Tonight is our 32nd week of teaching Jonah. Just two more weeks and we will finally be finished! Several people have asked me what in the world I am teaching that is making it take so long to get through the story of Jonah. I mean, we have all had the story of Jonah taught to us over and over as a child and it's a pretty simple story. God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah says no and gets on a ship to Tarshish, A huge storm threatens to destroy the ship, the sailors throw Jonah overboard, Jonah gets swallowed by the whale, Jonah prays and gets right with God , the whale spits him up, Jonah goes to Nineveh and tells God's message, God doesn't destroy Nineveh and Jonah throws attitude. Shouldn't take more than a lesson or two to teach, right? The thing is, I'm not surface teaching the story, I'm deep teaching the story.
Sadly today, we are seeing kids grow up in church and when they hit the teenage years they really struggle with their faith and what church teaches them. It is during the teen years we see our church kids and bus kids in full out rebellion and it is during those years we see the bus kids stop coming to church and the church kids, although they're in church, they are tuning out the teaching and preaching. As they continue to grow, over half of those church kids will stop coming to church as adults. This trend of young people leaving our churches is so disturbing and I hear so many church leaders blame it on the society the kids are being raised in. Although I do know that society and the decline of morals do affect our kids, what if the real problem was we are too busy surface teaching our kids and giving them the fluff of the Bible? What if our teaching is so lacking in building a strong foundation in their young years that when the teen pastor comes and tries to build on that foundation, the foundation is unsteady and can't hold up the weight of heavier doctrine and truth.
2 Timothy 3:16 - All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
This verse is not only for teens or adults but also for children. We do not think that our kids can learn deep doctrine and Bible truths so we teach them the same Bible stories with the same lesson year, after year, after year, after year..... David and Goliath, Jonah and the whale, Daniel and the lions den, Adam and Eve, Noah's ark, the Ten commandments, Moses and the plagues of Egypt. These are all amazing stories and our children should know them but what are they really learning about these stories? Are they just learning the surface lessons and not the deep doctrinal lessons of these stories? It is the doctrine of the Word of God that helps build strong foundations that everything we do in life will be built on.
By taking Jonah verse by verse we have learned about who God is, His characteristics, his attributes, how we fail as people, how we, too often have attitudes and emotions that God does not like and what God want us to do as we follow Him in obedience.
Look at how we can break down a couple of verses and get so much out of it.
Jonah 1:1 - Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
In this verse we learned why the Bible says LORD instead of YHWH (Yaweh, Jehovah). We were able to talk how God's name used to be so Holy and revered that people thought it disrespectful to say God's real name aloud. We were able to talk about how God's name is used now and how we should and shouldn't use God's name. Out of that verse we also talked about what a prophet was, who Jonah was and how God talks to each of us.
In Jonah 1:2 we looked at what God specifically told Jonah to do and we were able to talk about how God tells us in His Word what we are to do too! Jonah 1:2 also describes Nineveh and their wickedness and how that wickedness came before God. We talked what wickedness was, how all our deeds good and bad come before God and how God is Holy and hates wickedness and sin.
We talked about obedience in Jonah 1:3 and how God wants complete obedience all the time and just as Jonah had to pay the fare to Tarshish, we pay a price when we disobey and run from God. Two times in the verse it tells us that Jonah was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, and when God tells us something twice in the same verse we better pay attention. This then led us to talk about God being omnipresent and a few other things we found in the verse.
Every verse in Jonah has been a wealth of knowledge, doctrine and truth and if I truly want to teach the kids about God and His Word, I need to dig deep into His truth and talk about everything we see in each verse. Each week we have slowly been going over one or two verses and pulling everything we can out of those verses. Some people asked if the kids have gotten bored with teaching so slowly and methodically but the answer is no, the kids are loving it and hate when class time ends. I am loving see the kids beg for just one more verse or bringing up something they see in the verse or how the verse applies to something that happened at school. Jonah has become more than a surface story to them and that has been my goal!
We need to look over what our kids are being taught and be sure they are not being surface taught the fluffy stories that are fun to learn but lack the depth of truth and doctrine that God has put into each story. We want our children to grow to be strong Christian adults with a solid foundation so that the world and society will not be able to knock them down with every new idea that comes up. But in order to do that we need to be intentional about what we're teaching them. Teach them doctrine, instruct them deeply in scripture, give them reproof and correction and then watch as they bloom and grow into the next generation of church leaders who know the difference between fluffy surface teaching and doctrine and truth.