When something touching an idol in our lives the three most common reactions are anger, fear, and despair. When something we love more than we should is shaken we respond in anger, fear, and despair which each, in turn, drives us deeper into our idolatrous behavior.
For example, when I was growing up I was not ok in life if others didn’t approve of me and like me. It is something I struggle with to this day. Although by God grace I struggle less today because of the power of Gospel at work in me daily. When I was growing up if someone didn’t like me I felt despair. I would do everything in my power to help them see that I was fun, kind and an all-around good person. I would sacrifice time with people who actually liked me because I need to be liked by everyone. The more I was around these people the more fear and despair I felt.
Jack Klumpenhower is the author of Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids.
His teaching resources can be found at theGospel Teacher
I recently read Jack’s book “Show Them Jesus” I so enjoyed it I asked Jack to guest post on my blog about how to teach the parts of the bible that are difficult. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.
Teaching the Bible’s Disturbing Stories
I’ve spent much of the past Sunday school year teaching through the book of Genesis for a class of elementary kids at my church. Just a few weeks into this class, I had a decision to make. The published curriculum I’m using as a rough guide had given me the expected lessons about creation and the sin of Adam and Eve, but it skipped the story that comes next in the Bible—where Cain murders his brother Abel.
I suspect the violent content had something to do with the publisher’s decision to skip that story. A bloody family killing does not feel kid-friendly.
But should I teach it anyway? On occasion, I too will decide it’s best to spare the youngest children from particularly rough stories or from certain details. I don’t enjoy shocking kids or telling them horrific tales. But usually, I’ll go ahead and teach most Bible stories—including the gory or sinful parts. And in the case of Cain and Abel, I hardly had to think about it. I knew I wanted to teach that story, and so I did.
During lesson time, I even drew a stick-figure picture of Cain standing over Abel’s body. Then I added some red smears for blood pooling on the ground. I was as gentle as I could be about it, soberly warning the kids that it was ugly and sad, but still, I drew that picture. It was important for them to see it.
So why, of all things, would I want kids to see that? I have three main reasons, each of which applies not only to Cain and Abel but also to many other Bible stories.
- It’s good to teach the Bible the way God has given it. If we poke around the Bible looking to use just the cheery parts, we end up skewing its message. We give kids the idea that the Bible is something like Aesop’s fables or after-school cartoons instead of the gritty, soaring, beautifully diverse message from God that it is. We also might miss key themes.
With the Cain and Abel story, I recognized it as part of the Bible’s foundational opening pages and the introduction of a critical theme: the contrast between a bad heart mastered by sin and a good heart devoted to God. I didn’t want to skip over that. I also noticed that the Bible specifically mentions Abel’s blood five times (in four different books). That made the blood a necessary part of my lesson if I was going to be true to the Bible’s own emphasis.
As a pastor one of the concerns I have surrounds what songs we sing in church and why we sing those songs in our churches. Most of the things we say about the songs we sing are founded in style. The songs we like or dislike is most often an issue of personal style. The problem with this way of approaching the songs we sing is we make the wrong things the major things. The songs we sing in church and in kids church can to often be based on the style preferences of the Sr. Pastor or Worship Pastor. There is nothing wrong with style but if what we sing and why we sing doesn’t transcend our own personal sense of style we limit the very purpose singing songs in church is intended to have.
I would like to offer this disclaimer. I have written very few worship songs. I do however pastor at a local church. I have been in the same church for 20 years and have seen the results of people and movements who based their lives on preference over substance. Given that here are my 4 questions that every worship song needs to answer.
1. Is it God directed – This is not a preference thing for me. If the song you are sing is more about you than the God who made you it’s not worship. It’s something else but not worship. The songs we need sing need to be filled with wording about who God is and what he has done. Is there songs of lament and petition in the bible? Yes. Those songs are based on an understanding of that everything begins and ends with God. It’s about what he’s doing more than how I’m feeling.
I remember when I first heard the term “partnering with parents.” It was at a family ministry conference in 2009. It was revolutionary for me as I saw parents as what the Scripture had always described them as. Parents are the primary means God uses in the life of a child to come to an understanding the gospel in the context of relationship. Jump forward several years, and I am still personally wrestling with what does that look like for me as a dad and for the church I serve? It was just two weeks ago I had this conversation with several other kids pastors we were discussing how to make this commonly shared understanding a reality. The fact we could have that conversation about how to practically partner with parents only happened because we all assume it’s necessary.
Rather than me telling you are partnering with parents is necessary, because I assume that we both agree it is. Let me ask you a question.
What does Partnering with Parents mean to you? In your church what do you do to leverage the influence parents have in the lives of their kids?
For me partnering with parents used to mean tools and information. Today it means discipleship. The longer I serve in the same church, and the more I follow Christ what I become aware of more keenly is my need to follow and to lead others to do the same. To partner with parents isn’t about programs and tools although it uses those means from time to time. To help parents spiritual lead their kids and families, parents need to be disciples and know how to make disciples. We can lower the bar and hope for any sign of life. We must challenge parents to follow Jesus so they will be willing and able to lead their kids into a relationship with Christ. As kids and youth pastors, we need to take a collective step backward and figure out how we can equip, disciple and train parents so they understand and can use the tools we are so eager to hand out.
What does that mean for us?
Last week I attended Together For The Gospel a conference for Pastors. So man incredible sessions one that stood out to me was a message by John MacArthur on Sanctification and the Pastor’s Passion. Such a powerful reminder to us all of what matters most. In life and ministry, we can become sidetracked by good things but still distracted by what we are called to do. We can so easily get caught up in things that we think will make a difference. Dr. MacArthur offers a clear call back to what matters what pastors as shepherds are called to do.
Here is what John MacArthur says.
Ask yourself be real honest, “What pains you in the ministry, what disappoints you, what depresses you? Is it the carnality, the lack of devotion to Christ, sin weakness in your people. If it is then you are a true shepherd. But if it’s about you somehow you have managed to get seriously off track. Someone came to Moody onetime and said my congregation is too small. To which Moody replied “Maybe they are as large as you would like to give account for in the day of judgment. You will not be judged on the size of your membership or the size of your auditorium, you will be judged you will give an account Hebrews tells us, on the Christlikeness of your people. Agonize over that.
So powerful. What do you agonize over? Your influence or lake thereof or your people’s Christlikeness. Pastor lets by God’s grace agonize over that.