Monday, January 25, 2010

Nothing but the truth, the whole truth

Some of you reading this may be in churches that use Scripture Union's teaching material, Light.

I could write more about the teaching material choices available in the UK, but I shan't (= limited) and I have bought/used/tried/tested them all. I have written my own for short series but what I am about to write about now is, I feel, a real area of concern.

We repeat ourselves.


Forgive me for this next statement (and it is the title of a seminar I am doing in the future) but telling stories is just not enough. It's not going to build life-long followers of Jesus. I don't mean to single out one provider; I can honestly tell you I have audited a lot of material for my past studies.

Here in the UK we teach children, in the main, about these things:-
* creation/flood
* Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Joshua, Samuel
* sometimes Elijah (but not for the last few years!!)
* Jesus birth
* Jesus stories; his interaction with people (preferably not out of John)
* Jesus death and resurrection
* Spreading the news - the growth of the early church

These are good, good stories.
I do have a concern, though, that in the TWELVE years of church activities, we do not, at the very least, open up a whole spectrum of Scripture to children. I remember a class discussion at bible college about 4 years ago about how some parts of Scripture may not be suitable for children with challenging behaviour perhaps (!??)

Judges 3:21-22
Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it

Some things I have been pondering. Why can't we teach.........
- a bit more from the Pentateuch. Covenant is usally solidly covered but I think there is a lot more to be unpacked on the Law which would assist children to understand the uniqueness of the New Covenant more fully.
- is the intimacy of the lover's call to the beloved to draw close not relevant for children learning about the tender love of a heavenly Father? (Song of Songs)
- are the lessons from the evil kings not worth looking at alongside the fear of the Lord that governed the good kings? (Kings/Chronicles)
- One or more psalms might be covered but what about a study of Proverbs? This throws up some great practical advice and lessons on what our own hearts can be like.
- the faithfulness and perseverance of Nehemiah in rebuilding the temple
- Job; for lessons about hard times and the dynamic breaking-in of revelation of the goodness of God who can more than repay
- and oh, oh, oh - the incredible prophetic outpourings which speak to a people in exile, a people who need to return wholeheartedly to the one who has never stopped loving them. I have only ever seen little bits of Isaiah in children's teaching material as it refers to Jesus and very little about the breakdown of the nation of Israel in her rebellion and unfaithfulness and the Lord's response to this. And yet the incredible promises of what was to come in the New Covenant; the new heart of flesh, the coming of the Spirit for all and not just for some, the river of God flowing out, the dreams and visions to come; the time of holding fast and persevering.

I could go on and on 6 years of children and family pastoring there has been very little from the pastoral epistles. Isn't Timothy so relevant to young people? I'm desperate to teach Romans to children. I do a little bit on justification and sanctification with children/family discipleship, so I personally have unpacked a little of Ephesians with children outside of a Sunday morning. I have never seen James in children's teaching material; nor Hebrews. I am sure someone somewhere has - please do post in the comments section with your thoughts or observations on this. But the main UK providers *do* stick to the stories I mentioned earlier.

End times
- have you seen any teaching on this? I have yet to see any children's resources that touches Revelation. I can feel some teaching bubbling up in me on:
1. "to the overcomers"
2. "having a heavenly viewpoint"
3. "praise and glory, wisdom and thanks to the Lamb - throne room praise"
::::::::need to gloss over creatures and horns/eyes/flying scrolls - bit too hard for me! :::::::::::::
4. "heaven - joy forever".

I have honestly witnessed children rolling their eyes and saying "not Moses AGAIN!" and while I recognise that the word of God has power and is to be honoured, a part of me has sympathy because I know of the variety and richness within that Word, which points again and again and again to a loving, faithful God who persues human beings to the point where it cost him everything!

Have had a bit of a rant there - please do comment on stuff you have used (the USA has a little bit of a wider spread, perhaps because of denominational differences) or to vociferously agree or disagree.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Shape of Soteriology

I read a book two years ago from which I took notes that have stayed beside me for most of that time. It's John McIntyre's The Shape of Soteriology. This is the theology concerned with salvation though the death of Christ.

I am a children and family pastor.
I am trained in education methods.
I am trained in children's cognitive development.
I am also theologically trained.
Therefore I think I know why Christ died.

I think this statement could potentially demonstrate an arrogance that there is nothing more to know. It exudes occasionally from some Christians who preach and teach. I think that's why there is a salutory warning in Scripture to those who teach others!

The temptation is to teach about Christ to adults and children in a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the question: "why did Christ die?".
As I hope I have pointed out, a danger I became aware of in myself, is that those who sit under our influence may be missing out on the RICHNESS of the depth of God's love for us by our presentation of a one-sided picture of what took Jesus willingly to the cross.

McIntyre details no fewer than THIRTEEN models over several pages of his book to explain why Christ died for us.

1. as a RANSOM
7. as an ATONEMENT
10. as PUNISHMENT or PENALTY for our sins
11. as SATISFACTION (remember good old Anselm?)
12. as our EXAMPLE

I'm going to add a fourteenth to this list, courtesy of Bruce Reichenbach,

14. for our HEALING *

My point in this post as a children's specialist is to WIDEN OUR MINDS as to what we:

(a) teach children and young people about the death of Christ and
(b) OPEN OUR MINDS to what we think they are capable of understanding.

This will allow children to enter into the rich metaphors for God's gift of grace and love woven throughout the pages of the Bible.

Here's a challenge - taking each of the views above, can you write down a simple one line explanation of what it means in words that a child can understand?

If you like, substitute the word "child" for EAL speaker (English as an Additional Language speaker) or "adult with limited educational attainment" or "new Christian who doesn't get christianese jargon yet".

* for more on the healing view (and Joel Green's excellent Kaleidoscopic approach), see The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views, Edited by James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy (2008)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Days off

I'm taking some days off over the next few weeks. I led, planned or talked (or all three) at services on 20 Dec, 24 Dec, 25 Dec and 3 Jan. Any service with children involved results in loads of rehearsals and liasing with parents.

I also had two separate social events for children and their families (but the ten pin bowling was great fun. How hard it is to bowl very badly so that the children win )

But I love spending time with people and in the weeks before Christmas and as the New Year turned I've been spending time talking and praying with young parents and some families who need some encouragement and support. I'm actually bursting for Sunday to come to plunge into worship with the children and to meet with the discipleship group the week after. They are just so amazing.

I've received some discouragement too. It's always the lot of a church leader/staff member but doesn't always make it esaier to deal with.
**** POST SCRIPT - I love how much God knows us and loves us. I received the most amazing long letter when I came home tonight with encouragement all through it from a church member. I love how Father knows how much we can bear; how he sees our sorrow/tears/whatever emotion - and holds out his hands to us. He's Daddy.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


I have been watching the live stream of the memorial service for Derek Loux. Lou Engle is talking as I type. Lou Engle is the visionary and co-founder of TheCall solemn assemblies (, a movement of prayer gathering young adults to pray and fast for breakthrough and revival. TheCall began in Washington, DC in 2000 gathering over 400,000 people to pray and fast for the United States. Since 2000, The Call has gathered hundreds of thousands of people to pray both national and internationally.

He is talking right now about something that is resonating in my spirit.

About the movement to rescue children.

When Derek Loux died, he was on his way home from a training session on relesaing children from the sex trade and people trafficking. He and his wife Renee lived their lives to rescue children and to adopt them into his family.

In the last six months, three people have spoken to me about the call they are feeling to adopt or foster. One friend in my previous church is in the final stages of formal approval for long-term fostering.

Lou Engle has just prophesied about a mass movement of adoption and rescue of children. He speaks as one who has spent years praying for the nation.
Could this be a sign of the coming revival? T

"When love takes you in, it takes you in for good".
(Steve Curtis Chapman)