Monday, July 27, 2009

Gospel-Centered Resources for Discipleship

There is something very exciting happening at many a local church. It started after Dr. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian, gave a talk at the Gospel Coalition Conference (see abbreviated notes here) about what it looks like to have a truly gospel-centered ministry. Like ripples that flow through an entire pond when just one rock has been dropped in, this talk has begun to change how churches do what they do. And it's a good thing.

So many "Bible studies" and "Bible curriculum" for children are no more than morality teachings lightly dusted with Bible verses to make it palatable for a Christian crowd. You could find these exact teachings in any culture, in any religion, anywhere in the world; just change the details of the story a bit. David and Goliath is about having courage; Jonah is about obedience; Esther - bravery; Ruth - faithfulness; Abraham and Isaac - trust. Even when Bible stories haven't been watered down into a type of Biblical Aesop, the mark is still too often missed. Moses was a patriarch and the leader of God's people. John the Baptist wore clothes made of camel's hair and ate locusts and honey. Adam was the one who brought sin into the world. Is that really all these stories are about?

In Gospel-centered ministry the focus of every lesson is on Jesus. Period. It is all about Him; it is not about us. In Luke 24:7, 44-45 Jesus even showed how all Scripture pointed to Himself!

Is it true that David showed great courage when he faced Goliath. Absolutely! Did Ruth show sweet faithfulness to Naomi? Most certainly. Would Jonah have spared himself a lot of trouble if he had just been obedient? Yep. Do I want my children to exhibit these same characteristics in their own lives? Without a doubt. But the question becomes is that the real reason God wanted these stories in the Bible or are these things we often focus on secondary truths: supporting details but not the main idea?

Consider this from Dr. Keller:

Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, "Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me," now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, "Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us."

Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God's justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people's victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn't just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn't just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He's the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible's really not about you – it's about him.

In researching what to use in the discipleship of our boys, we have kept in mind that we want to use resources that reflect a gospel-centered paradigm. In that vein, we've come across a great site that has provided for us tremendous support. It is the website for the childrens' ministry of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky called SojournKids! I love this post titled, "9 Reasons Not To "Ask Jesus Into Your Heart" and this one titled, "The Gospel and Children's Ministry". We will be using their Family Worship Guide as one of the key elements in our own family worship. The pdf is worth downloading if only to see the resources they have listed. They have truly gathered some of the best that is currently available for children and families - and they have them conveniently listed by the age for which they are appropriate.

Another gospel-centered resource we will be using is Sovereign Grace's new childrens' worship CD titled, To Be Like Jesus. At this site you can listen to samples of the songs and puchase the CD. And as of this past week, it is also available on iTunes! :) We have this CD in our vehicle and they boys love it! It highlights what we want for our children to be in character and virtue but it doesn't leave out the most important thing...Jesus! On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give this CD a 20! ;)

I hope some of these resources bless someone else in the way they have blessed us!



thebookbaglady said...

Thanks for sharing this great information. I love the post on '9 Reasons Not To Ask Jesus Into Your Heart'. Understanding the truth of the gospel is so important, and Christian culture/the church mixes in ideas that are actually not biblical. Great thoughts, great site. Thanks!

Kim said...

We love Soverign Grace kids worship! We have their 1st album. Actually, it was a song from that album ("The Gospel Song") that I sang to our youngest daughter the first hours she was placed in our arms in China. So check that one out too!!!

Corrie said...

Thank you for this post. The quote from Dr. Keller is so moving. That is a great perspective on who Jesus is. That is the Jesus I want to share with my kids!
I will be researching these links. Thank you again.

Aaron K. said...

Thank you so much for posting this! We've been doing family worship for a while, but we've been needing some ways to make it "fit" our boys better. This is a great resource!


Keri said...

What a fabulous find - we're a pastor's family too and finding resources that are in line with what we want our children to learn is sometimes difficult. We've read the Jesus Story Book Bible until we can quote it, but these resources will help us carry it on as they grow. Thank you for sharing!

Welcome!!! said...

I can't tell you how great those links are - THANK YOU!!!!!! I went searching through the site (Sovereign Grace) and found the music links. I am listening to and downloading 2 Seeds Family Worship albums and they are AWESOME. Thank you! I can't wait to spend more time looking through the SG site!

Anonymous said...

My family LOVES the Jesus Storybook Bible. Have you read it? We listen to the CD all the time, it is wonderful. I am so embarrassed to admit that now at the ripe old age of 34 am I FINALLY getting the whole point of the Bible is Jesus. Everything points to Him. Love your blog! Kim

Jennefer said...


Yes! We love Jesus Storybook Bible here, too. I wrote a review of it awhile back. You can read it here:

Check out who left comments! I was tickled to death!

Thank you for the encouragement!