Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week, Crossway’s put seven eBooks from the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale is Desiring God’s edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress ($2.99).

The Hardest Sins to Talk About

Tim Challies:

One of the most difficult things to do is to lovingly confront another person about sin, or—even harder—about what may have been sin. In his excellent book Side by Side, Ed Welch offers some practical counsel on doing this well.

Was The Holy Spirit Not On Earth Before Pentecost?

Jared Wilson shares an illustration from John Piper.

Why your children’s ministry should take a break

Miles Morrison:

What exactly is meant by the words “children’s ministry” can be very different depending on the church. But while these ministries can come in all different shapes and sizes, they’re all based on the same basic principle that children require specialized teaching and care separate from their parents. I’m not saying that’s wrong or that children’s ministry is bad – I love and serve in the children’s ministry in my church – I’m merely making the observation that while this ministry can and should serve the church, it will never replace it. Regardless of what curriculum or structure or teaching style your children’s ministry uses, here are some reasons why it’s healthy from time to time to take a break and encourage your parents to worship with their children.

Introverts in the Dearest Place on Earth

Jared Musgrove:

In the last century, especially here in the United States, we’ve morphed into a “culture of personality” that can’t stop talking. Those with a preference for extroversion—energized by and focused on people, activity and accomplishment—tend to be better understood by the world, progressing faster in organizations and relationships.

Both extroverts and introverts must do the work to see that those with the gift of introversion are a grace to God’s Church. In this sense, I have some considerations for my fellow introverted church members and the extroverts who love them.

How to revive a Sharpie

One-third of American 8th graders think Canada is a dictatorship

According to the U.S. government’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 33 per cent of American eighth graders currently believe that Canada is a dictatorship.

This finding was one of many revealed by the NCES in its 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress report when it was released late last month.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Ulrich von Liechtenstein Gospel

Paul Dunk:

I think we can relate to William. We want to be the Ulrich von Liechtenstein’s of our families, careers and relationships. We want to be the Ulrich von Liechtenstein of physical, emotional and spiritual health. We want the Ulrich von Liechtenstein good life.  As a result of chasing the dream via self-help-everything to transform ourselves from lowly Williams into Ulrich von Liechtenstein’s, we’ve developed an Ulrich von Liechtenstein gospel.

You don’t have to go

Matt Emerson

As a younger Southern Baptist who is also drawn to liturgical worship forms, I have to ask – is this move necessary? Is the only option for SBCers who feel affinity with liturgy and principled ecumenism to leave, for Canterbury or Geneva or Wittenberg? I believe the answer is no. Younger Southern Baptists, if you are drawn to liturgical forms, if you find attractive the principled evangelical ecumenism of other manifestations of Christ’s body, you can have that in Nashville. You can stay in the SBC. You don’t have to go.

6 Reasons Why Sexual Predators Target Churches

Tim Challies shares six from On Guard by Deepak Reju.

4 Types of Sermons to Avoid

Derek Thomas reminds of a number of different kinds of sermons that fail to, in Alec Motyer’s words, “display what is there.”

The Dreadful Loneliness of Life Without Scripture

Peter Jones:

 On a recent Oprah Winfrey show, Kristen and Rob Bell make a lavish use of “values language,” in an attempt to justify same sex marriage. Kristen stated: “Marriage, gay and straight, is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice.” Who does not want to see more love in the world, but do the terms like “love,” “commitment” and sacrifice” need a lot more definition? Do the millions watching Oprah deserve a better defense of biblical sexuality? Indeed, the “made-for-TV” superficiality of these arguments is staggering and is part of the trend in certain evangelical circles mentioned in my previous comment Evangelicalism in Crisis? to accept the homosexual agenda as perfectly in line with the true meaning of Christianity.

The one really good reason I serve in children’s ministry

childrens ministry

Let me tell you about why I serve in children’s ministry.

Correction: let me tell you about the one really good reason I serve in children’s ministry.

I’ve written on children’s ministry in the past, but I don’t recall if I’ve ever shared my feelings on this point:1

  • I don’t serve in children’s ministry because it’s a stepping stone to something else, because it’s not really.
  • I don’t serve there because it’s a ministry that constantly bleeds volunteers, though it does.
  • I don’t serve there because it’s one that lacks a positive male influence, though it is.

I serve in children’s ministry because I get to teach kids the Bible and be a part of making disciples. Children’s ministry is not (or shouldn’t be) the church’s babysitting ministry. It’s not telling nice stories where you’re a David or a Daniel. It is intentional evangelism and discipleship. And it is a slow (with a capital S-L-O-W) burn.

Let’s face it: if you’re looking for immediate results, or Charles Finney is your homeboy, you’re probably in the wrong place. You’re likely not going to have a bunch of kids put their faith in Jesus at the end of the lesson every week. And I know, because almost every time I teach, I’m stuck blessed with texts related to judgment and/or evangelism. Thus, my main application points are usually, “You need to believe in Jesus,” or “You need to tell others about Jesus.”

Nevertheless, when I teach, my goal is to teach clearly and faithfully. I don’t sugarcoat or pretty up anything the Bible says, but I do my best to make it understandable to them. I even have a few kids (like my pal Gabe) who provide feedback on whether or not I hit the “understandable” benchmark.2

I don’t often get a sense of what God is doing in their hearts and minds, because I’m not entirely sure that’s what my role is in what God’s doing. But I do know God’s doing something. Why? Because it’s what he’s promised to do in the Scriptures. Wherever his word goes forward, it will accomplish its purpose. When Jesus tells the parable of the sower, he doesn’t tell us to scatter, but doesn’t promise that we’ll be the ones to reap the harvest.

But sometimes he gives you a glimpse. Not too long ago, one of the girls I teach stopped me in the hall. She handed me a little card she had made. Inside it simply said, “Thank you for teaching God’s Word to us.”

That, friends, is why I serve in children’s ministry.


Photo credit: VBS 2014 via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

Better to tell the truth than stories

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“You used to be awesome and tell funny stories about dumb things you did. You don’t do that anymore.”One of the fifth graders at our church shared this little bit of encouragement with me as he headed out the door the other week.

He meant it as an insult. I see it, oddly, as a compliment.

A few months back, I started sharing a few stories of really foolish things I did when I was between 8 and 10 years old. Things like: jumping off a roof to see if a man (or, in this case, boy) could fly. Defying my mother and getting an ATM card for my bank account after she explicitly told me not to. Or finding all the Christmas presents during a sick day, opening and playing with them all, and then attempting to cover my tracks by “rewrapping”all the presents.

Y’know, the typical idiotic stuff you can expect an eight-year-old boy to do.

The kids all enjoyed these stories, which is great, but then I ran into a couple of problems:

  1. The stories I could think of were inappropriate for kids (most of my childhood stories are PG-13 and up).
  2. The stories I could think of were inappropriate for the lesson being taught.

The second is far more significant an issue than the first. Although some of the stories I could share make me wonder how I’m not regularly in therapy, there are some I can clean up a little to make slightly more appropriate for little ears. But when a story doesn’t connect with the meat of the lesson, I don’t feel right about using it.

Telling stories that way—telling a story just to get a laugh—puts the focus on the wrong thing: me. While I obviously want to do all I can to make what I’m saying relatable and interesting, I don’t want to put me at the center of the teaching time for the sake of a quick laugh.

I’d rather be accused of being boring because I’m not telling funny stories, if it means the kids get to hear the gospel.

But the kid who was upset that I’m not telling as many funny stories doesn’t understand that. At least, he doesn’t understand it yet. He doesn’t get that it’s more important for him to know what God’s Word says than hear about something dumb I did when I was a kid. Someday he might. And if it ever happens, I hope he’ll be thankful that I sometimes sacrificed telling stories for the sake of telling him the truth about Jesus.


Originally posted at jtcochran.com. Photo credit: amanky via photopin cc

That awkward moment in kids ministry when…

children-in-a-circle

We all have them—awkward moments in children’s ministry:

  • Maybe it’s when you realize none of the kids have been paying attention to what you’ve been saying for the last ten minutes; or
  • when you realize how awful your rhyming scheme for your points truly is (and not just because you came up with it the night before); or
  • you realize, as you’re teaching, that this is probably the first time any of the kids in the room have ever heard the concept of God’s wrath.

That was my Sunday last weekend. I was teaching a lesson on Zephaniah, an Old Testament book where the wrath of God being poured out plays heavily in its message.

“I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth… I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” the book begins (Zephaniah 1:2-3). And the temperature only turns up from there as oracle after oracle is spoken to the people of Judah, warning them to watch for the day of the Lord, and to repent of their sins.

I’ll admit, teaching this was awkward. Not because I don’t believe it—in fact, I think we’ve failed to adequately do the subject justice, especially in the last 20 or so years—but because it seemed pretty clear that this was one of the first times the kids had heard much of anything about God’s wrath.

Many of the kids knew sin is bad and that it separates us from God… but it was in an abstract way. The way that suggests God doesn’t really have feelings toward sin. And then I had to go and shatter the glass.

Or rather, the Bible did. I was just the one teaching it.

As we talked about this, that God’s wrath would be poured out, and that God was warning his people to give them an opportunity to repent, one of the kids said something very interesting.

“God knew if he did this, he’d be doing something bad, so maybe that’s why he was warning them…”

Out of the mouth of babes, as the saying goes.

What’s fascinating is how quickly we try to start rationalizing, or make excuses, even making up ideas about why God would punish sin and tell people he’s going to to it. No matter how old we are, we naturally squirm at the idea of God’s wrath—mostly because we think of God’s feelings as being the same as our own.1 So when we think of God’s anger, we see it in light of our own, or our parents’. We know that we overreact, or go a bit too far sometimes. We know our anger doesn’t always produce good results, and it’s hard for us to wrap our heads around God being righteously angry.

So I asked this nine-year-old, “But is anything God does bad?”

“No,” he said.

“Why?”

“Because everything God does is good.”

“So… is God being angry and punishing sin a good thing or a bad thing?”

And then he started to get it.

Teaching awkward subjects is just that. Awkward. It’s hard to teach our kids about God’s wrath, about how only people who love and worship Jesus will be in heaven, and an eternity in Hell awaits all who refuse to recognize him for who he is. We want to shave off these hard edges. But if we’re going to be faithful Sunday school teachers, or faithful parents for that matter, we can’t avoid the awkward for our own comfort. Someone stepped out and warned us to flee from the wrath to come. Perhaps our kids need us to do the same.

When we switched to The Gospel Project…

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A post I wrote for The Gospel Project blog:

In late September, I was getting ready for my first weekend teaching our new children’s ministry curriculum. After several years of using a curriculum produced by another organization, we’d finally made the switch to The Gospel Project.

But it wasn’t without a bit of anxiety.

For years, the teachers, with rare exception, would take the biblical text from the old curriculum, toss out all the prepared material and start from scratch. This was a lot of fun for a few of us, particularly the geeks like me who enjoy doing sermon prep (which is really what we were doing—only shorter). But as fun as it could be for us as teachers, it wasn’t an ideal situation. Tossing the curriculum every week created a number of problems, notably that there were many inconsistencies between what was taught in the large group teaching time versus the smaller group setting. On top of that, we were inundating our children’s ministry director with emails about what we were changing and why. Although always sympathetic, the ongoing laundry list of complaints from teachers had to be getting a bit old, and maybe discouraging.…

Continue reading at The Gospel Project blog.