At the start of the Truth78 launch event in April 2018, Ryan Fullerton, head pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church spoke about the experience of using Truth78 curriculum in Immanuel's children’s ministry. What follows is drawn from his remarks. The full video is available online here (starting at the 7:34 mark).
It's my delight to commend Truth78 ministries to you. We've actively used this ministry in our Immanuel Kids ministry for many years. We had the privilege of having David and Sally (Michael) with us to minister to the church and that was a great, great blessing.
I want to share with you from four very familiar verses, Ephesians 6:1-4. Let me read and then pray briefly and then speak briefly, but we know that God can use just a little word for a lot of good.
Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. Fathers do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord.
This is God's Word.
Father we pray that you would add your power, even a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, to the proclamation of your Word through this whole night. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen.
These words were written to the Christians in Ephesus and these Christians lived in the kind of place you didn't want to raise your kids. They lived in a deeply wicked and idolatrous city. The words we just read were not just written to the Christians in Ephesus, but they were written to the childrenof the church in Ephesus. The children that lived around the kids that are being spoken to in these verses would have been kids that match the description of children in Romans chapter 1, where it talks about people who don't know God being inventors of evil and disobedient to parents.
We have here deeply countercultural words where children who would have been influenced in all kinds of ways, both by the adults and the children around them towards godlessness, are now being called to cultivate a 24 hour-a-day, 7 day-a-week God-fullness around their family and in every aspect of their lives. These words teach us two things about how we should minister to children today.
Speak to Children Directly
They teach us that like God, we should speak to children directly. Although Paul will later go on in this passage to talk to the dads and he'll equip the families to equip their kids, Paul doesn't feel that he's always got to go through the dads. He just says straight to the children, “Children obey your parents.” You've got a teacher of the church actually being bold enough to go straight to the children, and he's doing that in line with a massive biblical trend that runs throughout the entire Bible. God has often been pleased to speak at pivotal points in biblical history right to children. He comes in a still small voice to the boy Samuel. By his words he builds deep convictions into the teenager Daniel that will sustain him as he lives in Babylon. He comes by an angel and speaks to Mary, and when He speaks to Mary, she bursts out into such an outburst of Scripture that we know that Mary has been hearing from God in His Word her whole life long. All of this reminds us that God speaks directly to children.
Look for a moment how he speaks to them.
He speaks to them with a moral seriousness: “children obey your parents in the Lord.” No fun and games, but a moral seriousness that indicates these are little ones, made in the image of God, who will one day face judgment or salvation by that same God.
He not only speaks to them with a moral seriousness, but He speaks to them the complexity of bringing the Old Testament and the New Testament together. He tells these children who live in Ephesus – not Israel – “If you obey God you'll live long in the land.” By the time you're in your teen years and you're putting your whole Bible together and saying ok, so apparently, even though I don't live in Israel, if I obey this command to obey my parents it will go well with me and I will live long in the land.
And then He speaks to these children with a heart-engaging promise. He says, “obey your parents and if you do, it will go well with you and you will live long in the land.”
Message to parents
Finally, he follows it up by telling the dads that they need to teach their kids to live like Jesus, to raise them in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord.
What we have here is the kind of ministry Truth78 tries to cultivate: a ministry that talks to children with a moral seriousness, understanding who they are as made in the image of God; a ministry that tries to put together the whole counsel of God and not just give it to the moms and dads, but also to the children; and a ministry that tries to engage the heart with a promise of how life can go better for you as you follow the Scriptures.
Any ministry that's following the biblical pattern will speak directly to children with the deepest things of God.
Equip Children to Speak Truth
Not only do we like a curriculum that encourages us to speak to children the way God speaks to children, but we love a curriculum that encourages us to equip children. You've probably heard it said that children are the church of the future. That's silly. If they're saved, they’re part of the church right now. Of course, they will also be here in the future, but they don't becomethe church at an age of accountability, or after they get their driver’s license, or once they can vote. Becoming the church means you have the Holy Spirit. And whenever that happens in a person's life, that person has been engrafted into the Bride of Christ.
What Paul is doing here is aiming to equip children to deal with life with a moral seriousness, deal with life in obedience to God, deal with life pursuing wonderful promises from God. And then he wants these children to obey so they won't just last, Lord-willing, five years or ten years in life, but they will have pursued a path in life that generally leads to the longest lives – maximizing their outreach into the future. That's what God is doing in the church as we equip children by his Word.
I want to tell you three stories. The first one is about Ada, a sister here at Immanuel. She was on the bus with a young lady who does not have faith in God, does not believe in God. Ada did at this moment what many Christians do when they're on a bus with someone who doesn't believe in God – she shared the gospel and invited the young lady to church and tried to get her a Bible. That's not remarkable; that's what any Christian would hope to do. What's remarkable is that Ada is seven and the bus she was on was a public school bus and the seven-year-old she brought to church is another little friend whose parents do not believe in God.
It's the same kind of thing we see in Isaac. Isaac is a young man at our church who started sharing the gospel in his public school and telling the gospel to a friend of his, a young lady at school. Well, eventually that young lady came to church and brought her whole family with her. Isaac had learned what he'd learned through the curriculum of Truth78, through his mom during a home school year, reading him a Sally Michael book on God's Promises.
The last story is about my own daughter, Jordana. Last year I found my daughter texting furiously – nothing exceptional there. But what was amazing is that she was in this texting debate with a Catholic lesbian, a secular friend, and a Mormon postmodernist. One of the girls had posted a pro-choice video and what ensued was a feverish grace-filled 1-million-characters-long gospel conversation where my daughter was simultaneously working with her Mormon friend to show her why abortion was wrong but against all of her friends to show why Jesus was the only way to salvation. And as I watched her make careful theological distinctions in this discussion I thought to myself, I did not teach her all of this. I probably taught her a fraction of what she knows. But Sunday after Sunday after Sunday after Sunday she sat under theologically rich teaching. The end result is children who can actually hold their own and shine like lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
My hope is that Ada and Isaac and Jordan – and a whole generation – will have a long, long life that will go well beyond mine, to serve God. And I pray that they will make up the next generation of faithful laymen and missionaries and pastors to the next generation, and in all of this, Christ will get glory both in them and in the church. That's my hope as we think about teaching the next generation in the church. May God add His blessing to our labors and to yours as we teach our kids deep theologically rich truth.