analyze and critique the competing worldviews they will encounter when they leave home. If forewarned and forearmed, young people at least have a fighting chance when they find themselves a minority of one among their classmates or work colleagues. Training young people to develop a Christian mind is no longer an option; it is part of their necessary survival equipment.

The first step in forming a Christian worldview is to overcome this sharp divide between “heart” and “brain.” We have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm, limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena. This dichotomy in our own minds is the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole of culture today.

 (From the essay titled “Total Truth,” found at www.summit.org)

I believe that every parent, teacher, and youth minister would greatly benefit from exploring this topic further. One way to do this would be to consider coming to our National Conference in April and taking advantage of one or both of these seminars:

Teaching Children and Youth to Stand Firm in a Hostile Culture
(Pastor Ron Rudd)

In this seminar we will look at our responsibility as parents and as the church in training our kids to be strong in faith and mighty in Spirit. What are the problems we face in the culture we live in? What do we do when we are accused of being over-protective and narrow-minded? When and how do we expose our kids to the evil in our society, or do we? We will also discuss why we cannot do this alone and where we must turn for help.

Deep and Wide: Youth Ministry with Theological Depth that Reaches the Breadth of Maturity (Joe Wittmer)
By taking a systematic look at the ministry of Christ and the role of the church, we can discover how to theoretically and practically reach students with “the whole counsel of God.” Whether an unbeliever, new to the faith, or spiritually mature, part of the shepherding responsibility of a pastor is to help navigate the next steps in growing closer to Jesus. In this seminar, we will look at how we can invite more people to hear and grow in the Gospel by meeting students where they are in their spiritual development and presenting deep truths of Scripture to them there.

(Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Too Much Sin Talk?

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I do not have a definitive statistical study on this, but my guess is that if you were to do a word search encompassing all of CDG’s curriculum—from preschool to high school—the word “sin” would come up rather often. Probably even too much in the opinion of some. Sounds a little depressing, doesn’t it, especially when teaching children? It isn’t exactly a great promotional tool for encouraging children and youth to come to Sunday school: “Forget about fun and entertainment—We have a lot to tell you about sin instead! Come join us!” But that banner wouldn’t be telling the full story. There is a very good, “hope-filled” reason that we mention sin so often in our resources.

Here is a wonderful post from Ligonier Ministries that we at CDG heartily resonate with:

Every preacher knows that people do not like to hear about sin. People regard sin as a dreary, negative topic and prefer to think about more positive and comfortable themes. The situation is like that of a visitor to a leper colony, a comparison that is especially apt since the Bible uses leprosy as a picture of sin. The last thing lepers want to hear about is leprosy! They have to deal with it all the time, so they are not likely to gather in large numbers to hear someone speak about the nature and effects of leprosy. Since they are suffering, they prefer to listen to something entertaining to divert their minds!

So why should Christians dwell on sin? James Montgomery Boice answers: “It is simply because Christians are realists. They recognize that sin is an everyday experience and the number one problem of mankind. What is more, they recognize that the Bible everywhere insists upon this.”

However, Christians do not talk about sin simply as an exercise in realism, but because we have good news to bring. It is one thing to gather lepers to lecture on skin ailments. It is quite another to stand among those who are suffering and dying in order to proclaim the cure that will save them! Christians speak about sin because, in Jesus Christ, we have found and offer to others a cure for this all-pervasive plague.

(“Why We Talk About Sin” by Richard Phillips posted at www.ligonier.org)

So yes, while we do use the word “sin” a lot (and its various synonyms) in our curriculum, it is used in the greater context of Gospel truth, pointing our students to the greatest news of all! All that talk of sin is vastly overwhelmed and out-numbered by our talk of…the love and mercy of God, Jesus redeeming work on the cross, the free gift of salvation, forgiveness of sin, eternal life with God,…and on and on!

(Image courtesy of Iamnee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Mid-Year Zeal

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The month of January: The days are short and the nights are long and cold (for some of us). The busy holiday season is over, and I’m tired and worn. And sometimes this attitude carries over into the classroom. The eagerness and energy of the school year’s beginning has diminished. What’s a teacher to do to fight against the mid-year doldrums? The following is some great advice given to Sunday school teachers by John Angell James in his article “The Most Effectual Means of Keeping Up Zeal.” Although written in 19th century language, it still bears heeding today. Also, I have added [in brackets] a few contemporary practical examples to consider.

Zeal is apt to languish, when it is no longer excited by the stimulus of novelty—and the fervor of first love, without great care, will soon sink into dull formality. It is not to be wondered at, if among the active supporters of a Sunday School, the vice of lukewarmness should sometimes be found. Hence it is of importance to ascertain the best means for keeping up the zeal of the teacher’s office. By this I mean, the prosecution of its duties with vigor, interest, and delight—in opposition to that lifeless and indolent manner of dragging through them which is but too common with many.

  1. Keep in view the ultimate object of your labors.
    …the necessity of keeping steadily and clearly before your mind, the salvation of the soul, as the ultimate end of all your efforts… If anything can keep your attention alive to the interests of the children, it will be the constant repetition of this sentiment—”I am seeking their everlasting salvation!”
  1. Well conducted Sunday School Unions have a powerful tendency to promote the spirit of your office. The occasional meeting of fellow laborers from different schools, together with the interesting communications and mutual exhortations which are then delivered, have a very enlivening effect.
    [Sounds like the CDG National Conference in Indianapolis would be the perfect venue for this!]
  1. Occasional meetings among the teachers of the same school, for conversation and prayer, in immediate reference to their joint labors, are exceedingly beneficial.
    [When is the last time your classroom team met together for this? Schedule a get-together soon!]
  1. Ministerial assistance, in the way of exhortation, inspection, and advice, would powerfully contribute to keep up the true spirit of the office.
    [Ask your pastor if he would bless the children’s and youth ministry volunteers by scheduling a special meeting to exhort and encourage you together.]
  1. A constant perusal of publications that relate to Sunday School instruction, especially the details of successful exertion, would be exceedingly useful.
    [Have you exhausted the resources on the CDG website yet? Things like training seminars, blog posts, and other helpful resources? What about reading a book such as Teaching to Change Lives.]
  1. An imitation of the best examples would promote the same end.
    In every school we shall find some whose superior qualifications and zeal entitle them to be considered as models. Instead of observing them with envy, mark them with admiration, cultivate their acquaintance, and endeavor, by the glowing ardor of their spirit, to re-kindle the fervor of your own.
    [Feeling like your teaching has become “dry”? Take a Sunday off and watch another gifted teacher. Sit down with them and ask advice and pray together.]
  1. Occasionally devoting a portion of time to examine the state of the mind in reference to your duties, would be a means of improvement.
    [Set aside some time for studying the Word, meditating on it, examining your own heart and spiritual health, and then “take it to the Lord in prayer.”]

(found at www.gracegems.org)

(Image courtesy of Vitolef at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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