In July 1992, when God’s leading of me into vocational ministry became crystallized, I had never heard of the doctrines of grace. International missions didn’t appear to be on the “map” of my life. I had then never heard of the seminary I would attend six years later. And I had never heard the name John Piper, much less the concept of Christian Hedonism. The last week of that month, however, I first heard the title track of Steven Curtis Chapman’s most recent release. The second verse goes as follows:
Come on, get ready
For the ride of your life
Gonna leave long-faced religion
In a cloud of dust behind
And discover all the new horizons
Just waiting to be explored
This is what we were created for!
The song, you may recognize, is “The Great Adventure,” which SCC wrote with his friend Geoff Moore. Where am I going with this? That song, which at the time I thought was just kinda cool, has become not just a song, but a vision—specifically, a Christian Hedonist vision for all of life. More specifically, a Christian Hedonist vision for children's ministry.
We need to teach with a grasp on the reality that the Christian life is, indeed, a great adventure. One line that just propels me in ministry is, "Gonna leave long-faced religion in a cloud of dust behind." If we are not God-besotted, truth-transmitting conduits of a Christian Hedonistic joy, we are lording over the children's faith and will fall short of Paul's vision of being "workers together for your joy" (2 Cor 1:24). So much moralistic and "do not ___" and "be ___" teaching produces children and teenagers who are on the defensive, who live in the context of long-faced legalistic religion, dreading all the new temptations just waiting to be endured. God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-guided, gospel-drenched teaching that aims at—even anticipates—applying the truth of Scripture in all of life is more likely to produce children of the burning heart, diving into the deep end of God's grace, longing to discover all the new horizons just waiting to be explored...children who make much of Jesus.
Am I dreaming here? Am I being unrealistic? Yes...and no. That kind of teaching—producing that kind of student—takes a lot. It takes prayer. And study. And time. And application—which is difficult enough for adults whose life situations we share. How much more of a stretch is it to apply to children from whom we're separated by a
generation, by concerns, goals, home and school environments...? The difficulty in helping children apply teaching doesn't excuse us from doing so...actually, it probably makes application more important. I'm reminded of Martyn-Lloyd-Jones' comment, frequently quoted by Tim Keller: "The task of the [teacher] isn't to make the gospel clear; it's to make it real." Keller correctly points out that the latter won't happen until the former has; however, we (and I do mean WE) are often too easily content to know that children have heard the facts our curriculum says they should. That's not adequate, and if we stop there we shouldn't be surprised if our children are bored. We must, in every lesson, seek to make the content real. How does this happen? This is the question I am now exploring, and I'll both post on it in the coming days and love to
read the ideas of others.