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Discipleship-Oriented Resources

Discipleship-Oriented Resources

Yesterday’s post pointed to the meaning of Christian discipleship in our parenting and teaching. With that in mind, it becomes extremely important to choose resources for the home and church that serve to foster discipleship.

At Children Desiring God, we want the next generations to be serious, passionate, joyful disciples of Christ, who are fully equipped and prepared to deny themselves, take up their cross and daily follow Jesus. To that end, our curricula emphasize a discipleship orientation that fosters life-long instruction in and practice of the Christian life. We aim to accomplish this through the following:

  • developing a carefully designed scope and sequence of teaching content that progressively moves children and youth toward greater spiritual growth.
  • using a relational, interactive teaching style in which the evidences of Christian discipleship are clearly communicated, visibly demonstrated, and faithfully encouraged.
  • intentionally providing resources and training for the home that promote and equip parents for their responsibility in discipling their children.

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The Gospel Alphabet—Jesus Saves!

The Gospel Alphabet - Jesus Saves!

One of the very first words my grandson learned to write was his name, “David.” Five letters of the alphabet, written in a specific order, and they now identify a little boy. Each letter significant. Each unique. Each letter necessary for his name.

In the past several posts, I have used the example of teaching children the alphabet to highlight the necessity of teaching children a type of “Gospel alphabet.” This alphabet consists of foundational truths—antecedents—that are meant to help our children properly understand the person and work of Jesus. In brief summary, children need to be taught…

Introducing these truths in a slow, step-by-step, progression is an important part of our children’s formal Bible education. These truths provide the necessary foundation for understanding these two words:

Jesus saves.

Two very short words. Only six distinct letters…yet incomparable in their greatness, worth, and meaning! But unless we have given children some antecedents for understanding these two words, their grasp of the riches of the Gospel and the glory of Jesus will be sorely deficient. (more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—Sin

The Gospel Alphabet—Sin

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”
Read Part 3: The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God
Read Part 4: The Gospel Alphabet—Who We Are in Relation to God

I love the scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King where Frodo and Sam are making their last, desperate effort to destroy the one ring in the depths of Mt. Doom. What makes the final destruction of the ring so incredibly magnificent and satisfying is the context. Before that, we have been taken on a long journey that has introduced us to the magnitude of evil, despair, and ruin brought about by the ring and its influence. You don’t simply go from a peaceful, idealistic life in the Shire to the triumphant destruction of the ring. The story would have lost its grandeur and appeal if author J.R.R. Tolkien had simply done the latter.

But now consider the story communicating ultimate reality to us as revealed in the historical narrative of Scripture, and consider these words from D. A. Carson:

There can be no agreement as to what salvation is unless there is agreement as to that from which salvation rescues us. The problem and the solution hang together: the one explicates the other. It is impossible to gain a deep grasp of what the cross achieves without plunging into a deep grasp of what sin is; conversely, to augment one’s understanding of the cross is to augment one’s understanding of sin.

To put the matter another way, sin establishes the plotline of the Bible.

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The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”

The Gospel Alphabet - Teaching the "Antecedents"

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

Here is a really important insight from J. Gresham Machen:

…when men say that we know God only as He is revealed in Jesus, they are denying all real knowledge of God whatever. For unless there be some idea of God independent of Jesus, the ascription of deity to Jesus has no meaning. To say, “Jesus is God,” is meaningless unless the word “God” has an antecedent meaning attached to it…Jesus revealed, in a wonderfully intimate way, the character of God, but such revelation obtained its true significance only on the basis both of the Old Testament heritage and of Jesus’ own teaching.

(Christianity and Liberalism, copyright©2009, pages 48-49)

For children to rightly grasp the biblical truth that “Jesus is God,” and also the meaning of His saving work accomplished through the Gospel, we must teach them some crucial “antecedents.” By way of illustrating this in relation to teaching children, let’s imagine these antecedents to be the alphabet. (See Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet) (more…)

Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

We all know and appreciate the progression of a child’s ability to read and write. To begin with, it’s an informal process as infants and toddlers listen to the conversations of those around them and begin to pick up bits and pieces of language—words and their meanings. But at the same time, we also understand the need for intentional, age-appropriate teaching. For example, we help young children connect the objects they see with corresponding words. We speak to them at “their level.” Then more formal instruction takes place as we teach them individual letters. We demonstrate how to spell and sound out simple words. Next comes constructing sentences and applying the rules of grammar. On and on, step-by-step, this process slowly progresses. Over time, both the formal and informal instruction serve to produce a vibrant, functional literacy.

I think this example illustrates something very important about teaching the Gospel to children. There is a place and necessity for both informal and formal instruction. Children Desiring God curricula would be an example of formal instruction. By design, formal instruction will take a somewhat different (and much slower) approach. It incorporates an age-appropriate, step-by-step progression. But that’s where the misunderstanding and frustration may enter in. Take for example these concerns that are sometimes expressed about our curricula: (more…)

2 Timothy 2:15 Students

2 Timothy 2:15 Students

Here are is an exhortation from David and Sally Michael from their conference message, “A Vision for Biblical Literacy in the Next Generation”:

Children need to learn how to rightly handle the Word through incremental age-appropriate instruction in studying Scripture through the use of inductive Bible study skills.

Exposure to the whole counsel of God is vital, but children must also be taught to rightly understand the Word. Our children and young people need the same prodding that Paul gave to his spiritual son:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:15 (more…)

The Call to Make Disciples

The Call to Make Disciples

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave every Christian in every century a commission with eternal significance:

…”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”—Matthew 28:18-20, ESV

Our calling is very clear—to “make disciples.” This is the greatest work in which to invest our lives! Christ’s mandate to us is to see spiritual interest awaken, new birth come forth, and then foster steady steps toward maturity in Christ…but it is a mandate wrought with privilege and true joy. (more…)

Teaching By Example

Teaching By Example

In her seminar titled, “Teaching Children the Fear of the Lord,” Sally Michael reminds us of the importance of teaching from a heart that loves and embraces the truths being taught.

Like so many spiritual things, the fear of the Lord is better “caught” than “taught.” Children very often pick up our attitudes—those we respect, they tend to respect. Our attitude toward God is also sensed by them—not so much by our words, but by our actions, and our heart affections; it is very easy for them to sense what we feel, to honor what we honor, and to disregard what we disregard.

So the first step we must take in helping our children to fear the Lord is to examine our own hearts. Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves:

• Am I humble and contrite before the Lord, respecting His authority over me, and recognizing His infinite greatness?

• How seriously do I take the word of God? Do I tremble at God’s Word? Do I diligently apply it to my life, obey its commands conscientiously, take its warnings seriously, and heed its teaching? Do I take in the whole scope of Scripture, even the hard truths and stories? (more…)

Digital Bibles for Teaching Children?

Digital Bibles for Teaching Children?

Here is a pertinent observation and question left by one of our blog readers recently:

I have been told that this generation of children will no longer use an actual Bible, but rather a tablet or phone, and that being able to use a Bible is not as important as it was ten years ago. The same goes with concordances and other Bible helps. Do you agree? What practically do you think is the best way to teach children?

Great question! And yes, I do have some thoughts about this. But before I give my opinion, it’s first helpful to reflect upon the nature of the Bible itself. For example:

  • The Bible is “God-breathed” and divinely inspired.
  • The Bible is inerrant and completely trustworthy.
  • The Bible is the full canon of Scripture—all 66 books—given to us in written form.
  • The Bible is characterized by its absolute authority, clarity, sufficiency, and necessity.
  • The Bible is God’s one Word to us, communicating one main, unified, overarching message, through its diverse 66 books.

With these truths in mind, it is readily apparent that the Bible is utterly unique and separate from any other story or book. That is why I still love the designation “The Holy Bible.” That said, I fully believe the Bible’s words are authoritative and true whether we read them to our class from a Smartphone device, iPad®, or in “old-fashioned” printed form. God’s Word is God’s Word. The medium we use does not change or alter that. However, there is something we should not lose sight of: The medium we use cannot be completely disassociated from the message. What do I mean? Here is an example: (more…)

What Might God Do in Your Backyard This Summer?

What Might God do in Your Backyard this Summer?

What are your summer plans? Perhaps you will visit relatives, take a vacation, or soak up the sun at a neighborhood pool or lake? These are all great opportunities, but summer also affords us a unique opportunity to spread the Gospel through backyard Bible clubs.

Every member of your family can take part in the wonderful ministry of a backyard Bible club—whether it be extending invitations, teaching a lesson, leading singing, supervising a craft or game, or just loving the children who come. (more…)

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