Basic Facts Every Christian Should Know

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Basic Facts Every Christian Should Know

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One of our young people and his friend from another church interviewed a number of pastors in the Kokomo (IN) area. To their surprise, a number of them could not recite the Ten Commandments.

Another one of our young people participated in an after-school Christian ministry where the leader asked if anyone could recite the Ten Commandments. She was the only one who could do so (the leader was surprised, because on other occasions, no one was able to perform that feat). You would think the leader would have changed his lesson plan and taught the kids the commandments then and there (I wonder if he knew them), but his question was merely a jumping point for a lesson about the loss of absolute truth.

We live in a day and age where speakers complain about believers not knowing the basic facts, yet these leaders do nothing to remedy the problem. Complaining about the problem, or revealing it, is not enough: we should, instead, fix the problem. And we should not move on until we have done so.

In the past, I’ve taught the Ten Commandments and Persons of the Trinity during our morning service, conducted a combined Sunday school for grades 1-8 to teach these basics and more, and offered similar material during our Sunday evening service. I have taught much of this material during AWANA or, in recent years, to our summer youth group.

As I was studying 2 Peter (1:12-13) in preparation for one of my sermons, I realized that I had not properly “reinforced” these teachings in recent years. Peter wrote:

Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder.

All Christians need to know and review the basic “facts.” Most of us agree that, by and large, learning concepts is better than mere memorization of information. But not always. Rote memory has gotten a bum wrap: Learning by rote is an excellent way to lay a foundation—especially if you contemplate what you have learned!

I do not want to place the bar too high; instead, I will list what I consider the bare essentials for every Christian to know by rote—basic Christian facts that correspond to learning multiplication tables in math. You might use this information as a list for your own personal achievement, and for instructing your children at home, teaching Sunday school or other classes for children, teens, and yes—adults!

The temptation is to get too deep in analyzing these very important subjects. A superficial rote memorization, though, lays a foundation that can be expanded upon later. Detail-constrained people and the TMI crowd are not the best at teaching these basics!

1. The order of the books of the Bible

Like learning the alphabet before reading, knowing the order of the books of the Bible is foundational to deep Bible study. If you are fortunate enough to have children who have been taught the New Testament and the Old Testament songs, you have an “easy way” to learn the arrangement. Breaking the task into manageable “chunks” is helpful.

Let’s begin with the New Testament. You want to be able to think through the order, so here is a list you might use.

New Testament

  • The Historical Books (Matthew-Acts)
  • Paul’s Epistles (Romans-Philemon)
  • Hebrews
  • General Epistles (James-Jude)
  • Revelation (Remember, it is not Revelations.)

The list of Paul’s epistles can be the most difficult. Remember, all the “T’s” are together (1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus); an acrostic for Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians is “Gentiles Eat Pork Chops.”

Learn each section before moving on to the next. Always review from the beginning. (“Matthew, Mark….”)

Old Testament

We again have some useful divisions

  • The Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy)
  • The Historical Books (Joshua-Esther)
  • The Poetical Books (Job-Song of Solomon)
  • The Major Prophets (Isaiah-Daniel; note that Lamentations is an appendix to the book of Jeremiah.)
  • The Twelve Minor Prophets (Hosea-Malachi)

You can create an acrostic for the twelve Minor Prophets, or you might compromise and look them up in the index if you cannot seem to conquer this challenge. If you know the order of the Old Testament books except for the Minor Prophets, you can get by. Here is an acrostic I use:

Howard Johnson Ate Olives (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah)

January May Need Heat (Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk)

Zoos Have Zebra Mammals (Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).

The book most people cannot locate is Nahum. Odds are if you can locate Nahum without consulting an index, you know your Bible order!

2. The Ten Commandments

These are found in Exodus 20, but they are not numbered. I reduce them down to bare bones paraphrases for easy memory. I am more concerned that people still know their commandments at age seventy-three than I am about perfection of wording at age twelve. The secret is to think through them in three sections:

Four commands relating to God:

  1. No other gods
  2. No images
  3. Do not misuse God’s name.
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day.

Then the authority we recognize first in life, our parents:

  1. Honor your parents

Then we think of five sins, from worst to least:

  1. Do not murder.
  2. Do not commit adultery.
  3. Do not steal.
  4. Do not lie.
  5. Do not covet.

Thinking through the commandments really helps. When explaining meanings to children, they will often ask about adultery. A kid-friendly way to explain this is, “If you are married, do not look for anybody else.” With coveting, I’ll explain it is wanting something too much—so much that you make yourself unhappy or you are willing to do something wrong to get it.

3. The Three Points of the Gospel

These are derived from I Corinthians 15:1-6. When memorizing this, I encourage folks to emphasize, “for our sins.” The fact that Christ died is history, but the fact that He died for our sins is theology and salvation!

  1. Christ died for our sins.
  2. He was buried.
  3. He rose again on the third day.

4. The Three Points of the Great Commission

These are derived from Matthew 28:19-20. I summarize “teaching all things” as “discipleship.” The points, then, are these:

  1. Evangelism
  2. Baptism
  3. Discipleship

5. The storyline of the major events in the entire Bible

These include Creation, the Fall, the Flood, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Judges, King David, Solomon, divided kingdom, Babylonian Captivity, return to Jerusalem under Ezra, birth of John the Baptist, life of Jesus, Pentecost, inclusion of the Gentiles. The best way to get this is by reading through the Bible. Attending Sunday school and attentiveness during sermons over the years helps to refresh these, too. Children’s story Bibles help rehearse the main narratives.

6. Persons Who make up the one Triune God

  1. Father
  2. Son
  3. Holy Spirit

Please do not teach “God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit” as the Trinity. This is not quite accurate. By calling only the Father “God,” you are implying that the Son and Spirit are something less than God. By naming Jesus as part of the Trinity, you are including His human nature, which had a beginning (remember, God has been triune eternally). God the Son has always existed, but the human nature of Jesus began in Mary’s womb.

7. The importance of the nation of Israel

This is a topic of controversy. Although all Christians would acknowledge the importance of Israel in the past (the nation producing the Messiah, the Bible, and the Apostles), most of Christendom believes that God is done with Israel forever. We disagree and assert that this is an important issue.

At present the existence of the nation of Israel is an indication of God’s faithfulness and thus an evidence of the truth of the Bible. The only thing that makes sense of Israel’s existence is God’s end-time plans for Israel (her future conversion and exaltation during the Kingdom Age). See Romans 11.

(Note: I recognize that many SI readers do not believe in an exalted Israel in the future. Please feel free to nix this one if your views differ from mine.)

8. The Solas

These are the five Biblical “alones” reclaimed during the Reformation. I prefer to condense them to two statements:

Scripture Alone. We are not saying that the Bible is the only authority, but rather, the Bible is the only infallible and thus the final authority. (Other authorities—like governments, parents, or church leaders—are fallible but to generally be respected; clear Scripture, however, can trump these authorities.)

Salvation by God’s grace alone through Christ alone by faith alone to God’s glory alone.

9. Minimal verses every Christians should understand and have memorized

John 3:16, I John 1:9 and the “Romans Road” verses (Romans 3:10, 3:23, 5:8, 6:23 and 10:9). It might be good to also include Ephesians 2:8-9.

John 3:16 is a simple salvation verse. I John 1:9 is a verse every Christian needs to know—confessing our sins to God and dealing with guilt is an important part of a godly walk. The Romans Road verses can be used for personal assurance but are especially well suited to lead someone to faith in Christ. The Ephesians verses are, in a sense, a clarification of what Romans 6:23 means—salvation is a gift. A gift really is a gift!

We are never done learning as Christians, so please do not stop with the above! This is meant to be a starting point, not an ending one. Just as we learn our multiplication tables and then move on to division, fractions, and decimals, so the basic Christian “facts” are a foundation upon which to build.

For SI readers, an addendum: Those of us in leadership (whether lay leaders or clergy) must repeatedly re-lay this foundation. We should never assume our folks have this foundation. I would challenge skeptics (optimists who believe their people know all these facts) to give an anonymous test to their Sunday school class, youth group—or attenders at a morning service. But be prepared for disappointment! I believe the overwhelming majority of Christians do not know their basic Christian facts by rote. They might pick up the Ten Commandments if given a multiple-choice quiz, but can they list them? Not many can.


Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic in in Cicero, Illinois. During his senior year in high school (in 1974), Cicero Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed later felt a call to ministry and enrolled at Moody Bible Institute (B.A., Pastoral Studies/Greek). After graduating, he served as pastor of Victory Bible Church of Chicago (a branch work of Cicero Bible Church) and married Marylu Troppito. In 1983, the couple moved to Kokomo where Ed began pastoring Highland Park Church, where he still serves. Ed and Marylu have two adult children, Hannah and Luke. Ed loves to write. He has written over 500 weekly columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and populated his church’s website with an endless barrage of papers. You can access them at www.highlandpc.com.

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Great list

Good thinking and food for thought, Ed. May I offer a slight emendation and a small but helpful addition?

On point 3, I think the passage presents two, not three, points in the gospel:

1. Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture
and was buried;
2. He rose again the third day, according to the Scripture
and was seen.

The "buried" and "seen" observations are simply confirmations of the "died" and "rose" points, which are highlighted by the phrase you noted, "according to the Scripture."

Second, on point 5, I use a little chronological trick to help me place everything in order. Key OT actors appear every 500 years: Noah, 2500 BC (this is the most controversial date); Abraham, 2000; Moses, 1500; David, 1000; Ezra, 500.

This pattern makes it fairly easy to place everything else into a confined slot. For example, the Egyptian period is between Abraham and Moses, so it's around 1750; the judges are between Moses and David, so they're around 1250; Elijah is between David and Ezra, so he's around 750. That helps me remember order for pretty much everything in the OT, and order has a lot to do with cause and effect, which has a lot to do with harvesting key principles from history. My students find it helpful as well.

BTW, the AD dates do the same thing with major theologians: Paul, 0; Augustine, 500; Thomas Aquinas, 1000 (or so); Calvin, 1500; Barth, 2000. (Please don't take Barth's inclusion as an endorsement; but he is a major theologian.)

Thanks for the thought-provoking piece.

Dan Olinger, PhD
Chair, Div of Bible, BJU

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Great Job, Ed

Ed, what a great piece. Your pastoral heart really shines through here. Memorization of key Scriptural facts is indeed a good foundation on which to build, one for which I am quite thankful. I think Christianity a few centuries back used to be much more insistent on accomplishing this in both children and adults. One thinks of Richard Baxter's crusade to catechize the parish. In seminary, I heard repeatedly (though I admit I never saw a primary source for this) that the [URL=http://reformed.org/documents/wsc/index.html Westminster Shorter Catechism[/URL ] was designed for children around the age of 8. Wow. Family worship used to be a really big deal, at least in Calvinist Scotland and early (Calvinist) America. I think there are still some people doing family worship, but my impression is that the majority of the Church, even the conservative Church, is ignorant and haphazard about it. I do think, though, that the ghost of James Montgomery Boice may haunt you for your condensation of the solas.

Dr. Olinger, I will henceforth refer to church history as the Paul-Augustine-Aquinas-Calvin-Barth continuum. Poor Luther and Schleiermacher!

My Blog: www.sacredpage.wordpress.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

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quiz

Quote:
Dr. Olinger, I will henceforth refer to church history as the Paul-Augustine-Aquinas-Calvin-Barth continuum. Poor Luther and Schleiermacher!

Oh well, somebody had to go.

Dr.O, I've found the 500 year markers helpful as well. Can't remember where I saw them first, maybe Talk Thru the Bible by Wilkinson and Boa.

Anyway, thanks, Ed. I think we might have a quiz at our church.

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just a thought...

Thanks Ed, for the reminder. As a high school Bible teacher it is good to remember the value of instilling this kind of framework in my students.

Just one thought however... while I acknowledge that 1 Cor. 15 presents the gospel in somewhat of a "nutshell," I think that we should be careful not to think (or teach) that this is all that the gospel consists of or entails. Paul was assuming a lot that he fills in elsewhere in his letters. The wages of sin, The deity of Christ, his sinless life, the necessary response of repentance and faith, etc. are all part of the gospel as well. So while I see the value to some degree of using 1 Cor. 15 as a teaching device about some of the basics of the gospel, we must be careful IMO that we don't reduce the gospel to those three (or two) facts.

I imagine you wouldn't disagree as most of the other things are more like mental hooks on which much else hangs, I just am a bit cautious (perhaps over-cautious) because I have too often heard 1 Cor. 15 presented as the sum total of the gospel, rather than the center of the gospel, or basics of the gospel, or some such thing.

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"gospel"

I think it's fair to say that the term "gospel" is used in the NT in a narrow sense and a broad sense. The narrow one would be what Ed has described, based on 1 Cor.15 where Paul uses the term and enumerates the contents.
Of course, many have pointed out that the points Paul lists in 1Cor.15 do presuppose other points like why He died, and who He is. So these ideas are certainly not excluded.
Romans 2:16, for example, includes the judgement.

I know I've seen a passage or two where "gospel" seems to include the entire Christian way of life, though I can't seem to find an example at the moment. Usually, it seems to be the message in 1Cor.15 along with points that are indispensable to it.

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Thanks, everyone

DOlinger wrote:

Quote:
Second, on point 5, I use a little chronological trick to help me place everything in order. Key OT actors appear every 500 years: Noah, 2500 BC (this is the most controversial date); Abraham, 2000; Moses, 1500; David, 1000; Ezra, 500.

That's a great device, but I would label that more "intermediate." I do emphasize that folks learn at least one OT date, 586. That really helps them navigate the prophets.

Charlie said:

Quote:
I think Christianity a few centuries back used to be much more insistent on accomplishing this in both children and adults.

You are right, Charlie. We are seeing the same problem in the education field, too. We can no longer expect people to memorize at home: we have to teach 'em when we have 'em.

Aaron said:

Quote:
Dr.O, I've found the 500 year markers helpful as well. Can't remember where I saw them first, maybe Talk Thru the Bible by Wilkinson and Boa.
The problem in this area is TMI, Too much information. Walk Thru the Bible seminars can be great reinforcers for those who have read through the Bible at least a few times, but I wonder how many people really retain all that info?

DOlinger wrote:

Quote:
On point 3, I think the passage presents two, not three, points in the gospel:
1. Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture
and was buried;
2. He rose again the third day, according to the Scripture
and was seen.

I admit there is a parallelism there, so you could do it that way. But more is not always better, especially when getting the basic facts down. Still for memory, I think the 3 points are easier and briefer. Kind of the same philosophy I expressed about the commandments:

Quote:
I am more concerned that people still know their commandments at age seventy-three than I am about perfection of wording at age twelve.

Ryan said:

Quote:
Just one thought however... while I acknowledge that 1 Cor. 15 presents the gospel in somewhat of a "nutshell," I think that we should be careful not to think (or teach) that this is all that the gospel consists of or entails.

Well, this is about getting down the Basic Facts. I believe Paul himself makes it clear that the I Cor. 15 passage are the BASIC foundation, but not all there is. Note I Cor. 15:3

Quote:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance

Aaron said:

Quote:
I think it's fair to say that the term "gospel" is used in the NT in a narrow sense and a broad sense. The narrow one would be what Ed has described, based on 1 Cor.15 where Paul uses the term and enumerates the contents.
Of course, many have pointed out that the points Paul lists in 1Cor.15 do presuppose other points like why He died, and who He is. So these ideas are certainly not excluded.

I think we can all probably agree with Aaron's summary on this idea.

Thanks for the great discussion, everyone! And if any of you take quizzes in your Sunday School classes, church services, or fellowship/study groups, please share the results!

"The Midrash Detective"

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Without appearing to fail to

Without appearing to fail to appreciate the article and its value I am provoked with interest in understanding how learning the order of the books of the Bible as it is published enhances one's understanding of the Bible or as it was stated with the analogy:

Quote:
Like learning the alphabet before reading, knowing the order of the books of the Bible is foundational to deep Bible study.

While it might be true that understanding one portion of a book is contingent upon understanding another portion of another book(s) and in that way it might have the similarity to the elementary learning of the ABC's before progressing, nevertheless I find it difficult to grasp that one need learn the order of the books as they are published before greater illumination is effected.

I do realize it is handy and helpful, maybe, to not have to use a table of context but simply memorizing it as an essential instrument for further enlightenment is something I would like explained. It occurs to me that as a matter of practical consequence the student of the Scriptures, due to their familiarity, would eventually have the locations down rather rapidly as it is.

But don't misunderstand me, I am not dissuading anyone's memorization of the order of the books, certainly not, I am merely interested in reconciling how such a memorization of a table of contents is "foundational to deep Bible study". And if there is some response my hope is additional inquiries are welcomed.

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one of those typo's ...

Quote:
"I do realize it is handy and helpful, maybe, to not have to use a table of context"

Alex, this was one of those typos that spurred me to think... what if there was such a thing as a table of context in our Bibles, what a helpful tool that would be. How much bad preaching would be eliminated if such a thing existed.

Thanks,

Ryan

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books of the Bible

In teaching young people, I have found that knowing the books of the Bible not just in their order but also in their historical order can help them further put together the whole of Scripture. Since revelation was progressive, it seems to me that the Bible books progressively reveals the unfolding purposes of God culminating in Revelation. It is not that certain times the books are always chronological (Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther all present some difficulties with order), and there are repeats (Kings and Chronicles); but I recently realized the importance of this teaching a church history class to high-schoolers. We were talking about the cannon of Scripture and I realized they needed to be able to quickly identify a book of the Bible and its general location in revelatory history. The best way I know to do this simply and quickly is to memorize them. So we deviated in class and began memorizing the books of the Bible. BTW, all the students were able to write them out almost all correctly (or fairly close) with just a week of study. I think we expect too little of our young people academically.

BTW, Edd, I appreciate your emphasis on rote facts, our education system seems to have downplayed memorization in favor of "discussion." While discussion and critical thinking are necessary, how can one think critically if there is nothing to think about. Facts are important.

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My Thinking on why the order is important

Quote:
I do realize it is handy and helpful, maybe, to not have to use a table of context but simply memorizing it as an essential instrument for further enlightenment is something I would like explained.

For a very practical reason. Bible studies are an important tool for growth, IMO, as are sermons. If you can't find the texts under study, you will miss out a lot. People who do not readily know the order of the books of the Bible are less prone to actually turn to passages, or, by the time they get there, the speaker/teacher has moved on to another passage or is done discussing it.

Being "quick on the draw" is an important skill because most people learn better if they both see AND hear. This would fall under the category of "practical skills."

It can be hard for the theologically minded and the detail-oriented to get down to basic skills. We are talking about starting points, not ending ones. We are talking about primer readers, not Shakespeare.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Ryan wrote: Quote: "I do

Ryan wrote:
Quote:
"I do realize it is handy and helpful, maybe, to not have to use a table of context"

Alex, this was one of those typos that spurred me to think... what if there was such a thing as a table of context in our Bibles, what a helpful tool that would be. How much bad preaching would be eliminated if such a thing existed.

Thanks,

Ryan


LOL Yeah...rather ironic we might need it more than a "table of contents"!

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Ed Vasicek wrote: Quote: I

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Quote:
I do realize it is handy and helpful, maybe, to not have to use a table of context but simply memorizing it as an essential instrument for further enlightenment is something I would like explained.

For a very practical reason. Bible studies are an important tool for growth, IMO, as are sermons. If you can't find the texts under study, you will miss out a lot. People who do not readily know the order of the books of the Bible are less prone to actually turn to passages, or, by the time they get there, the speaker/teacher has moved on to another passage or is done discussing it.

Being "quick on the draw" is an important skill because most people learn better if they both see AND hear. This would fall under the category of "practical skills."

It can be hard for the theologically minded and the detail-oriented to get down to basic skills. We are talking about starting points, not ending ones. We are talking about primer readers, not Shakespeare.

Thanks for the response but I do not see how, again, simply having a quicker reference aids in the actual comprehension. Even if it is a matter of speed, simply being able to turn somewhere faster does not actually amplify comprehension. As to teachers, I am confidence most good teachers who are theologically minded also understand the learning process from start to end so I would resist the temptation to dismiss objections based on the "you just don't understand, you're too theologically minded" case. Further, most good teachers I know of take the time to inform the students which passages they want them to view and give them time to turn there and if they don't intend on the student viewing the passage but are just referencing it, their teaching will reflect this. But this really is not an argument I want to take because we enter into the "whoever is the fastest understands the Bible best" conclusion which does not survive long.

I find the unusual assertion that memorizing the table of contents "foundational to deep Bible study" very untenable here. I do agree that the friendliness of such a memorization to the matter of our convenience is real but unlike learning history, languages, or elementary doctrines which enhance our capacity to grasp content, simply being able to turn somewhere about 20 seconds before another person who uses a table of contents seems to render dubious the proposition that it is a foundational necessity for deep Bible study.

And I do agree that anyone suggesting that learning the table of contents is not valuable, is wrong. I just would not assign its value as a foundational necessity to deep Bible study. I believe one can have deep Bible study and not have the table of contents memorized. However, I do not wish to detract from the contribution of the rest of the article and have made my point which seems obvious enough to my own satisfaction so I don't feel the need to further it unless you have other questions or someone has a further challenge to my observation. Thanks.

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On an aside, I learned the

On an aside, I learned the books of the Bible in Spanish before I learned them in English and still find myself thinking of the minor prophets in Spanish when needing to turn there. Smile Guess it proves the point that what we learn when we're young sticks with us.

Thorough students of the Bible do know the books of the Bible in order, whether one wants to argue that it is essential for study or not. Based on what I acknowledge is merely anecdotal evidence, I would say that those who do not know where to find a certain book in their Bibles usually are not studying the Bible for themselves. Helping someone to learn the books of the Bible gives them a tool to become better Bible students; at the very least, they will not be hindered (or frustrated) by the difficulty of finding the right passage at the right time. Granted, a newly saved believer may rely entirely on his table of contents; but if he is serious about growing and learning (and studying the Bible), he will soon have their order memorized.

Given our experience with discipleship and ministry, I agree with Ed. Thanks for a great article and some good ideas, Ed!

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I still remember

When I was young (shortly after the Apostle Paul planted our church), the following things had to be memorized in order to "officially" become a member of the Sunday School:
- The Books of the Bible
- The Romans Road
- The 12 Apostles (52 MAB ST)
- The 12 Tribes of Israel
- The 10 Commandments

In addition, we learned to draw a free hand map of Palestine to the tune of O Tannebaum. (first the line of coast we make, then Merom, a marshy lake, then the Sea of Galilee, directly east of Mount Carmel .....) and locate major cities.
We also learned a hymn each week (partly because they weren't enough hymn books for everyone).
The Sunday School curriculum drawn up by the pastor took us through the Bible in about 5 years.

While I can't remember where I put my car keys, I still remember these things.

And thanks to Dan Olinger, the "500 year" list has been added.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Facts as framework

My overall view of facts is that they provide a framework on which to hang the more complex information. You won't understand complicated topics without having some basic facts under your belt, and someone who has mastered a concept will be able to provide supportive facts in any discussion/debate.

I'm often amazed that people who've faithfully attended church for 10-20-30+ years don't have many of the basics Bro. Ed lists available for recall. But we do have to be careful not to mistake recitation for understanding- some of the kids who can win all the sword drills and Bible quiz games can't tell you the meaning of the Lord's Supper or believer's baptism.

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Quote: Memorization of key

Quote:
Memorization of key Scriptural facts is indeed a good foundation on which to build, one for which I am quite thankful. I think Christianity a few centuries back used to be much more insistent on accomplishing this in both children and adults.
I am eternally grateful to my folks for giving me the foundation discussed here. Every night we read aloud from THE BIBLE IN PICTURES FOR LITTLE EYES by Ken Taylor, to the point where my siblings and I knew the dialogue and pictures from memory. I thought that those illustrations were the official pictures of the Bible! Then there was Miss Clara, the godly older lady who taught Sunday school and various other classes for children - I can still see her smiling face while singing loudly, "Let us SING the books of history, of history, of history; Let us SING the books of history, the story of the Jews. There's Joshua, and Judges, and the story of Ruth - and First and Second Samuel, and First and Second Kings. . . ." etc. etc. My husband was saved later in life and did not have this good foundation, and he had a lot of catching up to do.

This is a critical subject, and I appreciate seeing it laid out so practically.

Welcome to the SI posting world, Dr. O.!

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This is a great mystery

As I have stated on SI before, if you add together what the average kid in a fundamental church will get from children's church, Sunday School, AWANA and Christian day school combined, it will not begin to hold a candle to what I was mandated to learn in my Lutheran grade school experience by way of Bible knowledge.

And we had to learn it PERFECTLY -- not just "close is good enough 'cuz its the Bible." Smile

This is a great mystery: the very people who you might think would be committed to the Bible above all else are instead plagued with Biblical illiteracy. In many of our Baptist churches, Bible knowledge is looked at as something almost superfluous, as if it is only for the "super-saints" or "super-curious." Often people are skeptical even of pastors who might "know too much," and seem more comfortable with those who "preach on their level," and focus on application rather than exposition. I suppose that the pastors who didn't know the Ten Commandments might fit in that category.

In my experience, the KJV-only mentality, especially among those who hold the position but cannot defend it with any factual basis, often ties to Biblical illeteracy and a Christianity that is built solely on emotionalism.

The views I express are purely my own. However, I am happy to promote the great ministries with which I work: I minister for www.SermonAudio.com/Whitcomb. I do freelance writing for www.RegularBaptistPress.org. I speak through www.IMISOS.org.

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Don't get me going!

Then there was the IFB preacher who said that the Tower of Babel was destroyed in the flood.

As to Christian Day schools, I've seen everything from Hermeneutics, Bible Doctrines, OT and NT Survey through re-cycled Sunday School curricula to Bible as an elective.

Bible facts like those mentioned are essential as is basic Bible doctrine and those Bible facts are the "grammar" that form the foundation for further learning. I still use the chapter content of the NT I had to memorize.

My conclusion is that the best place to do this is at home.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Many places

Maybe the home is indeed the best place, but I'm personally grateful that there are multiple places. We've been teaching the books of the Bible to our "JOY Club" kids (for the most part, these are neighborhood kids who do not attend our church).
I learned them as a kid in "Junior Church." We went over them and over them until we could quote them very quickly. Then we did Bible Drills for years after that.
By itself, it's perhaps not a huge thing, but for us it was part of a culture of Bible literacy. Every service at that church (and the ones we attended after that one as well) was an event in which we heard the sound of dozens (or hundreds, depending on the church) of people turning to multiple passages of Scripture as we examined the word together. It still sounds like a kind of music to me.

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Quote: My conclusion is that

Quote:
My conclusion is that the best place to do this is at home.
Given the basic lack of biblical literacy in our culture, even among church people, this may simply further the problem rather than solve it.

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Let's make it happen

Ron Bean wrote:
My conclusion is that the best place to do this is at home.

I agree, but when it is not being done at home, where is the second best place? Anywhere is better than nowhere. There is no reason we cannot incorporate rote memorization of this material into our AWANA and Sunday School program, for example. It just takes a little determination on the part of leaders and a willingness to do something a little different for a season.

Some information, like the names of the Apostles or the 12 tribes of Israel are probably not that crucial, IMO. The two Great Commandments, however, might be a good addition, as one brother here at the church suggested.

Paul Scharf said:

Quote:
As I have stated on SI before, if you add together what the average kid in a fundamental church will get from children's church, Sunday School, AWANA and Christian day school combined, it will not begin to hold a candle to what I was mandated to learn in my Lutheran grade school experience by way of Bible knowledge.

I think we should learn from this. There is no reason why we should not set up a mechanism somewhere in our church programs to make this happen. I am doing this on Sunday morning as my sermon "intro." I did the same thing about 1999, so, as I mentioned, it is time to repeat. Three minutes a week with the adults is a good starting point. I almost think that we pastors should guarantee that our people are given a significant opportunity to learn these things by rote while in church or Sunday School. The days of people studying at home are tragically mostly over.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Quote: As I have stated on SI

Quote:
As I have stated on SI before, if you add together what the average kid in a fundamental church will get from children's church, Sunday School, AWANA and Christian day school combined, it will not begin to hold a candle to what I was mandated to learn in my Lutheran grade school experience by way of Bible knowledge.
Well maybe our church is unusual, but between all of the church activities mentioned above and what we taught at home, our children got a great background in the basics. Surely our churches are doing a better job that what that quotation implies.
Quote:
Some information, like the names of the Apostles or the 12 tribes of Israel are probably not that crucial, IMO.
What? You mean all those times of singing "There were twelve disciples, Jesus called to help him, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, his brother John. . .Philip, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon, Judas, and Bartholomew"---were not important???

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Thanks Ann

[quote=Ann B. ]
Well maybe our church is unusual, but between all of the church activities mentioned above and what we taught at home, our children got a great background in the basics. Surely our churches are doing a better job that what that quotation implies.

Ann,

I do not know your specific situation, and I hope your kids are doing fantastic. All I can say is, I have been a member of six fundamental Baptist/Bible churches over the past 25 years, including more than eight years of pastoral experience and three years of serving as a Bible teacher in a Baptist Christian school. This is my story and I am sticking to it. Praise God for the exceptions!

If you are not at all familiar with the Lutheran school/catechism system, you might think I am employing hyperbole, but I am really not. Their zeal for giving their kids a comprehensive Biblical education is completely unmatched by anything I have personally witnessed within fundamentalism. (And they get those kind of results even though they usually only have one hour of church per week!)

The views I express are purely my own. However, I am happy to promote the great ministries with which I work: I minister for www.SermonAudio.com/Whitcomb. I do freelance writing for www.RegularBaptistPress.org. I speak through www.IMISOS.org.

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Variety

Paul, I suspect--based on many Lutherans I've met--that there is variety from church to church on that score. Of course, you went to Lutheran school, though, and that's probably different. I know more than a few Lutherans who would be hard pressed to tell you whether John the Baptist is in the OT or the NT.
... alas, I know a few Baptists who could do no better.

Quote:
anywhere is better than nowhere

I think that's well put, Ed.

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Exceptions, some but no many...

I think there are exceptions, as Ann mentions. But I would ask this question: Are the kids in her church somewhere REQUIRED to memorize the 10 Commandments? What many of our churches do is to teach about them, but kids (and adults) are incapable of LISTING them.

The same is true with an accurate listing of the Names of the Persons of the Trinity, as simple as that is. So let me issue a challenge to one and all: Test kids in your family and church (Sunday school class, study, etc.), and share the statistics with us. As them to produce -- not merely identify -- these two things.

Incidentally, a number of pastors who could not list the 10 Commandments were evangelical, including a Baptist minister.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Regarding Lutherans

Aaron, I would say that the variety is probably more from one Lutheran denomination to another than from church to church (within the same denomination).
For the most part, the only Lutherans who have schools are the conservaties (WELS, ELS, LCMS, CLC, etc.).
Within a Lutheran congregation, of course, there is still a big drop-off from the kids in the school system to those who attend public school and merely go to the church for catechism. (That is usually done within a separate group in a church which operates its own school.)
Lutherans value their schools very highly, and they are usually academically exceptional. Also, the church's school IS its mission program, so church members pay virtually nothing in tuition for their children to attend.
In grade school, we had memory work to say three days per week from the Bible, catechism or hymnal -- and it had to be perfect or you had to sit down, stay inside for recess and start over.
We basically took a month off from school every year in December to rehearse for the Christmas program, which was all done by rote memory.
Of course, the big problem for many Lutherans -- where Baptists (at least outwardly) have them beat to shreds -- is in application. I can still remember ushering in my Lutheran church as a teenager next to a fellow who still wreaked of alcohol from the night before.
However, as I preach regularly -- you cannot apply what you do not know!! If we could somehow combine the best of both worlds... Smile

The views I express are purely my own. However, I am happy to promote the great ministries with which I work: I minister for www.SermonAudio.com/Whitcomb. I do freelance writing for www.RegularBaptistPress.org. I speak through www.IMISOS.org.

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At home

Ed Vasicek wrote:

I agree, but when it is not being done at home, where is the second best place? Anywhere is better than nowhere. There is no reason we cannot incorporate rote memorization of this material into our AWANA and Sunday School program, for example. It just takes a little determination on the part of leaders and a willingness to do something a little different for a season.

I agree, as long as kids are never given the notion that a head full of facts means anything to God without first experiencing salvation. That's probably the trickiest part of teaching children, and it's a fine line IMO.

But I also wonder- if we really believe Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: then a lack of Biblical literacy in the home should be viewed as an indictment on the church. If parents aren't being equipped to meet their God-ordained responsibilities in the home, then in reality the church is not being effective in its commission.

It's the same for husbands and wives- 1Corinthians 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

Are the men in our churches being equipped to teach their wives and families at home? I think we must be careful to not in any way diminish the foundational structure of and commands aimed specifically for the family.

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Clarification!

When I said,

Quote:
My conclusion is that the best place to do this is at home.

I did not mean to imply that home is the only place.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Sin, Not Ignorance

Quote:
a lack of Biblical literacy in the home should be viewed as an indictment on the church. If parents aren't being equipped to meet their God-ordained responsibilities in the home, then in reality the church is not being effective in its commission.

No, that's like blaming the teachers for the kids at school, the president for the country, on the UN leader for the world. Since Christ is the head of the church, we could probably blame Him, too.

We need to remember that Adam and Eve were not confused about God's will for them and the fruit. It wasn't an ignorance thing. Ignorance or lack of training is only one possible problem. Motivation, discipline, and priorities are another.

Human nature is sinful, and this is true of Christians, too. Motivated Christians who take advantage of opportunities (or find them) are not always the norm. Passive, "do what everyone else is doing" is a prevailing attitude in many cases.

Yet some of these weakly motivated Christians will learn if it is structured for them, in church. Once they gain confidence, this can help motivate them further. But they might end up leaving churches (that formerly did not emphasize learning in the service) if we actually expect them to expend mental energy and learn while at church. Their comment or thoughts might sound something like, "I come to church to worship. not to learn."

Americans are resourceful, and American Christians have great resources. Yet, as (I think) C.S. Lewis said, "The more the Bible is translated, the less it is read."

"The Midrash Detective"

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Not blame

Bro. Ed- I'm saying saying that it is solely the church's fault if parents aren't rooted in the Word or able to teach their children adequately, but that instead of saying "Hey, the parents aren't doing a good job, let's ignore the parents and 'take over'" we should be asking ourselves "Why" parents do not feel compelled to view the command from God to teach His principles to their children as THEIR primary task, not the church's. I think when we bypass lazy parents, we just enable and justify their laziness. Does that clarify my comment better? I'm not arguing for the eradication of Sunday Schools or anything along those lines, but that we concentrate on teaching parents with fervor that matches and surpasses our efforts aimed at children. I think it is cattywampus for kids to be able to recite verses and Bible facts to parents who haven't got a clue... speaking of churched families, not unchurched families here.

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The Olden Days

In the old time Sunday School I referred to in my earlier post, the lessons taught were structured for the whole family. Each individual, regardless of age, was expected to know the "Bible Basics" I mentioned. In addition each class was dealing with the same Bible passage each week, adjusted for age of course. In addition, the pastor would usually preach at least one message on Sunday from the same passage.

It required a tremendous amount of prep time. The pastor prepared all the lessons and met with the teachers each week to help them prepare the next week's lesson. Homework was assigned and checked the following week. Oh for the good old days!

Could it be done today?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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What should be or what is?

Quote:
"Why" parents do not feel compelled to view the command from God to teach His principles to their children as THEIR primary task, not the church's.

I could talk about this forever. Consider how many families are:

1. Single parent
2. One parent a believer, one not.
3. Kids who come from unsaved homes
4. Messed up families (drugs, abuse, little relational skill, etc.)
5. Overly stressed families (perhaps because of materialism and debt).
6. Families barely keeping together
7. Passive "herd instinct" families, perhaps without real male leadership

We HAVE played the game of chicken (parents should teach this to kids, the church is not going to do this) and parents are not and kids are not getting it. We have lost the game and need to adjust. Guilt trips, shame, etc., are not going to motivate lackluster professors of faith. Many people are a certain way, and we have to deal with what is, not what should be. It is our idealism that makes us aspire, but it is our idealism that causes us to refuse to adjust to what IS. Refusing to accept reality does not inhibit reality. We, ourselves, can choose to be different, but the Lord has to get ahold of people for them to choose to be different.

I suppose if you could explain why parents cannot recite the 10 commandments themselves, the answer would be the same as to why they do not teach their kids. If you could explain why most families in our churches rarely pray together at home, the answer would be the same.

It really is true that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

I would suggest that church would be a great place to break the cycle. We need to take up the slack and do some old-fashioned education. We also need to create STRUCTURE to help families and individuals.

I have tried to do this over the years in the realm of prayer, as you can see on my prayer page: http://www.highlandpc.com/prayers/

This is a horrible blind-spot in churches like ours (fundamental/evangelical and non-liturgical). It goes back generations. We have not placed a premium on memorizing the basic facts, and we have not helped people with structure.

"The Midrash Detective"

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I won't speak to the other of

I won't speak to the other of the points on the list. However, I will comment on the "Books of the Bible." For the most part, the preachers I know expect their listeners to follow along in their personal Bibles or as is the case at Hamilton Square the Bible in the hymnal rack. Looking up the initial passage is no problem. However, for subsequent verses, knowing where 2 John in relation to Ephesians gets to be important.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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Equal fervor

Bro. Ed- you addressed one part of my post, and I think maybe you missed this part-

Quote:
I'm not arguing for the eradication of Sunday Schools or anything along those lines, but that we concentrate on teaching parents with fervor that matches and surpasses our efforts aimed at children.
Part of breaking the cycle is to redouble our efforts when it comes to mentoring parents and holding them accountable for what God has commanded of them for the family. We cannot ignore that commands about teaching children are nearly all aimed specifically at parents. The church must adjust to what IS- absolutely- but IMO that effort should not leave parents in the dust of children's programs. The fact that you could in truth say this:

Quote:
Those of us in leadership (whether lay leaders or clergy) must repeatedly re-lay this foundation. We should never assume our folks have this foundation. I would challenge skeptics (optimists who believe their people know all these facts) to give an anonymous test to their Sunday school class, youth group—or attenders at a morning service. But be prepared for disappointment! I believe the overwhelming majority of Christians do not know their basic Christian facts by rote. They might pick up the Ten Commandments if given a multiple-choice quiz, but can they list them? Not many can.

is a big whop upside the head, and we need to hear it and feel it.

There was [URL=http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-qualifications-for-teachers-ss-and-c... ]a thread I started[/URL ] awhile back about the qualifications of SS teachers and youth workers. I wonder if there isn't a double standard, that churches feel they MUST have classes for kids but in reality are little more than glorified babysitting... but the teachers themselves don't have a good grasp of the basics, they engage in questionable and even objectionable behavior in their private lives, and in class the kids play games and have snacks and fill in sticker charts because they actually brought their Bibles to church. Oy vey.

It isn't as simple as just getting back to the basics of what is foundational information, even though that is incredibly important, but IMO should involve the revamping of SS to be a serious time of study led by people who are actually qualified to teach the Bible not only in the areas of Scriptural knowledge but also in personal conduct.

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The deacon who needed the page index...

I will never forget when I was speaking in a church one day -- but not for Sunday School, where I was seated in the back row behind an elderly long-term deacon with a big black large-print KJV Bible (you know, the kind with the flexible plasticy cover).

The teacher had us turn to Ecclesiastes. The deacon in front of me turned to the page index in the front of his big Bible to find the page number...

(And then we wonder why deacons and pulpit committee members don't understand the value of seminary or the type of discussion we are having here. They themselves may belong back in kiddie church! Smile )

The views I express are purely my own. However, I am happy to promote the great ministries with which I work: I minister for www.SermonAudio.com/Whitcomb. I do freelance writing for www.RegularBaptistPress.org. I speak through www.IMISOS.org.

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An Alphabetical Wrench

Just to reinforce the point of book order being a convenient tool for study in a (paper, bound) Bible, but not foundational, I'd like to smash the alphabet analogy for you. I taught all five of my children to read without learning "their ABCs". They learned each letter's formation and sound, but not in the traditional order, since that wasn't needed until dictionary studies.
I mention the paper Bibles, because as searchable electronics become more common, the book order will become even less important.
Aud

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Kindle

I can see that, Audrey- more Kindles are appearing in church... and I'm trying to resist the temptation... Biggrin

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Idealism

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It is our idealism that makes us aspire, but it is our idealism that causes us to refuse to adjust to what IS

Ed, you reminded me that I've got a whole article stewing (on one of about 20 "back burners") on this topic. You're so right.

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Lazy idealism

Idealism makes us aspire, and laziness causes us to refuse to adjust to what IS. ;) It's the same as watching exercise videos without ever getting off the couch.

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I think Susan brings up an

I think Susan brings up an excellent point in regard to teaching qualifications. If teachers don't know or practice the basics why would we expect the students to know and practice the basics. I just recently had a discussion with a 12 year old girl encouraging her to be faithful in church and reading her Bible. Her response was "my Sunday School teacher only comes to church on Sunday mornings and someone who was elected as a church officer does the same." I'm certainly not trying to justify her response; we are responsible for our actions regardless of the example we have to follow. However, I think she has a point.
In my experience, it's not the children who lack the basic knowledge, it's the parents. The children tend to learn these basics in Sunday School and Wednesday night programs. For some reason the church tends to forget that adults need to be taught the basics, and in my opinion this is where the teaching should be begin as parents have the ultimate responsibility for teaching their children. I don't have a problem with parents enlisting the help of others in this, but we must be very careful not to bypass the parents thereby enabling them to be lazy in teaching their children.

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Out of the mouths of babes

After listening to the SS teacher's lesson, pointed at the picture and said, "But Goliath fell on his face, not on his back!"

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Yes, But How?

TBurkhart wrote:
I think Susan brings up an excellent point in regard to teaching qualifications. If teachers don't know or practice the basics why would we expect the students to know and practice the basics. I just recently had a discussion with a 12 year old girl encouraging her to be faithful in church and reading her Bible. Her response was "my Sunday School teacher only comes to church on Sunday mornings and someone who was elected as a church officer does the same." I'm certainly not trying to justify her response; we are responsible for our actions regardless of the example we have to follow. However, I think she has a point.
In my experience, it's not the children who lack the basic knowledge, it's the parents. The children tend to learn these basics in Sunday School and Wednesday night programs. For some reason the church tends to forget that adults need to be taught the basics, and in my opinion this is where the teaching should be begin as parents have the ultimate responsibility for teaching their children. I don't have a problem with parents enlisting the help of others in this, but we must be very careful not to bypass the parents thereby enabling them to be lazy in teaching their children.

I think Susan does indeed have a good point, and so do others. But this is still not addressing the issue. You can have the best teachers, but IF THE CURRICULUM THEY USE EXPLAINS THE 10 COMMANDMENTS BUT DOES NOT INSIST THAT THE KIDS LEARN THEM BY ROTE IN CLASS, THEY WILL NOT BE LEARNED. I have yet to see a curriculum that does.

Susan said:

Quote:
Part of breaking the cycle is to redouble our efforts when it comes to mentoring parents and holding them accountable for what God has commanded of them for the family. We cannot ignore that commands about teaching children are nearly all aimed specifically at parents. The church must adjust to what IS- absolutely- but IMO that effort should not leave parents in the dust of children's programs.

Susan, I am with you; I really believe in Deuteronomy 6; I have taught, preached, and written about it for years; my wife and I tried to rear our kinds in light of it. But here is my problem. HOW do we hold parents accountable, outside of creating a German POW camp?

"The Midrash Detective"

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Appreciative

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Quote:
It is our idealism that makes us aspire, but it is our idealism that causes us to refuse to adjust to what IS

Ed, you reminded me that I've got a whole article stewing (on one of about 20 "back burners") on this topic. You're so right.

Aaron, you think a lot like me. I agree with people who think like me! This is the challenge, is it not? Not forsaking the ideal while adjusting to the real.

"The Midrash Detective"

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The Whole Spectrum

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
Quote:
It is our idealism that makes us aspire, but it is our idealism that causes us to refuse to adjust to what IS

Ed, you reminded me that I've got a whole article stewing (on one of about 20 "back burners") on this topic. You're so right.

Aaron, you think a lot like me. I agree with people who think like me! This is the challenge, is it not? Not forsaking the ideal while adjusting to the real.

If I'm reading you correctly, I think you're saying something similar to what I read in John Frame a few years back. (The following is probably a mixture of his ideas and mine since then.) It was a light-bulb moment for me. He said that in a healthy church, there are going to be people of all levels of spirituality, from the unsaved guy at 0, to the super-mature Christian (whoever he is) at 10. But because sometimes it's difficult for people of these different levels to relate to each other (especially people who think they're near 10....hmm....), churches tend to focus on one spectrum. You might have a church that focuses on the 7 to 10 group, as they see it. Nobody would feel welcome in this Church unless they are already in substantial agreement with the doctrine, order of worship, and lifestyle choices of the people present. People are attracted to the church b/c of its stand on issues. Evangelism is seldom talked about and in reality almost non-existent. New members come from those who have "improved" their theology from other churches.

On the other hand, you have the churches who have decided to focus on the 0-4 or so of the spectrum. They want to attract unbelievers, lots of them. Then, when some of these unbelievers make professions of faith, the operating ideal is "Keep It Simple Stupid." The church is intentionally designed so as not to exclude people, no matter how they live. Instead of being fully discipled, people are trained in how to perpetuate the growth cycle by bringing their friends and others to the church or simply plugged into a program. Teaching focuses almost exclusively on "life issues," how to handle marriage, money, kids, etc.

So, it seems a difficult thing for a church to really serve the 0-10 spectrum well. Especially in towns where there are a lot of churches, perceived market forces tend to form niche churches. In Greenville, I know churches at which a single mom with kids would be out of place, or even a single person would feel awkward. There are some Reformed churches where the inability to quote the Shorter Catechism or an unfamiliarity with John Calvin may result in a stern look. There are some megachurches where the mention of either would educe a panicked look. All that to say, Ed, I really appreciate any pastor who has his eye on the whole spectrum and who plots and plans to get people from one level of maturity to the next.

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HOW

For starters, I completely agree that rote learning has its place. As to curriculum, when I was more active teaching at church, I wrote my own. I've had to do that to some degree at home as well for our homeschool Bible classes.

Quote:
HOW do we hold parents accountable, outside of creating a German POW camp?

As Dr. Bauder said recently, the tools of the NT pastor/teacher are those of persuasion, not coercion. We tend to think of accountability as having a punitive element, that is, if you aren't meeting certain criteria, there is punishment of a sort.

But accountability has a more positive side, IMO. It means that if you aspire to be a teacher or worker in the church, you have to meet certain standards of Bible knowledge and personal conduct, instead of allowing people to teach simply because they have a pulse and don't drool. The idea of strict standards for those in leadership is supportable by Scripture.

The problem is that we often don't look at SS teachers and youth workers as being in 'leadership' simply because they work with children, and children aren't considered as important as the adults in the church population. Instead of children's ministries being led by those with little ministry experience because "It's just kids", those who wish to teach should be mentored and their classes supervised by qualified individuals until competency is demonstrated. It is a serious responsibility and honor to teach God's Word to any audience. If we want people to think of the teaching and training of children as important and meaningful, then that is how we should approach it- from the choosing of teachers to the quality and focus of curriculum. A few quizzes or games or puppet shows sprinkled here and there is fine for lower age groups, but if SS from age 3-18 is immersed in frivolity, then folks are going to view SS as frivolous. We know that Christ did not consider the well-being of children as trivial, since He advocated that anyone who harms a child in any way be fitted with a cement necktie and thrown into the sea.

When parents see that the church takes the teaching and training of children very seriously, a positive pressure will be felt to continue this training at home. Not every parent will get on board- I know- but they will not be the ones teaching classes of other people's children while not teaching their own. The very idea of leadership is that someone is out front setting standards, and followship is going to be at various stages behind the leader- so let's make leadership WAY out in front. So what if some people are lazy and unmotivated- why cater to the lowest common denominator, especially in an area so weighty as understanding and applying God's Word? The children of the irresponsible will still benefit from the higher standards.

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Thanks, Charlie

Charlie wrote:
Ed Vasicek wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
Quote:
It is our idealism that makes us aspire, but it is our idealism that causes us to refuse to adjust to what IS

Ed, you reminded me that I've got a whole article stewing (on one of about 20 "back burners") on this topic. You're so right.

Aaron, you think a lot like me. I agree with people who think like me! This is the challenge, is it not? Not forsaking the ideal while adjusting to the real.

If I'm reading you correctly, I think you're saying something similar to what I read in John Frame a few years back. (The following is probably a mixture of his ideas and mine since then.) It was a light-bulb moment for me. He said that in a healthy church, there are going to be people of all levels of spirituality, from the unsaved guy at 0, to the super-mature Christian (whoever he is) at 10. But because sometimes it's difficult for people of these different levels to relate to each other (especially people who think they're near 10....hmm....), churches tend to focus on one spectrum. You might have a church that focuses on the 7 to 10 group, as they see it. Nobody would feel welcome in this Church unless they are already in substantial agreement with the doctrine, order of worship, and lifestyle choices of the people present. People are attracted to the church b/c of its stand on issues. Evangelism is seldom talked about and in reality almost non-existent. New members come from those who have "improved" their theology from other churches.

On the other hand, you have the churches who have decided to focus on the 0-4 or so of the spectrum. They want to attract unbelievers, lots of them. Then, when some of these unbelievers make professions of faith, the operating ideal is "Keep It Simple Stupid." The church is intentionally designed so as not to exclude people, no matter how they live. Instead of being fully discipled, people are trained in how to perpetuate the growth cycle by bringing their friends and others to the church or simply plugged into a program. Teaching focuses almost exclusively on "life issues," how to handle marriage, money, kids, etc.

So, it seems a difficult thing for a church to really serve the 0-10 spectrum well. Especially in towns where there are a lot of churches, perceived market forces tend to form niche churches. In Greenville, I know churches at which a single mom with kids would be out of place, or even a single person would feel awkward. There are some Reformed churches where the inability to quote the Shorter Catechism or an unfamiliarity with John Calvin may result in a stern look. There are some megachurches where the mention of either would educe a panicked look. All that to say, Ed, I really appreciate any pastor who has his eye on the whole spectrum and who plots and plans to get people from one level of maturity to the next.

Thanks so much Charlie. I think you are right about the "specialization." But there are other ways to specialize, namely, to attract people who want to love God with both their hearts AND minds. If they are yet unsaved seekers or mature saints, how truth is communicated and the level to which it is developed will draw some at all spiritual levels while repelling others at a variety of levels as well.

Thom Rainer has done some interesting work on the formerly unchurched who either came to the Lord and began to attend church and grow with little background; most of them wanted a church that took a stand and had convictions. His book, "Surprising Insights from the Unchurched" looks at the success stories (mature disciples who were reached by a church) and works backwards.

But Frame is right, too. Let's face it, the man is a genius.

Intentional or not, birds of a feather do flock together. For example, churches that supposedly accommodate everyone often repel those looking for more than simple answers or are turned off by glitz. You can't help it. If you aim to reach and please everyone, you will please no one. Often that aim is not intentional or stated, but it is there.

Os Guiness' book titled "Fit Bodies, Fat Minds" highlights the type of evangelical Christianity that is popular but often shallow (imperfectly, I might opine). But I would still suggest that even in the deeper churches, we still find a lack of rote knowledge of basic facts. Surprising numbers of people might know which "lapsarian" they are, but cannot recite the commandments.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Susan R wrote: For starters,

Susan R wrote:
For starters, I completely agree that rote learning has its place. As to curriculum, when I was more active teaching at church, I wrote my own. I've had to do that to some degree at home as well for our homeschool Bible classes.

Quote:
HOW do we hold parents accountable, outside of creating a German POW camp?

As Dr. Bauder said recently, the tools of the NT pastor/teacher are those of persuasion, not coercion. We tend to think of accountability as having a punitive element, that is, if you aren't meeting certain criteria, there is punishment of a sort..

Susan, I am arguing that many of our church have excellent Sunday School teachers, but the kids still do not memorize the 10 commandments or accurately name the Persons of the Trinity. Of course some of our teachers had done the God, Jesus, Spirit "version" of the Trinity, but I have harped on that one!

You are talking about good Sunday School teachers. I am talking about rote memorization about basic Christian facts. These are two different concerns.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Curriculum

Ed,
I absolutely agree that often times curriculum can be a problem, but it doesn't have to be. Even much of what is considered the "best" in our circles is lacking. I use curriculum as a starting point. Just because the curriculum does not say "have each student memorize" does not mean that it should not or can not be done. I think this is where the responsibility lands back on the parents and teachers. If they value basic Bible knowledge, they will have no problem adding the requirement to the curriculum. In my own experience, for what it's worth, noone ever made me memorize the Ten Commandments or other similar basic Bible knowledge. As the material was taught and reviewed in Sunday School and then reviewed again at home with my parents, I just learned them. Maybe it was because I had a good teacher and parents who actually looked at the handful of papers I brought home. You know they don't just send those papers home because the recycle bin at the church is full. Smile

In regard to accountability, it does not have to be negative. I don't think the problem is always that people don't want to be taught, it is that there is no teacher. I'm thinking of an individual who is saved as an adult and begins to attend church with his or her family. How would they know what basic Bible knowledge is and that it would be helpful to memorize. Hopefully the church would have some kind of discipleship class or process, but it is quite possible that the church is failing in this area. If the leadership of the church, whether that be the pastor or individual teachers would simply present the challenge to memorize, understand, and apply the basics, I think many would participate. The children will generally follow the example of the parents.

I believe many parents are quite hesitant to teach their children the Bible because they feel inadequate. They think they have to prepare a sermon and the task seems overwhelming. In addition, their children actually know them. It's hard for a parent to teach the Ten Commandments when the children know they are breaking them all the time. This is not an excuse, simply an observation.

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Related

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Susan, I am arguing that many of our church have excellent Sunday School teachers, but the kids still do not memorize the 10 commandments or accurately name the Persons of the Trinity. Of course some of our teachers had done the God, Jesus, Spirit "version" of the Trinity, but I have harped on that one!

You are talking about good Sunday School teachers. I am talking about rote memorization about basic Christian facts. These are two different concerns.


I think these concerns are directly related. The quality of the teacher will directly affect the content the amount of learning accomplished in class. Same with the SS Superintendent- they should be making sure the teachers are meeting the standards the church has set.

One of my SS classes always did memory work as part of class without me sending home any work, since I had mostly bus kids (ages 7-9). I had baseball charts for each child, and memorizing the books of the Bible was a single, then they got a double by reciting The 10 Commandments, a triple was Psalm 1, and the home run was the Romans Road. It was fun, but it was work.

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Susan R wrote: Ed Vasicek

Susan R wrote:
Ed Vasicek wrote:

Susan, I am arguing that many of our church have excellent Sunday School teachers, but the kids still do not memorize the 10 commandments or accurately name the Persons of the Trinity. Of course some of our teachers had done the God, Jesus, Spirit "version" of the Trinity, but I have harped on that one!

You are talking about good Sunday School teachers. I am talking about rote memorization about basic Christian facts. These are two different concerns.


I think these concerns are directly related. The quality of the teacher will directly affect the content the amount of learning accomplished in class. Same with the SS Superintendent- they should be making sure the teachers are meeting the standards the church has set.

One of my SS classes always did memory work as part of class without me sending home any work, since I had mostly bus kids (ages 7-9). I had baseball charts for each child, and memorizing the books of the Bible was a single, then they got a double by reciting The 10 Commandments, a triple was Psalm 1, and the home run was the Romans Road. It was fun, but it was work.

Bless you, Susan! May your tribe increase! Woo hoo!

"The Midrash Detective"

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