Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Is Jesus the Point?

If you sometimes feel that you might be missing the point in your lessons or sermons, why not listen to the thinkers at The Gospel Project.

In their series, Building a Gospel-Centered Foundation, Brian Dembowcyzk, Jeff Vanderstelt and Matt Chandler possibly give us more questions than answers in their videos.

There is so much great teaching on The Gospel Project website, but one discussion that really stood out to me was The Cure to Biblical Moralism. 

In this video, the presenters explore the way that we can ensure that we are teaching our children the Gospel, and not simply creating moralists who have not trusted in the grace of Christ.

As teachers and Chaplains, with little time to teach our students, we can be keen to get to the ‘application’ part of our lessons. When teaching the story of David for example, we might focus on the importance of bravery and courage. This is not a problem in itself. However, are we teaching this in the context of the bigger picture – the Gospel message or are we teaching students to simply look for the ‘moral’ of the story? While the ‘moral’ is relevant and important, we need to explicitly make the link to Christ. Are we teaching in a way where every story points to Christ?

If we leave the ‘application’ part of the lesson simply in terms of ‘morals’, we can burden our students. We want our students to be brave and courageous, but for some it might be a crushing weight to be brave. If they are struggling, they may feel guilt and shame and a sense of ‘not being good enough’.

Perhaps we need to link our lessons to Christ in a more grace based way? In this case, we can teach Matthew 11:28-30. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Are our lessons about gospel transformation rather than behaviour modification? Do we open our students’ minds to the idea of letting God change their hearts and then the behaviour follows?
Are we teaching in a way where every story points to Christ?

Let us remember Ephesians 4:15 as we teach. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

In your classes, why not debate ideas about Religious Moralism? “Religious moralism is an emphasis on proper moral behaviour to the exclusion of genuine faith,” according to Got Questions. Ask your students to comment on this quote.
“Christian moralists tend to reduce the Bible to a manual for moral behaviour… The moralist relies on his moral actions: if he prays, goes to church, and helps his community, then he is good with God. Moralism says that, if you don’t lie, cheat, steal, or cuss too much, then you are a good person and deserving of heaven.” 

So what can you do as a teacher to avoid teaching moralism to your students? Karen Jones from The Gospel Project has these 5 tips

1.       God is the central figure of every story.
2.       Draw attention to what we learn of God’s character and ways in each story.
3.       Point to Jesus.
4.       Teach morals by rooting them in the Gospel.
5.       Weave the gospel throughout your teaching.

As a teacher or a Chaplain, you may wish to watch this before you teach your next lesson! Encourage your students to reflect on these big ideas as they make choices.Do our students think that the Bible is just a guide for moral behaviour? I wonder?