If you've ever taught preschool Sunday school, you know the answer you most often get to every question is either: Jesus, Bible, or God. It's funny when you think about how simplistic it is, especially given the wealth of resources available at our fingertips. But what if that simplicity is really the point? What if there's something rich and deep and complex that goes from the mouths of kids?
I've loved the work from the Gospel Project people, and was a huge fan of using their material as a youth pastor. Their comprehensive, Jesus-focused, theologically rich, and passionate heart for the Kingdom was contagious. I was thrilled to finally read Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax, and am continually grateful for the work he and the Gospel Project team are putting out.
When we think about the high calling to teach the Word, we're gripped with a couple realities that are hard to escape:
1. We often find ourselves in a world of mission apathy
2. We are surrounded by biblical illiteracy
3. We have all been a part of uncomfortable Bible studies
The answer isn't to look for a superficial fix or a jolt of new energy. What Wax argues is that the answer is to go back to the source. The answer is to go back to the Gospel, the life-changing message that we believed when we were being sought by Christ, which continues to shape us and mold us into the image of Christ as we repent and redeem, and that one day promises this will all be made right.
If you regularly teach from God's Word, whether it's in a small group or in the pulpit, I cannot highly endorse this book enough. Wax has nothing new to offer, and that's the point. He gives us a refreshing dose of what we all too often know but overlook: the Gospel is sufficient. As you read through the book, you'll find so much to unpack. It's a quick read, but worth the time to work through, mark up, and reference often. If you're teaching teachers, consider using this as a resource. It'd be worth your time.
So if you're looking to apply what Gospel-Centered Teaching has to say, here's my suggestions:
1. Be distinctly Christian - One of the lines that jumped out to me was when he pointed out Ed Stetzer's conviction that he never preach a sermon that'd be true if Jesus didn't die and rise again. When we stand to teach the Word, we need to be distinctly Christian. Could what we teach be affirmed by an agnostic or an unbeliever? If it could, we've lost the salt of the Gospel message.
2. Focus on the Story - The Bible isn't a collection of stories to teach kids to behave, it's a grand narrative of God's work. It's about Him first. I love how the SBC statement of faith captures it: Scripture has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. When we teach the Bible, share the connection to the story. When you teach the Old Testament, point to Christ. When you teach the New Testament, point to Christ. I love the Jesus Storybook Bible for this, and it's a great tool to use with kids (and adults!).
3. Apply the Gospel to Mission - Teaching without application is simply the accumulation of knowledge. It's fine, but it doesn't capture the fullness of why we have a Bible. I love this clip by Francis Chan that drives home the point.
4. Make Worship Primary - The corollary to mission is worship. Missions exist because worship doesn't. Our primary aim when we teach isn't to give more knowledge, to point out trivia or connections, or to necessary drive people to action. Our primary aim is to bring people to a greater sense of awe, wonder, and worship of their Savior. We should never lose sight of the wonder of what it means when Paul said "Christ Jesus came to save sinners" in 1 Timothy 1:15.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.