Hamilton on Larger Stories

Make no mistake about it: people all around us are living their lives in light of a larger story. For many, the story that explains their lives is a cheap satanic imitation of the true story of the world. This is why they hope some politician will be their messiah. This is why they hope that medicine will give eternal life, why they look to evolution as their creation myth, and hope to ‘change the world’ into kingdom come now by means of political machinations, judicial rulings, or legislative triumphs.

I am not taking anything away from seeking to do all we can for God’s glory and the good of others. I am simply asserting that we were made to live in the true story, not some fictional imitation of it with its shamans or scientists, priests or pundits, prophets or politicians.

Jim Hamilton, What is Biblical Theology?

Human Development and Teaching Sunday School


Whether you teach preschoolers or senior citizens, as an effective leader you need to understand human development so you can teach well. Education, even in the church, is a process. To teach well we need to keep our end goal clearly in view.

For over a thousand years, educators in the Western world operated from an understanding of human development called the Trivium. While most teachers today have never heard of the Trivium and many schools do not operate based on it, a scientific understanding of human development has confirmed the practices of the ancients.

Trivium refers to three levels of education, which were classically referred to as Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. To make things clearer and simpler, I’ll rename them as Soaking, Thinking, and Speaking.

Soaking

The soaking or grammar stage of human development roughly coincides with preschool and elementary school (There is a reason they were once called Grammar Schools!). Grammar doesn’t refer just to the rules of English but to the basic elements of knowledge in ever subject. The minds of young children are like sponges. God has designed them to memorize things, soaking them in. This is why young children can learn both their native and foreign languages quickly. Their mind is designed for it by their Creator!

For this reason, we focus on teaching Bible content—the stories of the Bible, the big picture storyline of the Bible, and Bible verses—to young children. A common misconception today when teaching children is that children need to understand what is being taught to learn it. However, our own experience will tell us otherwise. Many of us memorized Scripture in the King James Version as children. Often we did not understand clearly what the verse meant, but our parents and teachers got the verse into our heads. Later when we were older we grew in our understanding. Before kids “get it,” they need to “know it.”

When we teach children, we want to major on the facts and minor on life application. We want to soak as much Bible into their sponge-like brains so that when we squeeze later in life Bible will come out.

Thinking

During the preteen or middle school years, the logic function of a child’s brain begins to kick in. This is part of what makes preteens so difficult. They are constantly thinking and questioning. While this may drive parents crazy, God has designed them this way, and as teachers we need to harness this for the glory of God.

So for middle school students we need to start to squeeze their brains. They want to think. We need to guide them to think biblically. If they already know Bible content, it is easier to get them to think about the meaning of the Bible and how it applies to their lives. “Theology” may be a word that scares many adults, but it is exactly what middle schoolers need. They need to be challenged to ask questions like “How did God inspire the Bible?” “How can Jesus be both God and man?” “Why does the Bible command us not to commit adultery?”

Speaking

Beginning in high school, young men and women begin to develop the skill that the ancients called rhetoric—the ability to communicate their ideas clearly and convincingly. For those who teach high school students and adults, we must add to Bible content and to theology the challenge of proclamation. By proclamation, I do not mean preaching.

Not every Christian is called to preach, but every Christian needs to be able to communicate what they believe to those around them. Fathers and mothers need to be able to communicate biblical truth to their children. We need to be able to answer the questions of our friends and coworkers, and we need to be able to speak biblical truth into the needs and desires of those we love rather than resorting to the folk wisdom that so easily rolls off our tongues.

The mature disciple of Jesus is someone who has soaked up Bible content, who thinks theologically, and speaks clearly. Effective teachers keep this goal in mind and faithfully play their part in the process.

Labor Day is a Christian Holiday

429px--WORK_ON_A_FARM_THIS_SUMMER-_-_NARA_-_513817Labor Day is a Christian holiday.

You’ve probably never thought about it as such because it doesn’t celebrate a biblical event like Christmas or Easter. However, the celebration of labor is distinctively Christian.

The Greco-Roman culture into which God chose to send His Son and start His Church despised labor. The culture sharply divided society based on the amount of labor a person performed. The rich prided themselves in not stooping to get their hands dirty, and even among the slaves of the empire there existed different social levels. Those who worked in a household for example held a much higher status than those who labored in agriculture or mining operations.

As our culture chooses its pagan Greco-Roman roots over its Judeo-Christian roots, we see our society increasingly reflecting the attitudes of the Roman Empire. A growing segment of the population despises labor. Callings that require hard work like farming are looked down upon. Young people are encouraged to go to college so that they will have a career that doesn’t require them to sweat.

Previous generations however knew the dignity and moral value of hard work. While many of them may not have realized it, their values had been shaped by biblical teaching. In How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt points to three biblical sources for Christianity’s dignifying of labor. First, Jesus is our role model since he grew up and labored as a carpenter in rural Galilee. Second, Paul even with all of his academic training learned and practiced the trade of tent making. Third, Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” While there are many more biblical sources that could be mentioned, these three make a good start.

The word vocation comes from the Latin word that means “calling.” Christianity teaches that every person (not just preachers) has a calling through which they contribute to the community’s well-being. Unfortunately, recently we have chosen the word “career” rather than “vocation.” A career is a temporary stop on the road to retirement. It is all about the self. Career means that working 9-to-5 is a necessary evil rather than a service to one’s fellow man.

As Christians, we need to boldly reclaim our virtuous heritage. We celebrate labor because it is a dignified and godly pursuit. We bear God’s image as we subdue the earth, even by the sweat of our brow.

Piper on the Crushing of the Pastor’s Spirit

Circumstances conspire to crush a pastor’s spirits–perhaps loss of health, loss of a loved one, defection of a friend, unresponsive people, slander, weariness, personal threats, overwork. Things become so bad that he even despairs of life itself. He cries out, ‘Why?’ The answer comes back from 2 Corinthians 1:9: ‘That was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

The Intersection of a Public Meltdown and the Lord’s Prayer

The Intersection of a Public Meltdown and the Lord’s Prayer

Last week I posted a personal reflection over at ChosenFamilies.org. Here is the first paragraph:

We were having a meltdown moment. They don’t happen as often now as when Jude was younger, but he was tired and hungry. A few hours into a road trip, we stopped at one of our favorite chain restaurants. While waiting for our food, Jude’s frustration began to boil over, which he indicated by screams of protest offered up with increasing frequency. Already run down by the road and hungry ourselves, my wife and I tried to help him wait with the usual—iPhone, restaurant coloring placemat, the peg game on the table. Nothing worked. Continue reading.

How Randy Lewis’ Son with Autism Transformed His Business

How My Son with Autism Transformed my Business

After raising a son with autism, Randy Lewis, a senior VP at Walgreens, took the initiative not only to hire persons with disabilities but to create positions and hiring processes for persons with disabilities. He writes:

Watching my son progress taught me that we underestimate the abilities and contribution of people on the margins. Seeing the way Austin is dismissed or ignored by others gave me the courage to stand up for those who are unjustly overlooked and ignored. Loving my son helped me understand the pain of parents everywhere who lie in bed at night worrying about what will happen to their children after they are gone. A job could change the arc of a life. A job could provide independence. It could mean friends and a social life. A job could be a source of satisfaction and purpose.

This is a great story. It inspires me to shop at Walgreens more often. Read more.

Why Half of All Pastors Want to Quit Their Jobs

Why Half of All Pastors Want to Quit Their Jobs

Pastoral ministry isn’t easy. Take a look at the following stats cited in an article by J.R. Briggs and then pray for your pastor.

1,500 pastors leave the ministry for good each month, citing burnout or contention in their churches.

80 percent of pastors (and 84 percent of pastors’ spouses) are discouraged in their roles.

Almost half of all pastors have seriously considered leaving ministry for good in the past three months.

For every 20 pastors who go into ministry, only one retires from the ministry.

50 percent of pastors say they are unable to meet the demands of their job and are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

Read more.