By Tim Shaw
A few years ago, Debbie Leonard (NLD’s former Children’s Ministries Director) gave me a copy of Jack Klumpenhower’s Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids (New Growth Press: Greensboro, NC: 2014). I’ve been teaching children, in different capacities, for many years, and I thought I was pretty good at it. But reading this book forced me to reevaluate my approach to handling Scripture. Klumpenhower challenged me to avoid the moralism that so often typifies Bible teaching (e.g., “Moses was a good leader of God’s people—you should try to be like Moses”). Instead, he provides strategies for emphasizing Jesus, whether I’m teaching from the New Testament (where Jesus is present) or the Old Testament (where Jesus is promised). Every lesson (yes, every lesson!) should point to Jesus and the good news of the gospel. This sounds simple, but it can be so difficult to teach the Bible this way.
So what does it look like to apply the book’s principles? Imagine you’re teaching a lesson on obedience. You start with a familiar verse: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). This reveals a serious problem: we’re commanded to obey our parents, yet we often fail. But there is good news: Jesus solves the problem. He obeyed his earthly parents perfectly, and he obeyed his heavenly Father perfectly, too. Before he went to the cross, Jesus asked God to make another way. But he submitted to his Father’s will and was obedient (see Philippians 2:8). When we put our faith in Jesus, he takes all our failures and we get credit for his obedience. Believing this good news changes how we live! We no longer feel condemned when we fail to obey. As children of the Father, we’re made eager to obey joyfully, just like Jesus did. And by relying on the Spirit’s transforming power, we’re made able to obey our parents—this shows God loves us and is working in us.
I read Show Them Jesus as a teacher first, and the book helped me evaluate the degree to which the gospel infuses my teaching. It can do the same for you, whether you teach younger children, teens, or even adults. I also read the book as a parent of covenant children, and I picked up helpful ideas for family devotions and strategies for shepherding their hearts to Jesus during times of correction. The book has helped me to think about how to have meaningful conversations about spiritual matters with my unbelieving friends. How can I keep the focus on the person and work of Jesus when asked difficult questions about the Bible? And, finally, the book helped give me a filter through which I can evaluate Bible studies, sermons, and Christian books. Is what I’m hearing or reading gospel-centric? If you’d like to read this excellent book, pick up a copy at NLD’s book center (in the lobby), or ask to borrow my copy!