What do you think of when you think about God?

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

A. W. Tozer

What we think about God reveals a lot about what we believe God is and is not. Lewis had a different take. He said what God thinks about us is the most important thing about us.

I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God.
By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us.

C. S. Lewis

I side with Tozer on this one. For the reason that how we have formed God in our minds reveals how he has revealed himself to us. We can only see him if he opens our eyes to see him. In all honesty, this is a false chose both are the most important but each one tells us something different. What God thinks about us reveals the ground of our salvation. What we think about God shows the fruit of our salvation.

A few nights ago I was putting my youngest daughter to bed and she asked me if closing your eyes and thinking about God was bad. She said this because we discourage the spiritual practices of yoga with our kids. I told her closing your eyes and thinking about God and his word were not bad at all, in fact, its something we should do. She responded by saying “ok, good.” So I asked her “Baby, what do you think about when you think about God?” I was nearly moved to tears, her reply both convicted and moved me. She said “I think about how good He has been to me. I think about how even if we don’t have bread he can make it rain from the sky.”

“I think about how good he has been to me.” God used my six-year-old to preach the gospel to me.

I said what else do you think about when you think about God? She then said, “Dad you know about Clifford the Big Red Dog?” I said “Yes” she laughed sweetly and said, “I asked God for more episodes because I have watched them all. And he heard me they made a new Clifford.” I knew she disliked the new one because Emily and Clifford talk to each other. I said, “But the new one isn’t good is it?” She said, “No daddy, I don’t like the new one.” I told her I was sorry. “It’s ok,” she replied. “God told me that I need to be thankful for what I have.”

My daughter in a two-minute conversation just preached me the essence of a Gospel-centered life. A life marked by the gospel will produce humble gratitude.

This is why I love my church. They are more concerned with kids loving Jesus than kids loving church.

If my daughter by God’s grace continues to think about those things when she thinks about God she will never lose her passion for the church. In our desire for relevance and for pragmatic effectiveness, I think we are missing what matters most. We rightly want our kids to love the church. Yet I think our desires are misguided. What I have found to be the case in my life and in the lives of those who have come through our church over the years When we teach our kids to love Jesus they will love the church. Discipleship isn’t a word we talk enough about in kids and youth ministry. That needs to change. Rather than trying to attract lots of kids each week lets ask a different question. Let’s ask “How can we help our kids see what God has done for them in Christ this week?”

How do we disciple kids in such a way that they love Jesus more as a result?

  1. Point every story back to Jesus. – Don’t be a weirdo and force Jesus where he doesn’t belong but be sure to point them to the larger story that the Bible is telling about what God is like.
  2. Remind them of what God has done for them in Christ. – Don’t just talk about the sin and the cross once a year remind them of the saving life-transforming work of Jesus every week.
  3. Tell them stories of missionaries who gave everything for the gospel. Pray for missionaries who are in harm’s way because of what they believe. We do this daily with our kids.
  4. Ask them when they think of God what do they think about – This one is scary because it is probably one of the more immediate indications of your discipleship of your children. Who have you told your kids God is. Who have you shown your kids through your actions is worthy of your trust.

When you think about God what do you think about? It may not be the most important question but I can think of no better gospel diagnostic. Ask your kids this question often but first, ask yourself. “What do I think about when I think about God?”

Pastor as Theologian

Why what you believe affects everything you do.

I am wrapping up my Pastor as…. series. Pastor as Theologian may be the most controversial out of all four.

Why you need to be a theologian is because you as a shepherd, leader, and disciple need to think right thoughts about God. A. W. Tozer famously said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” It is important for us as Pastors and especially those of us who teach children and students that we not only think thoughts of God but that we think rightly about who God is.

I would argue that what you believe about God affects who you follow, how you lead and how you love. For many years I avoided hard conversations about theology because I was “only a kids pastor.” What I didn’t realize is what I thought about God rightly or wrongly affected how I lead and the curriculum I chose and the lessons I wrote. As a pastor to kids, you can feel more like a daycare provider, event coordinator, middle manager, after school program director than a pastor. Those practical aspects are very real and very time consuming but the underlying reality if you are called to lead those who teach kids no matter what your church calls you be it pastor, leader or director you must think right thoughts about God.

In calling Children’s and Youth workers to be Pastor/Theologians I am not saying that you have to sequester yourself and devote yourself to parsing of Trinitarian theology but you should be asking if our lessons and our messages are Trinitarian. Do we preach in such a way that our kids are familiar with the role and the work of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit? This is not the job of the curriculum companies although resources to help pastors think through lessons theologically would be much appreciated. The job of creating a firm theological foundation is the job of the pastor.

Why Revisionism Matters.

I have been reading a book by Os Guinness entitled “Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Lost Art of Christian Persuasion.” In his book Dr. Guinness talks about how we have to move from convincing people to become Christian to persuading them to search for Christ. Towards the end of the book he talks about the dangers of revisionism. Revisionism advocates for change in longstanding doctrines that the church has believed to be true over the course of thousands of years. Guinness speaks to the dangers that revisionism has on the Church and Christian Orthodoxy. Revisionism is not just a liberal concept it can be found in both the liberal and conservative wings of Christianity. What Guinness has to say is both telling and challenging. It is telling because it is becoming more widespread it is challenging because it calls us to action. It requires us to do more than sit back and wait for the dust to settle. What we believe to be true must be founded in love but we must be faithful to what is true.

How does this play into kids and youth ministry? We can no longer teach our kids to be good citizens we must prepare them to be Christian advocates. We must teach them what is true so they do not make decisions based on what they experience, that feels true. Our job as pastors of the young in our flock is not just to create spaces that are creative and fun but we must teach them what is true.

Relevance is not giving people what they want, it’s giving them what they need. Sometimes they don’t even know they need it. What kids need from us is a is not just facts about life and ways to do life better they need a new framework to see the world. Without a framework their facts about life will wither under the relentlessness of the experience that our generation uses to trump truth. We can not run away or put our head in the sand we must meet the challenge of our day full force with the timeless truth that has been handed to us. Here is what Os Guinness says in his book “Fools Talk” about liberal Christian revisionists.

Christian advocates, then, must be ready to focus their attention on those inside the church as well as those outside— resisting modern revisionism just as St. Paul resisted ancient Gnosticism and St. Athanasius stood fast against Arianism and the world of his day. Are today’s evangelists and apologists prepared to count the cost and pick up their crosses again and truly be contra mundum— even to the point of scorn, shame, and perhaps imprisonment and death? Let there be no misunderstanding: the greatest crisis now facing the church in the West today is the crisis of authority caused by the church’s capitulation to the pressures of the sexual revolution, and in particular to the bullying agenda of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer coalition. It will not do for evangelists and apologists to keep silent for fear of losing opportunities to present the gospel. As Luther made plain in his day, to fight the battle at any point other than where the battle is being fought in one’s day is to lose the battle.

Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous regret in failing to stand against National Socialism in his time carries an equivalent warning for evangelists and apologists today. They raised the question of authority, but I was an evangelist and an apologist and not a theologian, so I didn’t stand up . . .

You Don’t Need To Be Theologian To Teach Kids.

In my last post I made the case for systematic theology and why kids need it. I know many of you might be thinking that there is no way that you could teach your kids systematic theology because you don’t really even understand it yourself. Take heart you are not alone. The good news for you is there are many resources that are now available to help your kids and you understand the basic framework of our faith.

Theology is something that is scary for many parents as many of them were never taught theology because much of it was assumed when they were kids. Their parents assumed they understood things about God. The most important thing about our kids is what they think about God. Because that’s true we can leave nothing to chance.

So where do we start. I would not start with Systematic Theology for kids under 6 or 7 for them I would read them books that tell the large story of God as a Redeemer. To do that I would recommend the following books

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The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

 

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The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung

Once kids have an understanding of the big picture of scripture the parts will make sense. When your kids are between 7 and 8 I would working through a systematic theology with them. There are three that I would recommend this list is by no means exhaustive. I have broken them up into younger, slightly older and older again this is for connivance what is important is you find what works for you family and do that.

Youngest

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Everything a Child Should Know about God by Kenneth Taylor

Young

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The Ology by Marty Machowski

Older Elementary

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Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware

Teens

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Bible Doctrine: Essential Teaching of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem

 

3 Reasons Why Kids Need Systematic Theology

I know what you are thinking “Isn’t that a bit much for kids?” 50 years ago I would have agreed with you even 20 years ago. Today is a different day.  There are many reasons for this, but I think DA Carson’s analysis is most concise in this matter. He says,”One generation knows the gospel the next assumes the gospel the third generation denies the gospel.”

When I was growing up as a kid, and I believe even my first few years as a children’s pastor we lived in a season where the gospel was assumed. As a kid, there were no sports or school activities on Wednesday night so kids could go to youth group. Stores were closed on Sunday so people could spend time with family and observe the Sabbath. We lived in a culture that Christian ideas thoughts and standards for better or worse pervaded our country.  In the south, this is still true to some extent. I think the feeling when I was growing up was that you didn’t need to give kids as deep of a grounding in doctrine and truth because it was everywhere. There was stuff you learned for sure, but I think many things were assumed. As parents and as pastors we can no longer assume anything. We live in arguably the most secular age our country has ever seen. We must proactively teach our kids the stories of the Bible but also the truth underneath the stories and most importantly the person to whom those truths and stories point.

That is the context for why we need to teach our kids systematically here are a few reasons why it matters.