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Ordinary Means, Extraordinary Fruit

As a Sunday school teacher, I have always approached the last weeks of the school year with mixed emotions. Was I faithful week to week in teaching God’s Word? Did my students “get it”? Do they give evidence of faith in Jesus? Have I seen any spiritual fruit? What about that child who seemed bored all year? What about the one who was often disrespectful in class? What should I have done differently?… The list of questions goes on and on. At times, it’s easy to lose heart when I don’t see spiritual fruit coming about in the manner I expect. Parents often struggle with these same questions and emotions regarding their children’s spiritual condition.

Here is a word of encouragement from our new book, Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, for teachers and parents who long for their students and children to be vibrant and fruitful disciples of Jesus:

We do not always fully see the spiritual fruit of our endeavors in this lifetime, but we can be confident in the sovereign grace of God to accomplish His saving work in the lives of His people. When His Word goes out, it never fails to bring about His purposes. That seemingly bored little girl you teach week-by-week in Sunday school class may, by God’s grace, become a great woman of faith who dedicates her life to nurturing her family and sharing the Gospel with other women. That rebellious young boy in your own home may, by God’s grace, become a man of God who faithfully shepherds a small local church. And often it is through “ordinary” means that God brings about extraordinary fruit in the lives of children—means such as teaching children to read the Bible, memorize Scripture, pray, participate in the worship service, and to observe God’s hand in nature.

Consider one man’s testimony,

I remember reading my King James Version Bible, from age 6 or 7 every night. It was a habit I got from my parents, and my grandmother encouraged in me as well. I didn’t understand everything in it. I could follow along and make out some of the words. It was God’s Word and it was fascinating to me. I deeply treasured those words of God from a very early age.

I remember when I was 12, praying one night with my mother to trust Jesus, ask Him into my heart, have Him be my Savior. I made a profession of faith and then was baptized at First Baptist Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I remember coming to Minneapolis at 13 for a Billy Graham Crusade—that would have been 1961—and going forward then as a recommitment of my life. I remember those things but now, looking back earlier in my life, I would not date my conversation to age 12 or 13 because I see evidences of regeneration—genuine saving faith—much, much earlier. I loved to sit at the piano and sing hymns. I loved to read my Bible. When I was out on the playground, riding my bike, or out playing baseball, I would be praying to God quietly during the day. I see evidences way back at a very early stage because of Christian parents who brought me up in a Christian home and brought me to Sunday School, and I’m so thankful for that heritage.

In some ways, this is a very simple, “unspectacular” testimony. A young boy brought to faith through very ordinary means: reading the Bible, encouragement from family, the teaching and preaching of the Word, praying, and singing hymns. Yet, God was pleased to do extraordinary things by His sovereign grace in this young boy’s life.

Who is the man sharing this testimony? Dr. Wayne Grudem: theologian, author, seminary professor, and defender of the Christian faith. He gave this short testimony during his address, “Teaching the Richness of the Entire Gospel,” (part 1, at our 2007 National Conference. His testimony reflects the importance of the calling given in Psalm 78:1-7. Charles Spurgeon wrote the following concerning those verses:

We will look forward to future generations, and endeavor to provide for their godly education. It is the duty of the church of God to maintain, in fullest vigor, every agency intended for the religious education of the young; to them we must look for the church of the future, and as we sow towards them so shall we reap[1].

Teachers and parents, do not grow weary in providing your students and children with the “ordinary” means of a godly education: reading and teaching from the Bible, offering godly encouragement, attending corporate worship, listening to the preached Word, praying, singing hymns, etc. Because it is through these means that God, by His sovereign grace, does extraordinary things. May we diligently “endeavor to provide for their godly education” and pray earnestly that God would bring forth extraordinary fruit in their lives, for His glory and their indestructible joy!

Order your copy of Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, or download the free e-book, here.

[1] The Treasury of David, vol.III (New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls, 1886), 433.

Distinctions of the Truth78 Curriculum

At Truth78, we are committed to making God the main focus of each and every lesson by unfolding the Scriptures for children. Though each curriculum in our scope and sequence differs somewhat based on age and particular focus, all of our Sunday School, Midweek Bible, and Intergenerational curricula share the following distinctions:

  • A Big Vision of God—Our curricula aims to acquaint children with the incomparable majesty of the triune God by digging deep into His divine character as revealed throughout Scripture. We believe that children should be taught the beauty and grandeur of His manifold perfections. In completing our scope and sequence, children will have learned and explored, with increasing depth, more than 20 distinct attributes of God.
  • The Centrality of God in All Things—Every lesson in every curriculum aims to magnify the triune God above all—His name, fame, honor, and glory. We believe that children will find their greatest joy when they esteem God most. Therefore, the lessons use language, illustrations, and applications that point children toward God-adoration. Furthermore, the curricula challenge children to see that every aspect of life is to fall under centrality of God and His sovereign rule.
  • Doctrinal Depth, Accuracy, and Clarity—We believe deep biblical truths and doctrines can and should be taught to children. Doing so requires teaching truths in an accurate, clear, yet child-friendly manner. To that end, every lesson in our curricula is carefully reviewed by a highly qualified and experienced theological editor.
  • Faithfulness to the Gospel—The central message of the Bible culminates in the Person and work of Jesus—the Gospel—in which He brings sinners near to God. The Gospel is simple yet amazingly profound, freely offered yet extremely costly, and should be communicated as such. We believe this is best done by repeatedly drawing attention to essential Gospel truths found throughout Scripture: God is the sovereign Creator and Ruler, God is holy, man is sinful, God is just, God is merciful, Jesus is holy and righteous, Jesus died to save sinners, etc. Every lesson presents one or more of these essential truths, and every curriculum, as a whole, clearly and explicitly presents the Gospel to children.
  • Interactive Engagement with Scripture—Using an age-appropriate, step-by-step approach, the lesson format trains students to interact with the text using proper Bible study methods. This process begins in earnest in first grade, and increases in depth and rigor as children age and mature. Furthermore, we incorporate an interactive teaching style, carefully laid out for teachers. This serves to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills aimed at a deeper understanding of the things of God and the ability to rightly apply the Word of God.
  • Age-Appropriate Visuals and Illustrations that Enhance the Learning Experience—Key truths are often more easily grasped and better understood when explained in conjunction with concrete visuals and illustrations. Our curricula offer numerous color visuals and suggested illustrations to enhance the learning process. In so doing, children are provided with opportunities to be actively involved in the lesson. These visuals and illustrations are age-appropriate, yet also treat the subject matter in an honoring manner.
  • Personal Application That Encourages a Proper Response in the Mind, Heart, and Will—Each lesson in our curricula ends by encouraging children to personally embrace and apply the truths learned. Through carefully constructed questions, we offer adult leaders practical, specific suggestions to challenge the children in their faith and spiritual walk. Our goal is to encourage genuine faith that is increasingly evidenced by love for God and spiritual fruit and good works. We also offer questions that specifically challenge unbelievers to consider the truths of Scripture.
  • Maximizing Classroom Time with Biblical Teaching and Spiritual Discussion—We believe that time in the classroom should be structured to emphasize biblical teaching and application. However, depending on the age group and time availability, additional hands-on activities may be warranted. Therefore, each lesson suggests further optional activities for the classroom. They have been developed to either reinforce lesson themes or introduce some other valuable faith-building endeavor: missions, Bible skills, Bible memory, etc.

Vision-Oriented Children’s and Youth Ministry

Truth78 // Vision Oriented Children's and Youth Ministry

In our many years of mountain hiking, my family has only once experienced feeling hopelessly lost. We became surrounded by thick forest between two mountain buttes.  Although we continued to walk and make some progress, we did a lot of backtracking—wasting valuable time. It wasn’t until we emerged from the thick trees that we were able to gain perspective and see our desired final destination—a point in the far distance. Keeping that point constantly before us enabled us to complete the hike without further confusion and backtracking. Our hike became “vision-oriented.” It made all the difference.

Yet, too often, we tend to get “lost in the trees” in children’s and youth ministry. How so? By focusing primarily on short-term goals for the coming year. What curricula should we use this year? What devotional materials should we recommend to parents? What special activities do we want for the youth this year? Etc. All of these are good questions to address, but without a larger vision, you may find your children’s ministry going in various directions from year to year which may result in serious gaps in the children’s spiritual instruction.

At Truth78 we believe that it is crucial to have “vision-oriented” ministry to children and youth. A vision-orientation considers where you are going—clarifying your goals—and then carefully develops and implements an intentional plan in pursuing those goals. Parents, pastors, ministry leaders, and all who care about the faith of the next generation must have a clear target in view so we know where to aim when we are interacting with our children and youth. No being “lost in the trees” from year to year.

That is why, along with our name change, we felt it important to clarify our vision. It serves to orient all that we do.

At Truth78 our vision is that the next generations know, honor, and treasure God, setting their hope in Christ alone, so that they will live as faithful disciples for the glory of God.

If your heart resonates with the above vision, we invite you to partner with us in prioritizing faithful biblical instruction to the next generations. Our mission is to help both church and home develop a comprehensive and effective plan of biblical instruction and discipleship.

With that in mind, Truth78 is excited to provide some new resources to better understand and implement a vision-oriented approach to ministering to children and youth.

 

Videos  

Truth78 // Foundations for God-Centered Ministry to the Next GenerationPastor David Michael and Sally Michael explain the foundations and key components of vision-oriented ministry in these newly recorded, 15 minute videos. A must-see for parents, church leaders, and ministry volunteers.

  1. A Vision for the Discipleship of the Next Generation
  2. A Vision for God-Centered, Gospel-Focused Teaching for the Next Generations 
  3. A Vision for Teaching the Word of God 
  4. A Vision for Encouraging Faith in Christ 

 

Viewbook

This booklet explains the importance of vision-oriented ministry as well as six key components for its implementation. It also presents Truth78’s curricula scope and sequence and an overview of other available resources for both church and home. A great introduction to Truth78.


Download Viewbook

Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations

Truth78 // Indestructible JoyAvailable in print or free e-book download.

Presents a vision of indestructible joy for the next generations—a joy that can’t be destroyed in the best, or worst, of times—a joy that can withstand the temptations, the trials, and the persecutions of the world. Each chapter is drawn from messages given over the past 15 years at the national conferences for Children Desiring God (now Truth78). John Piper, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Russell Moore, Bruce Ware, and more encourage parents and teachers to proclaim the whole counsel of God to nurture the faith of the next generations.

 

 

Don’t Toss Aside the Hull and Mast

Children Desiring God Blog // Don't Toss Aside the Hull and Mast

One of the things I’ve noticed about children’s and youth ministry in the past few years is a renewed and increased evangelistic impulse—an urgency to teach children about Jesus and the Gospel so that they might be saved. This is a wonderful change from the all-too-common emphasis on Gospel-less moralism of the past. My concern, however, is that sometimes for the sake of urgency—wanting our children to get saved as soon as possible (a really good desire)—we may be minimizing the very foundation on which that salvation depends. I found this illustration, from an article over at 9Marks, to be really helpful:

Let’s say, for the sake of illustration, that you are on a ship sailing to a faraway town to warn the people of impending doom. If you don’t get there in time, everyone dies. Needless to say, you want your ship to sail as fast as possible. You avoid any excess cargo that might slow your progress. You don’t waste time worrying about clean decks or polished brass. The urgency of the task requires you to operate with efficiency and leanness. (more…)

Dripping Bible for the Next Generation

Children Desiring God Blog // Dripping Bible for the Next Generation

Recently, my husband and I were driving with four of our grandchildren. While waiting at a particularly long traffic light, Grandma (me) had finally had enough. “Stupid traffic light!” I muttered, none too softly. A while later, we sat at another traffic light. This time I kept my mouth shut. But in the backseat, 2-year-old Nate filled the void, saying, “Stupid traffic light!” He went home knowing a new phrase to say when waiting for traffic lights. (Won’t his mommy and daddy be glad!) He simply heard and repeated what Grandma had said. Grandma has a problem. Grandma spoke out of a grumbling, sinful heart.

Imagine for a moment if I had said something like this instead:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances;” even for long waits at traffic lights,for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (more…)

Communicating to Children the Self-Sufficiency of God

Children Desiring God Blog // Communicating to Children the Self-Sufficiency of God

Children intuitively know that they need many things in order to exist. So it is relatively easy to teach them that it is God who ultimately provides for these needs. What’s more difficult to communicate to them is the self-sufficiency of God—that He needs absolutely nothing! He alone existed from all eternity, fully complete in Himself.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.—Acts 17:24-25

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When a Child Goes Astray

Children Desiring God Blog // When A Child Goes Astray

Long ago and far away, I had this little equation in my parenting mind: If we do all the right spiritual ABCs with our children, then God will bring about saving faith in their young lives (by 7 years old)…and just like that, in no time at all, our children will become faithful, fruitful followers of Jesus, doing great things for the kingdom by the time they are 12! That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? Needless to say my little “salvation equation” for my children was naïve, to say the least! Real-life experience showed a more complicated path. Sometimes that path was confusing, heartbreaking, and even terrifying.

Here are some words from Kim Shay that I found really heartfelt and hope-filled for parents who are experiencing concern over their child’s spiritual condition:

In a perfect world, Christian parents would teach their children the gospel, and it would be embraced quickly, and without incident. Children would go seamlessly from childhood to godly adulthood without a blip on the screen.
As we know, we don’t live in a perfect world. And the reality is that good Christian parents raise children who give them some sleepless nights and break their hearts. I know what that is like. If you have children who never gave you a moment’s trouble, praise God for it! But for those of us who have had children who stray or struggle in their faith, it can be extremely painful. We feel shame and guilt. We may feel anger. But we must not despair. For those who may be in the midst of that kind of season, here are some thoughts.
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Bible Reading Tips for Kids

Children Desiring God Blog // Bible Reading Tips for Kids

Bible reading plans for kids are great resources to help your children develop the habit of daily Bible reading. (See last week’s post here.) But along with a reading plan, here is a crucial reminder from Sally Michael for you to share with your children before they begin:

…you can read the Bible with your mind only and walk away with just information. You may know a little more, but it hasn’t changed you. You can also read the words but harden your heart against their convicting and healing power.

We are blind to the truth in God’s Word. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we will read words but we won’t see spiritual truth. We are unable to open our hearts to the power of the Word of God. We desperately need God’s help.

(more…)

Encouraging Your Children to Read the Bible In 2018

Children Desiring God Blog // Encouraging Your Children to Read the Bible

A new year is soon upon us and, for many adults, it is a time to begin a new Bible reading plan for 2018. But what about your children? Do you have an age-appropriate plan for them? Are you helping them to include Bible reading as a regular, daily, beneficial habit? David Murray has an excellent post regarding this. He starts the post with this question:

“How can I get my kids to read the Bible for themselves?” I’ve been asked that by many frustrated Christian parents. I’ve asked it myself!…Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experience and from talking with many parents and pastors.

He then outlines six ways to encourage your children in Bible reading:

  • Make it a priority.
  • Make it a joy.
  • Make it a habit.
  • Make it do-able.
  • Make it accountable.
  • Make it Gospel-centered.

(more…)

A Child in a Manger and the Truthfulness of God

Children Desiring God Blog // A Children in a Manger and the Truthfulness of God

Christmas is almost here, and many of us have been focusing on the birth of Jesus in our classrooms and homes. As we do this, let’s use this as an opportunity to also focus on how all the events and details surrounding His birth point to the faithfulness and truthfulness of God. For example, have your children consider these two verses written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.—Micah 5:2

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.—Isaiah 7:14 (more…)

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