The Bible is not a story about heroes we should emulate, but about a Savior we are to adore. – JD Greer
Is the Gospel clearly articulated? The big mistake we make here in our teaching, and our curriculum, is we limit the gospel to an event. We very easily limit the gospel both actively and passively and shrink the gospel to something that is a box to be checked rather than as sustaining truth that continues to shape, empower and sustain our lives.
Love how John Piper puts it.
Parents, teach your kids the gospel is not just something that begins the Christian life but empowers it, shapes it and sustains it. Pray, love, correct and demonstrate the love of God to your kids until he draws them and they respond and He becomes their treasure and their great reward. – John Piper
For a curriculum to be life transforming it has be centered around the gospel. I remember in 1989 Rick Moranis entered into the vernacular of our culture the words “honey I shrunk the kids.” Moranis portrays a wacky inventor who accidentally shrinks his kids and the neighbor kids with his shrink ray he invented. Moranis’ character is unaware that his kids were shrunk by the very invention he destroys because he thinks it doesn’t work. There were multiple spin-offs of the movie and “honey I shrunk the (fill in the blank with something witty)” became a staple of sitcoms and watercolors alike for most of the ’90s.
Growing up in the ’80s has created a passion in me for all things ’80s. I love ’80s music and ’80s movies, and like it or not, ’80s fashion is coming back full force. Being a fan of the ’80s, it’s only natural that the analogy I will use for how we at times treat the gospel was born out of a movie from the 1980s.
One of the problems that are very real and very dangerous in the church today is the fact that we have simplified, truncated and have made the gospel powerless in our churches and in our homes. Honey we have shrunk the gospel.
What is the gospel? Terms matter and many people refer to the gospel, but I’m not sure that we are always talking about the same thing. The gospel is the good news. It’s the good news that we have been longing to hear since God created a perfect world that we messed up when we introduced sin to this perfect world. Because we have sinned and have broken God’s perfect world, He had to send His sinless son to live the life we could not live and die a death we should have died. Jesus came back to life, ascended into heaven, and will come back to us to make right all the things that are wrong about our world. That is the good news in a nutshell. We don’t have to be good enough because Jesus is, was and continues to be our spotless sacrifice.
So how have we shrunk the gospel?
We have oversimplified the gospel – We make the gospel small when we oversimplify the gospel to our kids. In our desire to make the gospel simple, we inadvertently rob the gospel of its power. We tell our kids what Christians do rather than who Christ is. We talk about how God loves us but fail to tell them how He demonstrated that to us in Christ.
It is very easy to simplify the gospel to our kids through pat answers. When our kids ask meaningful questions, we must wade into the complex. If we simplify truth to our kids, the danger is that we can satisfy God-given wonder with a simple, practical truth. We give our kids enough of Jesus that we inoculate them from the whole of the gospel. They come to believe that this watered-down version of the gospel is all that there is, and because it has been simplified and watered down, it has no application in our daily lives.
It’s equally easy to teach our kids moral truth because the lines are clear and the outcome is desirable. We want our kids to demonstrate the moral attributes of God. But if we oversimplify the gospel into a simple moral truth, we fail to accomplish what God desires from us. He doesn’t want good citizens who do good things. God wants us to be joyful. He wants us to get the joy so He can get the glory.
When we oversimplify the gospel, we shrink its influence on every aspect of our lives.
We have made the gospel simply about salvation alone – We have so condensed the gospel that we have made it about what Jesus did on Easter. What Jesus did in dying for us is essential, and kids need to hear that part of the message loud and clear. But what gives that message so much power is understanding the context of the broader story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. When we teach our kids to believe the gospel is the moment we raise our hands at VBS, they check the salvation box and then move on from the gospel to the “more important truths.” We must teach our kids that they are part of a story that God has been writing since the beginning. They have a part and must engage the story God is writing in and through them with the broader story of the salvation and redemption of mankind.
We shrink the gospel when we focus on a part and fail to tell the whole beautiful story of the gospel.
We buy into Gospel = lemonade – We fall victim in kids ministry so easily to a gospel that is socially active. We encourage kids to sell lemonade and give the money to the poor. Again this is something that is important for our kids to learn but deadly for them to trust in for ultimate joy and hope. We must make sure that our social action is coming from a deep conviction and personal gratitude for what Jesus did for you, not as a way to score brownie points with the Trinity. I do good things for him I, therefore, expect good things from him.