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Catechizing: Bring it Back!

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This week, I’ve had the privilege of getting a sneak-peak at Sally Michael’s new seminar, “Catechism: Out-of-Date, or a Tried-and-True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths?,” which she will be presenting at our National Conference (a mere two and a half weeks away!). It is an excellent seminar in which she draws upon the time-tested wisdom of our Christian forebears. Here is one sample of one such man. Sally quotes John Murray from his article titled, “Catechizing: A Forgotten Practice”:

The foundation of all religion, Isaac Watts reminds us, is laid in knowledge. Scripture attaches great importance to knowledge and gives a foremost place to the mind and understanding. It is through the mind that truth enters the man, influencing the affections and directing the will. True it is that knowledge may remain in the mind and, without the influences of the quickening, life-giving Spirit, be inoperative in the life, yet the fact remains that knowledge—knowledge of truth—is the very basis of the Christian life. Hence the need for instruction in the doctrines of Christianity both for the believer and the unbeliever. Ignorance and error are effects of the Fall and it is upon them that Satan’s kingdom is built. Knowledge and truth are the grand weapons by which it is overthrown and Christ’s kingdom established in the individual and in the world.

[Murray] comments that the:

 …new antipathy to dogmas, creeds and catechisms virtually put catechizing out of the Church. Today we are reaping the results of that false approach to the Christian life. Ignorance and unbelief are rampant in our land, the Church is without an authoritative message, and often even evangelical Christians are weak and unstable. Is there not cause to ask whether the time has not come to revive the art and practice of catechizing?

(cited from the link found at www.monergism.com)

[Sally says], “I agree with John Murray. Let’s bring catechizing back to the church. Let’s not be afraid to teach the doctrines of the faith to our children. Let’s put a solid foundation beneath them that will give them answers to the assault of the postmodern worldview, and let’s arm them to face the challenges of life with a faith built on the solid understanding of who God is and the unshakable hope of His promises to His people.”

(Image courtesy of Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Suggested Seminar Tracks for the National Conference

Children Desiring God Blog // National Conference

Don’t Forget to Reserve Your Conference Seminars!

We are excited to have are over 60 seminar options for you to choose from at our nation conference, including both classic favorites and brand new topics. You will be able to attend four seminars and receive practical training on the ins and outs of children’s ministry, teaching and parenting. Our incredible line up of seminar presenters include pastors, authors, teachers, children’s ministry leaders, youth pastors, parents, an engineer, missionary and college professor who are all passionate about teaching the next generation to set their hope in God…and equipping you to do you same.

Seminars seats are filling up quickly! If you are registered for the conference, be sure to reserve your seminars now to make sure you can attend your first choices. Seminar selections must be chosen by March 31.

Download the Scheduling Worksheet to help you determine your choices and plan your seminar schedule. Don’t know where to start? Here are some suggested seminar tracks to get you started.

Children Desiring God Blog // Suggested Seminar Tracks

Not registered for the conference yet? Register today and save!

Children Desiring God Blog // National Conference Sale

 

 

A Timely Message

Children Desiring God Blog // National Conference

For years, while the Children Desiring God leadership team pondered and prayed about future conference themes and speakers, I harbored the hope that someday we would be able to have Dr. Albert Mohler speak. It seemed a long shot. After all, he is not only president of one of the world’s largest and most influential seminaries, he is also a much requested speaker at numerous “first-tier” theological conferences. So, what a shock and a joy—and a testament to God’s gracious providence—that Dr. Mohler will be one of our plenary speakers in Indianapolis. And I believe that his message to us on Friday April 15, Holding Fast the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform” will be especially timely in this day and age. Please consider joining us as we hope to be challenged and encouraged by Dr. Mohler.

Here is a little of what we have to look forward to:

 

Children Desiring God Blog // Albert MohlerDr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. serves as the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, one of the largest seminaries in the world. On his website, AlbertMohler.com, Al writes commentaries on moral, cultural, and theological issues. He also hosts two programs: “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview; and “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the day’s leading thinkers. Viewed as a leader among American evangelicals, Al is widely sought as a columnist and commentator by the nation’s leading newspapers and news programs and has authored several books, including Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth. Al and his wife Mary have two children, Katie and Christopher and one grandson.

 

 

Diamonds, or Rock Candy?

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A while back, our family visited the National Gem Collection in Washington, D.C. It contains an amazing display of some of the world’s most beautiful gems—diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and more. Each gem is carefully displayed to reflect its many dazzling facets. Each stuns the eyes of the beholder. The value of the collection is beyond comprehension. A priceless national treasure…and yet just infinitesimal—a drop in an infinite ocean—in comparison to the greatness and worth of God!

In his classic work, The Knowledge of the Holy—The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life, A.W. Tozer writes:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.

(copyright©1961, pages 1, 4)

Too often, the church has fallen short of this obligation, especially in regard to children. It has mistakenly assumed that children do not need, nor can they grasp a biblical vision of God. So the many-faceted, brilliant treasure of who God is, is “brought down to size” and diminished. Sadly, children are given something akin to a piece of rock candy—a gem look-alike that tastes sweet for a moment, but soon dissolves and leaves them dangerously malnourished and “un-awed.”

What about your own church and it’s ministry to children and youth? Do the classes, programs, curricula, etc. rightly reflect and communicate the beauty and awesome grandeur of the incomparable greatness and worth of God? How would you go about evaluating this? Are there specific changes that could and should be made in order to elevate the concept of God in children’s and youth ministries? (And also in our homes!)

Parents, here is something you can do toward that end: Encourage the children’s and youth ministry leaders at your church to attend at our National Conference. The line-up of the following plenary speakers—Mark Vroegop, John Piper, Bruce Ware, Albert Mohler, David Michael—reflects our deep desire to pass on to the next generation… “that noble concept of God that we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.” Here is a special invitation you can pass on to your children’s and youth ministry leaders.

(Image courtesy of Boykung at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

 

 

 

 

Vroegop on “Why Do Children Need to Know the Whole Counsel of God?”

Children Desiring God Blog // Why Do Children Need to Know the Whole Counsel of God

Listen Here

Hi, my name is Mark Vroegop and I am privileged to be the lead pastor at College Park Church in Indianapolis. I’m also privileged to be one of the plenary speakers at the Children Desiring God National Conference coming up April 14–16.

The theme for the conference is really important. We will explore how to connect the whole counsel of God to the next generations. In the book of Acts, chapter 20, the apostle Paul said to the Ephesian elders that he did not shrink from declaring to them the whole counsel of God. What that means is that over a two and a half year period, Paul helped the people of Ephesus understand the significant realities of who and what God is, as communicated through the revealed Word of God. And it means that creation, the fall, redemption and restoration are key themes that are woven throughout all of Scripture.

The teachings of the Bible should not be viewed as little marbles in a bowl, but rather as a string of pearls all connected together. As it relates to children, it is incredibly important that they understand who God is as their creator, the nature of the fall, and that they are sinners. Then, that they would know the connectedness between their own sin and the need for a savior through Christ–and also that there is coming a day when Christ will return and restore everything that is wrong in the world and make it all right again–that Jesus is indeed coming again. So all of these themes–creation, fall, redemption and restoration–are part of the whole counsel of God. A child has to know that God is creator and that they are accountable. They have to know they are a sinner and that they need a savior.

Children Desiring God Blog // Why Do Children Need to Know the Whole Counsel of GodYou know, my wife has been teaching our kindergarten Sunday school class here at our church for a number of years. In particular, one of the lessons that she teaches is on the Ten Commandments. It is remarkable–when she comes home from teaching that very first lesson, she reports that when she has asked the children “How many of you know that you are sinners?”, invariably, the vast majority of them do not know that they are sinners. But you know what they do know? They do know that their brother or sister is a sinner. The reason we need the whole counsel of God is to help little children be convinced that they, in fact, are human beings who are in rebellion against God. What’s more, in order for them to know that, they need to know who God is and know the beauty of what the cross is all about. The Bible is more than just a collection of stories or an encyclopedia of biblical truth. It is theology stacked on theology stacked on theology stacked on theology. It is the whole counsel of God.

We are going to dig into that theme and see the significance of not only what it means for the Bible to be the whole counsel of God, but how vital it is that our children understand that truth from a very early age. I hope you will come and join us because this theme, this concept of the whole counsel of God, is vital for the health of the church, for the spiritual life of our children and because our culture needs the next generation of believers to understand the whole counsel of the Word of God.

2016 National ConferenceWe are excited to welcome Mark Vroegop as one of our keynote speakers at the Children Desiring God National Conference. He will expound on this topic as he teaches on Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation. We are also thankful for the generosity of Mark’s church to host our conference and are excited for you to experience College Park Church’s hospitality. We hope you will join us April 14-16 in Indianapolis! Learn more and register now!

 

Resist the Smorgasbord!

Resist the Smorgasbord: Strategies for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

I once read a book in which the Christian author likened the method often used in the church for discipleship to a smorgasbord—various classes and small groups are offered for people to pick and choose from, mainly based on personal preferences, perceived needs, and “hot topics” of the day. His point was to urge the church to resist this tendency and strive for a more vision-driven, biblical, structured, long-term discipleship strategy. Such a strategy takes into account and incorporates the whole counsel of God and builds in stages—precept-by-precept.

I wonder if we sometimes have a similar “smorgasbord tendency” when it comes to planning for and choosing curriculum for our various children’s and youth ministry classes: What seems good this year? What will the children like? What will peak their (or the teacher’s) interest?…I think we can, and must strive for a more vision-driven, biblical, structured, long-term discipleship strategy—one that seeks to incorporate the whole counsel of God from nursery to high school.

What does this actually look like? To begin with, we believe that there are six basic elements or disciplines that should be included in this long-term strategy:

Elements of Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

  1. A story-based chronological overview of the Bible, which introduces children to the main character of the Bible—God—and acquaints them with key people, places, and events.
  2. A biblical theology that focuses on the main storyline of the Bible, where God progressively reveals His redemptive purposes, which come to their complete fulfillment in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
  3. Systematic theology that teaches foundational doctrines, which summarize the Bible’s teaching on various subjects.
  4. Moral instruction—the commands of Scripture, which communicate ethical instruction, guiding us in the righteous ways of God.
  5. An explicit presentation of the essential truths of the Gospel, leading to a clear understanding of saving faith.
  6. Bible study methods to provide the necessary tools for rightly reading and interpreting Scripture.

A strategic, long-term plan makes curriculum choices at the various grade levels with these basic elements or disciplines in mind. It asks questions such as: Over the span of nursery to high school, are our students receiving the whole counsel of God? Are we introducing these elements at age-appropriate levels? Does our overall strategy reflect a proper biblical balance?

2016 National ConferenceIf you long to explore this topic further and want practical help in structuring a plan for the children’s and youth ministries of your church, I would love to have you come to my seminar at our National Conference in April…

Making a Strategic Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

This seminar will present an overview for planning and implementing a scope and sequence in your children’s and youth ministry that serves to thoroughly acquaint your students with the whole counsel of God. Starting in the nursery years and moving through high school, we will explore options and strategic goals for various age groups.

Piper Answers: What is the Whole Counsel of God?

Children Desiring God Blog // What is the Whole Counsel of God?

As children’s ministry and youth pastors, teachers and parents, it is critical for us to not only teach children the Gospel, but to not shrink back from teaching them the whole counsel of God. John Piper helps us understand what this means:

 

 

Join us at the Children Desiring God National Conference where we will have the opportunity to spend three days together exploring this meaning further, discovering the glorious truths found with in the whole counsel of God, understanding the ramifications if our children do not understand the whole counsel of God and equipping each other to teach the whole counsel of God to children and youth. We look forward to welcoming back John Piper as one of our five keynote speakers to discuss Understanding the Whole Counsel of God: How Our Children Can Know the Bible is True.

 

Children Desiring God Blog // What Is the Whole Counsel of God?John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminar. For over 30 years, John served as senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He’s the author of more than 50 books and more than 30 years of his preaching and teaching is available for free at desiringGod.org). John and his wife, Noël, have five children, Barnabas, Karsten, Benjamin, Abraham and Talitha, and twelve grandchildren.

 

We hope to see you April 14-16 in Indianapolis! Learn more and register now!

 

 

Profound, Yet Simple

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Teachers, here is encouragement from R. C. Sproul to really know and understand the biblical concepts you are teaching your students:

Certain assumptions are made in the classroom. The first is that the teacher knows more about the subject than the student. It is, in general, a safe assumption. The second assumption is that the teacher cannot communicate his mastery of the subject all at once. To educate (as the Latin root suggests), we must lead students “out of” ignorance into knowledge. That knowledge moves in increments, from the simple to complex.

…A great teacher can simplify without distortion. This is the supreme test of understanding. If I truly understand something, I ought to be able to communicate it to others. There is a vast chasm that separates the simple from the simplistic. Jesus, the greatest teacher ever, taught in simple terms. But He was never simplistic. To oversimplify is to distort the truth. The great teacher can express the profound by the simple, without distortion. To do that requires a deep level of understanding. The great teacher imparts understanding, not merely information. To do that the teacher must understand the material being taught.

(From “A Great Teacher Can Simplify without Distortion,” www.ligonier.org)

For the above to happen, we need to take our call to teach the Bible to children very seriously. Too many times, curricula and/or teachers assume that we need to be “simplistic” with children. Hence, there are shallow lessons that never dig deep into the profound truths of Scripture. Or, a teacher may have good, solid curricula but may fail to adequately master and understand the material before teaching. That is why it is so important for teachers to use good curriculum and spend a serious amount of time in prayerful study to understand the material.

Teachers, I would like to extend a special invitation to you to come to our National Conference this year. As a long-time teacher, one of the seminars that would be on the top of my list to attend would be:

Practical Tips for Teaching with Passion and Purpose (Tim and Amy Bell)
Join us as we discuss teaching children about our Great God with enthusiasm. Come explore classroom ideas and encouraging tips for knowing your lesson, knowing your students, and managing your time well. We’ll also touch on how to work better in ministry teams and partner with parents in order to leave a Godly legacy for coming generations. Whether you are a new or seasoned teacher or volunteer, this seminar will give you ideas you can use in your class.

(Image courtesy of Rawich at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

On Not Shrinking, but Upholding, Embracing and Declaring

On Not Shrinking, but Upholding, Embracing and Declaring

Paul’s declaration in Acts 20:27, “. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” are richly inspiring, yet deeply sobering words.  Why inspiring?  Why sobering?  Let’s take the latter first.

These are deeply sobering words because they imply that, due to what is contained in “the whole counsel of God,” there may be sources of temptation to shrink from declaring to others the very content of these words.  More specifically, to declare the whole counsel of God requires that we overcome both the fears of external resistance, and the deep discomfort of internal inclinations, that lead us to seek to avoid disapproval by others.  In a word, we see that faithfulness to the whole counsel of God is an issue, at bottom, of the fear of God vs. the fear of man.  Whose approval do we most long to receive?  Whose opinion do we most value?  Whose assessment weighs in heaviest in our own hearts and souls.  (BTW, “most” and “heaviest” are important terms in these questions since it is simply impossible to care not at all—nor should we—about the opinions or assessments of others.  So, the question is not whether we care about what others think, but whose opinion and assessment matters to us the very most!  Here is a test of faithfulness to and worship of the true God vs. idolatry in the very ways we assess what others think about us).

But, why should this be?  What is it about “the whole counsel of God” that would elicit such fears and deep discomforts?  The answer is obvious once one considers the content of “the whole counsel of God” in contrast with the values, commitments, and moral sensibilities of the culture in which we live.  That word of God in its fullness contains many teachings and truths that are at one and the same time, glorious, beautiful, humbling, strengthening, and awe- and hope-inspiring, to those who have the eyes of faith, and also deeply offensive, seemingly foolish, and fully at odds with the zeitgeist and wisdom of our culture as it divines what is good and right and fulfilling.  Paul is conveying this notion when he speaks of the word of the cross as foolishness to those perishing but to us who are saved, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:18-25).  Again, he speaks of the gospel as emitting one aroma which to some is the fragrance of life, whereas to another it is the stench of death (2 Cor 2:14-17).

Children Desiring God Blog // Bruce Ware QuoteBecause we live in a culture where what is truly (as God knows these to be) right, good, and wise is considered wrong, bad, and foolish, while what is truly (as God knows these to be) wrong, bad, and foolish is considered right, good, and wise – due to this sinful and Satanic (recall he excels in deception above all else) inversion of truth, faithfulness to proclaim the actual content of the Word of God is to invite scorn, ridicule, and rejection from the cultured despisers—Schleiermacher surely was correct here—of biblical religion.  Hence, there will inevitably arise within our hearts, as with the heart of the Apostle Paul, a temptation, even a stubborn inclination, to “shrink from declaring” what that word actually says and teaches—a betrayal of the truth that Schleiermacher and a host of subsequent liberals have done right down to the Brian McClarens and Rob Bells of our day.  So we are faced with one of the ultimate and most central questions of our lives as Christians and particularly as Christian ministers – will we fear man and so shrink, or will we fear God and so not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God?  Choose this day whom you will serve.  We cannot not serve both the Word of God and the wisdom of men.

But Paul’s words, “. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” are also deeply inspiring words, for they call to mind the story of a remarkably faithful while violently opposed life lived for the cause of Christ and his gospel.  Often when I read Paul’s description of the suffering he endured in his ministry of the gospel (see especially his record of affliction and opposition in 2 Cor 11:23-29) I call to mind also these words in Acts 20:27.  There is a connection between the two that should be obvious to all.  His was not the kind of affliction due to foolishness and sinfulness that Peter warns against (1 Pet 3:17b) but rather of the affliction that comes from the offense of the truth and doing what is right that Peter commends (1 Pet 3:13-17a).  It was his very not shrinking from declaring the whole counsel of God that resulted in the massive opposition, suffering, hardship, and agony that Paul endured.  Yet, because he knew with all of his heart that the truths which he taught and for which he suffered were life-giving and hope-building, he could suffer even with joy—recall this theme in his letter to the Philippians which he wrote from prison.  Indeed, because of the inestimable glory of this truth, he could even consider the fullness of his own suffering as merely “momentary, light affliction” (2 Cor 4:17) in contrast with the eternal weight of glory awaiting all who knew and embraced the wonders of the truths he faithfully taught from the whole counsel of God. Incredible. Almost unbelievable.  Yet, this indeed makes perfect sense because (but only because) Paul knew the words of truth he embraced as his own, the words of truth he proclaimed without compromise, the words of truth for which he suffered, were the very words of life.

Do you know the whole counsel of God as the very words of life?  Do you uphold and embrace every aspect of the whole counsel of God as God’s own word and words, and therefore as true and right and glorious and good?  Do you accept the inevitable opposition which comes with faithful proclamation of those words?  May God grant us hearts like the Apostle Paul’s, to proclaim with joy what may bring us opposition, knowing that, in the end, we await the words “well done” from the One who embraced and proclaimed the truth most faithfully, and who, as a result, suffered most fully.

Bruce A. Ware
Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

2016 National ConferenceWe are excited to welcome Bruce Ware back for a third time as one of our keynote speakers at the Children Desiring God National Conference. He will expound on these issues and help us answer these questions as he teaches on Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God. We hope you will join us April 14-16 in Indianapolis! Learn more and register now!

An Invitation to Parents (and Parents-to-Be)

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Here is a great question to ponder from Lou Priolo:

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what it is you are trying to accomplish as a parent? What exactly is your objective?

Let that weigh on your mind and heart for a moment. Think of the variety of things that consume your time in your parenting efforts—meeting basic physical needs, attending church, education, sports activities, hobbies, music lessons, special family celebrations, and more. Are all these efforts serving a common objective?

Here is how Mr. Priolo answers his own question:

Since you are a Christian parent there is only one ultimate answer to this question—and that answer is found in the Bible. The supreme objective you should have for your children is the same objective the Apostle Paul had for his spiritual children—that they be conformed (gradually changed into) the image of Christ.

He then goes on to state three necessary ingredients to produce Christ-like maturity:

…the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, and time.

(Teach Them Diligently: How to Use Scriptures in Child Training, copyright©2000, pages 1-2)

2016 National ConferenceIt seems so simple, doesn’t it? Yet every parent knows it is an awesome task and a weighty responsibility. And, for many parents, especially those who did not grow up in Christian homes, it can be even more daunting! In the past, I have recommended many helpful books on parenting, including the one quoted above. However, if there was just one event that I could recommend for parents this coming year, it would be our National Conference. You see, contrary to what you might think, it’s not just for church leaders and ministry volunteers. It is packed with biblical parenting help and encouragement. From a parenting perspective, I have found the pre-conference seminars by Pastor David and Sally Michael to be extremely beneficial. Just look at the seminar titles:

  • A Vision for God-Centered Worship in the Next Generation [i.e., your children]
  • A Vision for Biblical Literacy in the Next Generation [your children]
  • A Vision for Encouraging Faith in the Next Generation [your children]

In my opinion, it’s not an overstatement to say that these 3 seminars present some of the best biblical parenting advice that I have found in any other single resource! These talks may literally transform your parenting and provide you with much needed encouragement. Furthermore, consider these seminars that distinctly apply to parenting:

  • The Parent-Church Connection
  • “Let the Children Come to Me” in Worship
  • Strategies for Engaging Children in the Worship Service
  • Teaching Youth to Study the Bible
  • Teaching Youth to Rejoice in God’s Good Design
  • Teaching Children and Youth to Stand Firm in a Hostile Culture
  • Picking Up the Digital Blitz: Recognizing and Countering the Technology Rush in Our Homes
  • Sins or Synapse? Are Teens Controlled by Their Brains
  • The Power of the Memorized Word in the Fight of Faith
  • Strengthening the Church-Home Partnership in the First Three Years
  • Communicating the Gospel Within the Whole Counsel of God
  • Encouraging God-Esteem in a Culture of Self-Esteem
  • Foundations for Family Discipleship
  • Intergenerational Teaching: Why and How?
  • From Genesis to Revelation: Disability and His Sure Promises of Help
  • Catechism: Out of Date or a Tried and True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths

Grandparents: Consider helping your children attend this conference by providing financial assistance and/or childcare.

Church members: Do you know of parents who would especially benefit from this conference? Pass this post on to them. If necessary, look for ways that you and others could provide resources to make it easier for them to attend.

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