“You’ve got a skirt hanging on your brain – it’s making you dumb.”
Not the abiding memory of John Piper’s keynote, but definitely a memorable phrase. He was referencing the metaphor about girding one’s loins – hitching up the ancient near-eastern ‘skirt’ worn by men and women so that they could run, likening it to 1 Peter 1:13 – “Therefore, with minds that are alert
and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming”.
The message focused on the three commands of 1 Peter 1:13-17:
1.) Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought you when Christ is revealed
2.) Be holy because God is holy
3.) Conduct yourself with fear
Noting that the chapter is “overwhelmingly about hope”, he examined for us the conundrum of a certain hope that leads to a godly fear. Holiness, he points out, is not a willpower thing but a new birth leading to a new knowledge leading to new desires leading to new behaviours.
And that fear should be driven by an acute awareness of what Christ has done for us, what our salvation cost him (i.e. everything), such that we tremble at the idea of bringing shame on the sacrifice our Saviour made. The point of that fear, though, is that it does not drive us away from God but TOWARDS him, into his arms, feeding our certain hope in him.
The challenge issued to us as children’s ministry workers is to communicate that to the children, Piper said, even if we need to “marinade in it…for about a year” to get our heads around it!
The afternoon leading up to that was a series of three talks by David & Sally Michaels – co-founders of Children Desiring God Ministries, introducing us to the foundational principles of their work.
Some of the many points to be processed and acted on:
1.) Every follower of Jesus Christ has a calling to fully declare what we’ve heard and known of God to the next generations (e.g. Joshua 4:21-24)
2.) Activity-oriented ministries emphasise what we are DOING; vision-orientation emphasises where we are GOING. The former falls victim to the need to do ‘something’ to keep and retain bodies in our churches, versus really making disciples, with a vision for raising children who will love and glorify God in their lives.
3.) The Bible is first and foremost about God…not us (e.g. Colossians 1:15-18)
4.) We are called to intentional, thoughtful and planned ministry (1 Cor 3:10-11)
5.) Use the Bible in Bible teaching.
Are we teaching the Bible…or just lessons? Are we raising children to look to the Bible for answers to life’s questions? It’s too quickly assumed that the Bible is beyond our children (Isaiah 55:11).
6.) Teach the whole counsel of God (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
Children need to understand that the truth of the Bible is not “what it means to them”, but what God means it to mean.
7.) The importance of Scripture memorisation – what is learned in childhood is often remembered for a lifetime.
8.) Children need to know the hard truths (presented in an age-approapriate way) about sin so that they can delight in redemption.
“Give our children big truths to grow into rather than light explanations they will grow out of” (Ted Tripp).
9.) Activity is not the same as active learning. We should encourage interaction with the Bible.
Knowledge alone creates Pharisees. Lead children to the point where they can see what Scripture requires of them.
Ask questions leading to Biblical conclusions, giving rise to practical applications…
10.) Teaching the heart involves preparing your own heart – the first way to encourage their response to the word is to live that response yourself.
Volley after volley of helpful material from the Michaels – nothing to rival Piper’s admonition of headskirts making us dumb, but no less valuable…