Archive for April 16, 2008

A Really Tough Lesson

This post was authored by guest contributor:

Pastor Blake Hickman on 4/16/08

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog represent the views of its authors and contributors only. This blog is not affiliated with any particular church, ministry, or denomination.

I was given a copy of a letter on Wednesday that really ticked me off. I was furious. I wanted to stand on a rooftop and shout out expletives to let everyone know about how furious I was. Then I had a great idea. I decided I would blog about this letter and vent my frustration, minus expletives of course, so that all could share in it with me. Thankfully I have three small children, and as I have learned quite painfully over the last 4 years, you should never, ever act in anger. You will most certainly regret it (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

As I have settled down the last two days, I have gained some much needed clarity and peace in regards to this situation. Now when you click to read this letter I have no doubt that you will be furious as well. And to be quite honest I think you should be. However, as I was reminded, my anger was quite misplaced. Let me explain to you the situation.

The people who produce the Sunday School curriculum we use for our 1-5 year olds decided to not give the Easter story on Easter Sunday. Actually, they decided not to give the Easter story at all to this age group. Here is their reason, “because of the graphic nature of the Easter story and the crucifixion specifically, we need to be careful as we choose what we tell our preschoolers about Easter.” Further they say, “We have made this choice because the crucifixion is simply too violent for preschoolers.” They go on to justify their reason for this by suggesting that theories of cognitive development show that preschoolers are concrete thinkers and therefore “are simply unable to truly grasp what it means to die and then be raised again through the power of God.” So on Easter Sunday, the preschoolers at nearly 1400 churches will not hear the Easter story. As a parent of a nearly 4 year old, I really, really, really must disagree!

There are many reasons that I disagree with this, too many reasons to list here. But here are four that deserve some consideration:

1. Whether they mean to say it or not, they are displaying by action that a child should not be exposed to the Gospel until elementary school. Here is what they say; “We believe that, by waiting until children are in elementary school to tell them the marvelous story of Easter, they will be better able to understand it and accept God’s offer of salvation.”

2. They are also basing this decision on secular theories of cognitive development instead of God’s own Word! As concrete thinkers, it is more valuable to expose them to the BEAUTY of the Gospel at this age, so that a concrete foundation is able to begin to be established. If they hear and know the story of the Gospel, they will see it as concrete and will have less chance of doubting it later. This is a time when preschoolers are most pure of heart and pure of mind. To miss this opportunity is incredibly risky.

3. When people begin to pick and choose what is or isn’t appropriate to be taught from God’s Word, those people clearly show that they have no respect for the authority of God’s Word.

4. They are eliminating THE CROSS! We are talking about THE CROSS here for crying out loud! The most vital aspect or our relationship with Christ will not be exposed to preschoolers at 1400 churches across America. My First Look says their goal in the preschool years is to “build a foundation for that eventual decision by focusing on God’s love and telling preschoolers that ‘Jesus wants to be my friend forever.’” HOW CAN YOU DO THAT WITHOUT EXPOSING THEM TO THE CROSS!

By now, I think you can understand my indignation. There are many other areas, but these are the most dangerous in my mind. When I came to these conclusions the other day I was outraged. I wanted to call and chew someone out. I wanted to write nasty emails. I wanted to get in a fight with someone and let them know how wrong they were. However, I am so glad for the Grace of God at work in my life.

As I prayed about this the last two days, I was humbled. I’ll be posting on a subject similar to this for Monday and the conclusions that the Spirit led me to apply to both subjects. It is also fitting that Jon Brewin posted what he did yesterday. I needed to hear CJ Mahaney’s words once again.

This past Sunday night at my home church, we had the privilege of hosting Dr. John Lennox . Dr. Lennox, who is a Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy and Chaplain at Green College Oxford, had incredible insights, but two quotes really stood out to me:

“When we take up weapons in the name of Christ we cut off people’s ears in more ways than one.”

“It doesn’t matter if you win the arguments. What matters is winning people.”

Now here is why these two quotes stood out. The first quote was made in reference to the event of Peter cutting off Malchus’s ear when Christ was arrested. Dr. Lennox used this point to illustrate how we tick off and turn off people in defense of the Gospel by our approach to defending it. When we do this we do great harm to the Gospel. The second quote is self explanatory. It must also be noted that Dr. Lennox has debated Dr. Richard Dawkins, the father of New Atheism. Dr. Lennox has much experience practicing what he preaches.

My flesh was screaming for me to cut off ears and win arguments. The key for me to remember is that whether they are enemies of the cross who have never heard its beautiful message or if they are brothers and sisters who are damaging the Gospel unintentionally, winning the argument isn’t as important as winning them. It is also important to remember in the story of Peter and Malchus, that Jesus called down an ally and healed an enemy. In this instance, these people are both, and we need to make sure that in our desire to call down an ally, that we avoid doing so much damage that they cannot be healed from their error.

The people at My First Look are great people. I have had a great dialogue with them and they have answered all of my questions with genuineness and respect to my disagreement with them. It doesn’t change the fact that they are in error here and that they need to be corrected. However, before you strike and lash at them, remember whom you represent. Remember Peter’s own words in 1 Peter 3:14-16. Remember that people are more important than the argument. Write these good people. Email them, call them, but please remember that the goal here is not to make an enemy and embarrass the Cross. The goal is to rescue brothers and sisters from error. That has been and will continue to be a really tough lesson for me.