The following will link to the Confession of Faith for my church: http://cause-of-god.com/confession.pdf
What a responsibility it is to teach the Word of God!! Those who present it to others should teach it completely, appropriately, and clearly. The following is my philosophy of teaching God’s Word.
TEACH THE BIBLE COMPLETELY
Most Bible curricula for children are based on themes—“Children of the Bible,” “God Gives Us Families,” “God Is with Us,” etc. The reasoning for this method is probably based on sensible didactic philosophy. However, a theme-based curriculum bounces all over the Bible, sometimes not even in chronological sequence. My philosophy is to teach through the Bible chronologically, even when teaching young children.
Missionaries who tell the story of the Word from the beginning of creation through the Old Testament report that their converts are prepared by this background for the reception of the Saviour in the New Testament. Although that is an excellent reason for going through the Bible chronologically, my reasons are more pragmatic: it’s just nice to know the order of events in Scripture.
Another practice of Bible-teaching curricula is to teach the top 50 stories of the Bible and to neglect the rest. If you collect visual aids, you know that plenty of helps are available for David and Goliath but none or very few for King Amaziah. (I hope that one day my artist-pastor-husband will supply us with visuals we need for obscure Bible stories.) Particularly in the Sunday School setting and in a long-term relationship with students, the Lord willing, the teacher has the opportunity to teach through all the stories of the Bible.
That being said, we need to think also of situations, like Bible clubs, in which the teacher has less time with students. In such a case, the need seems to be to teach as much of the Bible as quickly as possible without forsaking the Old Testament for the New. Just what to teach is a matter for consideration. Here are some suggestions for the Old Testament: God; Creation; The Fall of Lucifer; The Fall of Man; The Flood; Abraham and the Sacrifice of Isaac; Moses before Pharaoh and Leaving Egypt; The Ten Commandments; The Tabernacle; David and the Prophecy of Christ.
Another short overview of the Bible, called “The Seven Cs of History,” includes Creation, Corruption (the fall), Catastrophe (the flood), Confusion (Babel), Christ, Cross, Conclusion.
Personally, although I see the need for condensing sometimes because of a shortage of time, I want my students to be well acquainted with all of the Bible.
TEACH THE BIBLE APPROPRIATELY
Having said we should teach all the Bible stories, I will now equivocate a bit. I think it is wise to avoid presenting, particularly to young children, some stories or parts of stories. Incest, graphic slaughter, and the like can wait for later years or can be stated in general terms like, “He sinned very badly” (Such a general statement sometimes causes the more inquisitive student to ask, “What did he do?” In that case, I might say, “Find it in your Bible,” or “Ask your parents.”)
I avoid showing pictures of idols or false worship. My reasoning on this stems from a childhood experience. I remember seeing flannelgraph figures of false worship—flower-decorated cattle, etc.— and being fascinated with the beauty of those figures with their color and festive expression. Idol worship looked so appealing. After all, gold is flashy and beautiful. Our Lord very specifically warned His people not even to look upon the false gods around them because He knew their propensity to be attracted to them (Exodus 23:13; Joshua 23:7). Our dear children, as well as we, have that same propensity.
Don’t you get tired of reading Bible stories and curricula that add a lot of extra-biblical material as if it were actually part of the Scripture text? That seems dishonest to me. It’s important to watch out for this extra-biblical or down-right false content in narrative. When expanding my teaching by reading a storybook, at times I have to ask my students, “How did the artist show he didn’t pay attention to his Bible?” or “Was that act or thought mentioned in the Bible?” Consequently, I have hand-written corrections in many of my Bible storybooks. For example, was Abraham “very sad when he took Isaac to be offered on the altar”? NO! Just the opposite is true; not one Bible phrase indicates Abraham was anything but obedient in this event.
In this context, let me explain my practice. Although I might include an opinion in a story, I also include a “check-it-out” symbol (√) at that point to indicate that the statement following the symbol is not in the actual Scripture text. The teacher is thereby alerted that [s]he might want to verify whether or not the statement is accurate.
Because the teaching of the Word of God is the most serious of all instruction, it should not be made trite or “fluffy,” even for the sake of retaining students. There are plenty of ways to engage students without detracting from or confusing the message of the Word. Specifically, in my opinion, some things to avoid are
- whimsical or “cutesy” pictures, e.g., “Precious Moments®,” some Beginner’s Bible® pictures, etc.
- some cartoon pictures—the ones that try to make the story/characters, etc., look silly
- talking animals to introduce or tell a story (I do, however, use talking animals in “Creature Feature” puppet skits and some readings like Ethel Barrett’s “Gregory, the Grub.”)
- talking food characters
- trite narrative, e.g., some, not all, Arch® books
Why avoid these? Because they are false, they are fantasy, they are not true to life or to the Word. The Bible is a true record about real life. Employing the entertainment of the above items can confuse fantasy with reality in the minds of children whose eternal souls are at stake. My presentation of the Bible must clearly be truthful.
The same principle holds, in my opinion, for charts (for attendance, saying memory verses, etc.) and pictures displayed throughout the Sunday School or Bible club room—being Bible-centered and biblical, not, for example, using a cartoon rabbit on a memory verse poster.
TEACH THE BIBLE CLEARLY
In the Bible stories I retell, I use modern translations because of their simplicity of language. However, a teacher who prefers another translation might choose to use that preferred translation. In telling Bible stories, the teacher often rephrases the text, even of newer translations.
Somewhere I read that a story presented in junior age (Grades 3–5) vocabulary will be understood by younger students (perhaps not the very young) and will not be too immature for older students. My stories are written to target the junior age.
I am somewhat euphemistic in my use of certain words when I teach. For example, I rarely use the word kill. This word is a very strong one in the minds of even little children. The King James Version uses a word that is not so forceful; yet, it carries the same meaning that children will understand in context. That word is the verb to slay, slew, have slain.
A Bible teacher needs to be careful that a child is not responding to him or her rather than to the Holy Spirit when presenting the gospel. Many a child has made a profession of faith that by later evidences was obviously a mere profession, not a true conversion. On the other hand, hundreds of people have been saved as little children. When God saves a soul, He saves a soul. It is the responsibility of a teacher not to give false assurance but to present the facts of the gospel and to let the Holy Spirit do the converting. Therefore, my practice is to urge children to receive Christ as Saviour but not to ask them to indicate that decision by a raised hand or by coming forward.
Although many Bible application stories—modern-day stories that generally illustrate a Christian virtue (e.g., kindness, sharing, etc.)—may be fine stories (e.g., “The Little Boat Twice Owned”), others are trite and meaningless, even unscriptural. I personally use very few of them.
Even though we might not state it as such, we all have a philosophy of teaching. It is important for all Bible teachers to teach the Bible completely, appropriately, and clearly.
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