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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…)

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…)

Helping Children Understand the Cost of Following Jesus

Helping Children Understand the Cost of Following Jesus

Years ago my son stepped through the doors of an Army recruitment office. He was given a wonderful and glorious picture of army life—one filled with financial benefits and exciting adventures. You’d be crazy NOT to join up. But, unbeknownst to the recruiter, our son had been given a prior “recruitment” talk by a good friend and mentor who had been in the army for 20 years (including two, year-long deployments into war zones). He gave our son a much more realistic and truthful picture. It was with this latter understanding that our son signed up. He counted the cost and joined because he was committed to a cause he believed in, knowing that hard work, self-sacrifice, suffering, and war was ahead.

I wonder sometimes if we are prone to a subtle type of recruitment mentality when we present the Gospel to children. Please don’t get me wrong—the Gospel IS the most glorious news of all, and we should be gladly sharing with our children and students the truth of the incomparable benefits and all-satisfying joy of trusting in Jesus and following Him. Jesus alone is “the way and the true and the life.” But, do we also help them understand that there is a cost in following Jesus? (more…)

Get ACTIVE in the Classroom!

Get Active in the Classroom!

One of the God-given means for influencing the heart and the will is to encourage students to be active participants in the learning process. Most people would agree that it is good for children to be involved in the learning process. Most of us could even give reasons why this is so:

  • Makes the lessons more interesting, and therefore helps children to pay attention (easy for their minds to wander if you are doing all the talking)—Students do not get bored if they are actively participating in the learning process.
  • Children will often remember the concepts longer if they have been involved in the learning process.
  • When children are involved in the discovery of knowledge themselves,  sometimes they can internalize truth better—discovering a Bible truth sometimes causes that truth to be embraced in the heart rather than just understood in the head

(more…)

Will They Be Disciples?

Will They Be Disciples

Here is a two-question quiz for your children and students:

1. Are you a disciple of Jesus?

2. What does it mean to be His disciple?

Why ask these two questions? Consider these words…

“Go make disciples.” With these words, Jesus commissions all his followers to make other followers, called disciples. Disciple means learner, a person who wanted to learn from and take on the pattern of his rabbi. Interestingly, the word Christian only occurs three times in the New Testament, while the word disciple occurs 269 times. Unfortunately, today the word Christian has the connotation of a status our children hold, a card they carry, disconnected from their daily activities. Disciple, on the other hand, implies a lifelong commitment to seek after, learn from, and stay close to our rabbi, Jesus. (more…)

Vision-Driven Ministry

Vision-Driven Ministry

When I was first learning to drive, I made a typical mistake—I was constantly fixated on the road right in front of me…as in only a few feet in front of me. Now, if you are only planning on going a few feet, this works just fine. But if you are driving down a highway this “immediately-in-front-of-me” fixation can soon steer you right off the road. You need to set your eyes on a point or object in the distance, and then adjust your steering to that point. It makes all the difference!

Often in children’s ministry, we make this same kind of mistake. We become fixated with what is right in front of us: How many new Sunday school workers will we need to recruit for the fall? What programs will be available on Wednesday nights? Do we have special speakers lined up for missions week? What will be the focus of our Christmas program? This is not to say that these are unimportant questions. They need to be addressed. But, if these are the only things steering our ministry, a few years down the road we may find that our ministry feels aimless, or has gotten off course. (more…)

Do they See Jesus as Master and Lord?

Do they See You as Master and Lord?

Submission to authority is one of the primary disciplines that parents must teach their children. Even in submitting to the seemingly little commands of parents, children learn important truths that will better prepare them for a fulfilling and happy life. However, the main reason we should teach our children about submission is to help them understand the necessity of submitting to Jesus and His absolute, good, wise, and loving authority. Furthermore, we must teach and model that submission to Jesus and His ways does not quash our joy—it enables our joy.

As parents and teachers, we ought to be very careful and intentional in communicating this important concept to our children and students. As we rightfully impress upon them their need for Jesus’ redeeming work—trusting in Him alone as Savior—we must not neglect to also highlight Jesus as Master and Lord. All who truly trust in Jesus are called to learn from Him, submit to Him, and follow in all His ways. This is a life-long endeavor for the Christian. It is a call to grace-dependent, Spirit-empowered discipleship.

Getting Practical—Here are a few texts to read and discuss, and questions to ask your children: (more…)

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