This may seem like a sensationalized question, but I would ask you to read on before simply dismissing the question out-of-hand. This came to mind after reading the 9Marks answer to the question: “What are the most dangerous threats to the gospel today?” What is interesting about the answers is how there is often a subtle version of these dangers lurking in children’s Sunday school classrooms—even in many solid, Gospel-exalting churches.
Here are five dangerous threats to the Gospel noted by 9Marks that I believe are especially relevant to our classrooms. My observations, as they specifically relate to children’s and youth ministries, are in bullet points below each point.
1. The prosperity “gospel.”The belief that the gospel is about God making us rich is a lie. Jesus came to save us from sin and reconcile us to God (Rom. 5:10-11; 1 Pet. 3:18), giving us every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) and promising us suffering in this life and glory in the next (Acts 14:22, Rom. 8:18).
- When teaching children, do we attempt to minimize the existence of suffering in the Christian life for fear that it will turn them away from trusting, loving, and obeying Jesus?
- Does our teaching include Jesus’ promise that Christians will be hated by the world? Or do we hold out to them a prospect of being popular and loved by the world?
- Are we giving our students a biblical and practical understanding of suffering?
2. The attack on penal, substitutionary atonement. Many people reject the idea that on the cross God punished Jesus for the sins of his people. But to reject this is to reject the heart of the gospel itself (Rom. 3:21-26).
- Do we try to present the children with a “bloodless” Jesus?
- Do we attempt to present forgiveness of sin apart from God’s wrath being poured out in His beloved Son?
- Are we giving our children a biblical understanding of justification that is consistent with Scripture?
3. The rejection of the wrath of God. People today are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a holy God who will punish sin. But if we reject the wrath of God we lie to ourselves about the fundamental problem the gospel saves us from (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 1 Thess. 1:10).
- Is God’s wrath ever mentioned in your teaching? If so, is it being explained clearly and accurately? Is God’s wrath being put in the context of His holiness so children understand why God is right and just to punish sinners?
- Do the children understand that God’s wrath at their own sin is their greatest problem?
- Is God’s wrath being minimized by presenting the consequence of sin as mainly a “broken relationship” with God?
4. The rejection of sin. Some argue that sin is just an idea that people in power use to make others behave the way they want them to. But the Bible presents sin—and especially God’s wrath against sin—as humanity’s fundamental problem. Reject sin and you’ve rejected our only Savior who “died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3).
- Are we dangerously softening a biblical definition of sin for children so they will not feel too badly about themselves, in the desire to protect their self-esteem?
- Are we defining the true essence of sin to include rebellion against our sovereign Creator?
- Are we giving children a biblical picture of their helpless condition before a holy God apart from the saving work of Christ?
- Do we gloss over depth of the problem of our sin by presenting Jesus as some kind of easy fix-it with no demand for true repentance?
5. A man-centered view of the universe. We like to think that we run things around here. We like to think that no one can tell us what to do or believe—after all, we have rights! But the Bible presents exactly the opposite picture: we live in God’s universe (Rom. 11:36). He made us (Ps. 100:3). He rules over us (Dan. 4:34-35; 1 Tim. 6:15-16). We either worship him or hate him—and face the consequences (Rom. 1:18, 25; 8:5-8)…
- Does our teaching tend to use words and phrases that give students the wrong impression that God ultimately exists for us, to provide for our needs and desires, and that without us God cannot be happy?
- Do we give the students a strong sense of God’s rightful authority over every aspect of their lives and that they are accountable to Him for every thought, desire, word, and action?
We would never want our children to go into a classroom with faulty electric wiring, dangerous wild animals on the loose, or poison-tainted juice for snack time. As parents and teachers, let’s be extremely diligent to not expose children to faulty and unbiblical teaching concerning the most important truths of all—the essential truths of the Gospel. As a teacher, I want to be faithful to the Gospel. But I also know that I must be wise, discerning, and on guard every time I teach so that these types of subtleties do not creep into my teaching, however inadvertently.
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