One of my favorite legends in children’s ministry is the story of the boy who came home from church and the mom and dad asked what he learned.
He told them they learned about Moses and Pharaoh. The dad asked to hear about it. The boy got a quizzical look and then explained.
“Pharaoh and Moses were generals, and two armies were fighting on the shore of the Red Sea.
Moses was losing so he called his tanks to lay down a smoke screen, while his engineers built a long pontoon bridge across the water.
Under the cover of the smoke and with the tanks rolling across last, his entire army crossed over to the other side.
When Pharaoh’s army pursued across the bridge, Moses got on the radio and called in the air force. The planes swooped down low over the water and shot missiles into the bridge and everyone in Pharaoh’s army drowned.
The dad was wide eyed and asked, “Is that what they really taught you at church?” The little boy bowed his head and said not really; but you would never believe what they really told us!
And there you have it! So many children hear the truth of God’s Word in the amazing stories of the Bible.
Unfortunately, that truth is frequently taught as information, facts, and material to be memorized. Other times the Truth is taught with creativity, multimedia, and pizazz.
Unfortunately, in both cases it is not taught as the life changing Word of God.
Each week we are privileged to teach God’s truth in a manner that is creative, factual and life changing. Simply put, teaching God’s truth was the very heart and soul of Paul’s ministry.
Each one of the letters he wrote is straightforward evidence that Paul was committed to teaching the truth, clarifying misunderstandings, and correcting errors.
The letters do include exhortations and warm encouragement, but Paul wrote primarily about the truth of the gospel.
Below are four of many examples:
"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit." (Romans 9:1)
"We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God." (2 Corinthians 4:2)
"That [referring to the Gentiles’ impurity and greed), however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus." (Ephesians 4:20-21)
"I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles." (1 Timothy 2:7)
For Paul, teaching the truth was essential to his ministry.
One reason is, after his Damascus Road conversion experience (Acts 9:1-19), Paul’s understanding of Judaism was completely overturned.
Now that he realized that Jesus was the Messiah, he—and his fellow Jews—had to rethink the entire Old Testament.
In fact, throughout his writing Paul was correcting erroneous teaching, much of which he himself had likely advocated before he met Jesus.
Another reason Paul focused on teaching truth was his awareness that the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God (1 Corinthians 1:20).
He knew that the errors of the world’s thoughts and actions needed—and still need—to be addressed, and he did so by shining onto those falsehoods the light of the truth found in God’s Word (Acts 17:16-33).
Like the believers Paul was addressing, many children have been taught “religion” and, as a result, have developed incorrect ideas about spiritual matters.
Many children have been taught the Truth of God’s Word in dry “informational” ways leaving them jaded. Other children experience so much fun and entertainment at church that they never experience God’s Word as life changing.
Paul understood that the Truth, properly taught, was a crucial tool used by God in the transformation of people’s lives, including children.
Too often children in our media-saturated modern world have also been repetitively taught the world’s wisdom, which Paul views as foolishness (I Corinthians 3).
Children can hear God’s Word taught in creative ways and experience life change. Boys like Mohammed.
“Let the Children Come to Me”
Mohammed was a young Syrian boy living in a United Nations camp in Lebanon after fleeing from Aleppo with his family.
A Lebanese church that Every Generation Ministries had worked with for some time invited him to a three-day VBS outreach event. Americans would never have been allowed to lead that kind of UN camp, but the awesome Lebanese team had access.
On the second day the lesson focused on Samuel, specifically when he was living under Eli’s care and heard God call his name.
The lesson was designed to help children understand that they can both talk to God and hear from God just as Samuel had. This spiritual truth was revolutionary to Mohammed and his Muslim friends.
In the Response activity at the end of the lesson, each small-group leader invited the children to pray to God and ask to hear from Him.
The precious Muslim boys—including Mohammed—did not know about closing their eyes or folding their hands. Instead, one at a time each spoke out to God as if He were right there.
When it was Mohammed’s turn, he simply thanked God for listening to him and announced that he was listening to God.
After all the children had finished and the group leader had closed with a brief prayer, he quietly asked if anyone had sensed God speaking. Mohammed looked at the teacher and said that God had spoken to him.
With the leader’s gentle prompting, Mohammed spoke through tears: “God told me that Jesus has forgiven me for my bad actions, and so I need to forgive the people who destroyed our home in Aleppo.”
For Bible teaching to be truly life changing, children must first hear clearly that God’s Word is the Truth, that the story they are hearing is fact not fiction, even though biblical events are often amazing and miraculous.
The Apostle Paul always reminded his listeners and readers that he was teaching the truth.
Second, children must be given the opportunity to participate in and process the story, so they begin to realize how the Bible relates to their own life.
This happens before, during and after God’s Truth is presented and as the aim is made clear throughout. The Relationship and Experience activities are designed to prepare the children’s hearts to hear God’s truth.
The Truth part of the lesson provides children with the Bible passage in a creative, interesting, and age-appropriate way, always connecting the story to the life changing aim.
In the life of Mohammed, the transformation began when the leaders and children prayed together after the Samuel story was presented.
The life change was reinforced when the leader led a gentle discussion with them and allowed the children to respond and share how God had spoken to them personally.
God’s Word has transformed my life and is continuing to change me. We should teach that way to boys and girls.
We see this clearly demonstrated by the Apostle Paul as he taught the people of his day and as he teaches us through his life and letters.
The truth is, we can speak to God, and we can hear from God. When Mohammed experienced this divine dialogue for himself, the truth began to set him free from anger, hurt, and bitterness.
There are countless stories like this reminding us of the importance of teaching the Truth of God’s Word to children.
For the Apostle Paul the truth was at the core of his ministry as it should be with our children!