Archive - January, 2016

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.)

Your Family and the Church

ID-100327503The older I am, the more disheartened I am in learning of the number of children from Christian families who grow up and leave the church. Some of these young adults have not necessarily abandoned the faith, but they have, for all practical purposes, abandoned the church. I wonder if some part of the reason for this is that we have failed to adequately explain what the church is and its necessity in the life of every believer. In other words, we sometimes forget to intentionally talk about these things with our children. Here are some really helpful words from Tedd and Margy Tripp:

God designed the means of safely delivering our children gradually from the primary community of the family to the broader family that supports the worldview of the family. That is the church. Family life and church life are intended to run parallel over our child’s developmental years. This will encourage their movement from our family community to the church community, where God the Father, Christ the brother, and earthly sisters and brothers in Christ become their personal experience.

Think of the elements of family life… and reflect on life in the body of Christ. In a culture where everything regarding the church and God is suspect, we must understand and practice biblical church life that gives meaning, purpose, dignity and divine intention to human life. God has designed the church community to safely extend all the ministries of the family for the nurture and development of our children and us. We should discuss these thoughts with our children. The church is an essential element of the culture we provide for our children.

(From Instructing a Child’s Heart, copyright©2008, pages 136-137)

(Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Teaching with a Heart that is Amazed by the Word

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What is one gift you could give the students in your classroom this coming year? Something that would have a greater impact than creative activities, snacks, songs, lesson visuals, or games? In his recent article, “The One Must-Read This Year,” John Piper calls us to renew and increase our daily wonder over this truth:

All Scripture is breathed out by God. (2 Timothy 3:16)

No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)

Pause. Let this sink in. There is a book that is unlike every other book, because it is the very word of God. You have this book. Or you have access to it. Many do not. But if you are reading this, you do. It is astonishing. Absolutely astonishing. You can hold in your hand a book whose words are the very words of God. God! Do you hear this? Really hear it?

There are no emotions of thankfulness or wonder or adoration that come close to what we ought to feel because of this book. This is why the psalmist cries out in desperation: “Incline my heart to your testimonies” (Psalm 119:36)—because our hearts cannot delight in this book as we ought, without omnipotent help from God. The book is so great, we need great help to see it and savor it for what it is. Let this sink in. God gave us a book of complete truthfulness about himself, and his saving work, and his will for us. This alone is enough to make a wise person read it and savor it deeply every day.

(by John Piper, ©2015 Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org)

As teachers, I wonder how this daily amazement and adoration of the Word might transform our teaching. Children can sense when something is really important to you. They can feel it in your tone, expressions, and demeanor. Most children will stop fidgeting and pay attention when they sense an urgency in your words. What if they felt this as we hold the Bible in our hands and teach from it, really believing and treasuring the Bible as the very words of the Holy God?

(Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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