At New City, we desire to see the gospel change everything within our reach - ourselves, our families, our communities, and the world. We believe that the good news of Jesus changes us, and that it is the answer to all of our questions, hurts, joys, and longings. Because we are committed to the gospel, we teach it to our children every week.
Every Sunday while the church gathers for worship in Macon, we have classes for kids from birth to fifth grade taking place downstairs. We have LOTS of families at New City, and we love serving their kids this way. But what do we teach week in and week out? Jesus. We use the Jesus Storybook Bible and its accompanying curriculum because it weaves the larger story of the gospel through each lesson and brings Jesus to light in every story.
When we teach young children about the Bible or read them its stories, it is incredibly tempting to teach them moral lessons and nothing more. I remember teaching Sunday School to elementary age students and coming up with a moral lesson at the end of each week. I knew this wasn't the point or the hope of the story, but I couldn't figure out how to extend it further and connect it to the gospel. It was frustrating. Reading and interpreting the Bible through our own experience can cause us to look for the clear, practical application. This isn't wrong, but it is limited. When we do this, we miss the greater story God is writing and working in the world - not only what was happening in the story, but what he is doing today. This is the natural tendency for many of us in our own devotional lives, and is even easier when interpreting the stories for a young audience. The Bible does teach many important lessons on morality and right living, but it is not primarily an instructional book for our behavior. It is primarily the story of God's redemptive work in the world.
An Example: The Teeny Weenie True King
The lesson our kids will learn this Sunday comes from 1 Samuel 16, the story of Samuel annointing David as King of Israel. David is the youngest and scrawniest of his brothers, and isn't even presented as an option at first because he doesn't possess any "kingly" qualities. The following is from the teacher's notes in the curriculum:
"The moral of this story seems obvious: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” After all, 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” It’s true; you can’t judge a book by its cover. But that is not primarily what this story is about. You can either read the Bible as if it’s nothing but examples and things that you have to do, or you can read the Bible as if it’s primarily about what God has done. In other words, you can either read the Bible as if it primarily about you, or you can read it as if it’s primarily about God."
There is a good lesson in that people are more than what meets the eye, but that is not the primary lesson. That moral truism will not save us, give us hope, or lead us to trust in the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. We want to teach our kids the most important thing we have - Jesus.
The lesson goes on:
"David’s kingship points to Jesus’ kingship. Like David, Jesus was a child from Bethlehem who was not the world’s choice. When you read the Gospels, it is clear that no one believed that Jesus could be the Messiah. He wasn’t beautiful, or political, or military, or rich. Jesus on the cross was not just forgotten by his Father but forsaken by his Father. Jesus does exactly what Hannah prophesied a true king would do: he came to serve and to lift the needy so that they might inherit a throne of honor. Jesus is the true King on earth who reflects the heart of God. The search for a true king ends with Jesus."
The gospel is for kids. And for parents. And for teachers, firefighters, college students, and retirees. The gospel is the only true and enduring hope we have. The truth that we are more broken and sinful than we would like to believe, and that we are more loved and cared for than we could ever dare imagine. As we teach the Bible to our kids, we want Jesus to be the central character.
Come join us Sunday! You already know how the story goes.