Tag Archives: Sunday School

Helping teens respond to questions about their faith — part 3

My friend Edgar asked for my opinion on some questions from some of his Sunday School students.  I see the same sorts of questions from adults as well.  My goal is to provide some brief, concrete answers.

First, I think it is important to have a game plan with questions like this.  Whether answering a skeptic or equipping a believer to answer the skeptic, my goal is always to give clear, thoughtful answers that address the question and then point to the word of God as quickly as possible.  When in doubt, I’d rather someone read the Bible than listen to me.  God’s word made many promises* about what it will accomplish but contains no such promises about anything I say.

I highly recommend reading Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions to learn how to navigate conversations like these (only $2.99 for the Kindle edition — you can’t afford not to buy it!).  The burden isn’t all on you, and the conversations don’t have to be hostile.  There are many ways to ask polite questions to get people thinking more carefully and to highlight their errors.

Here is the third question:

How do you deal with questions around homosexuality? This is a tricky subject because this is a high school audience and sexuality has to be taught respectfully and with sensitivities to the teens and young ladies in the classroom.

This is a huge and contentious issue, and one that Satan is using to keep people from the faith and to divide entire denominations.  Many people use the homosexual issue as an excuse not to even consider Christianity.  That may tempt some people to gloss over the topic or misstate what the Bible says.

Yes, we should be sensitive with it, but when you consider about how aggressively the world pressures us with its false views I think we should be more bold in equipping young people about the details.

Make no apologies about what the Bible really says, because it couldn’t be more clear.  Bible-believing Christians and even two out of the three types of pro-gay people** (religious or not) can see these truths:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior describe it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referring to God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).planned
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions of any kind.

Then there is the question of love.  If you really love people you won’t affirm behavior that is spiritually, emotionally and physically destructive.

But do you have to convert people to your views on homosexuality before sharing the Gospel with them?  No.  Of course you shouldn’t water down the truth, but what you really want to do is share the Gospel and let God do his work on their hearts.  As I noted in this post, you don’t have to fix someone’s sins before telling them the truth about Jesus.  The point is to let Jesus do that!  We should approach all people with humility, because we all have temptations that we’ve given into.

It is easy to quickly affirm what the Bible says (“Yes, homosexual behavior is a sin”) but then shift to the Gospel (“But even if it wasn’t a sin you would still be a sinner in need of a Savior . . .”).

Don’t be shy about pointing out the lies of the LGBTQ movement.  People aren’t “born that way,” and even if they were that wouldn’t justify acting on the behavior.  Quoting the Bible doesn’t make LGBTQ people commit suicide any more than saying “don’t get drunk” makes alcoholics kill themselves.  “Same-sex marriage” is an oxymoron and those unions can never produce children or ever provide a mother and a father to a child, so the government has no good reasons to get involved in those relationships.

Make no mistake: The LGBTQ lobby wants to silence Christians.  Lots of us may end up in jail before this is over.  It may not be long until you won’t be employable if you don’t affirm the lie that the behavior isn’t sinful.

Here are some links that go into more detail.  This is a crucial issue so I encourage people to read them.  Feel free to use the PowerPoint slides if you like (I prepared them for a series of Sunday School lessons).

Problems with pro-gay theology  

Responding to Pro-Gay Theology  

Responding to same-sex marriage arguments

PowerPoint slides: Refuting pro-gay theology

Remember that if people are sincere in their questions and aren’t just using them as excuses to justify their rebellion against God then it is completely legitimate to let them do some of their own homework, such as reading a book like Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God.

If they don’t want to do more work or read the Bible, it may be pearls-before-swine time and you should obey Jesus’ command to move on.  Pray for them and perhaps God will make them spiritually alive in the future.  You will have done your work as an ambassador and an apologist (defender of the faith):

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

* Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Isaiah 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

** The three general types of pro-gay theology people: 1. “The Bible says homosexuality is wrong but it isn’t the word of God” (obviously non-Christians) 2. “The Bible says it is wrong but God changed his mind and is only telling theological Liberals” (only about 10 things wrong with that) 3. “The Bible is the word of God but you are just misunderstanding it” (Uh, no, not really.)

More great Bible reading plans

Courtesy of our terrific Sunday School teacher, here are two very practical plans that have you reading 5 days a week.  That gives you a little cushion for days you might miss.  They start in January, but I recommend making January “month 1” and starting whenever you like.  That takes away the “I’m already behind, so I might as well wait until next year” excuse.  The key is to get into the word as regularly as you can.

One New Testament chapter per day, 5 days per week — literally 5 minutes a day (or less) gets you through the New Testament in a year.

Read the Bible in a year — this 5 day per week plan mixes things up nicely, with a reading from a Gospel, the rest of the New Testament, a Psalm or Proverb and some other Old Testament each day.

I’m really enjoying the Chronological version that I started last September.  I like how it has you reading something like David sinning with Bathsheba and then the Psalms related to that, or a history reading from Samuel followed by the same topic in Chronicles.

Re-thinking youth Sunday School

As I noted in Why do so many children leave church when they go to college?, critical thinking about faith seems to make a big difference in whether children stay in church.  A big part of that is how Sunday School is done.*

I recommend that churches re-think how they do Sunday School, at least for high school kids.  Consider these facts:

  1. In high school, kids who have taken math their entire lives still have a huge range of classes depending on aptitude and experience.  It ranges from basic math to AP Calculus.
  2. In church high school classes, it is typically a one-size-fits-all approach, even lumping multiple grades together.   Some kids have been well-educated theologically their entire lives and some are new to the faith.

So we have a huge range of high school classes for kids who have had life-long training, and a narrow range of spiritual classes for kids who have had a much wider range of training.

Keeping the kids together for many lessons and activities is fine, but it is inevitable that some kids will be bored by lowest-common denominator material (like mine were, which is why they joined another church) and some will find the material too difficult.

My youngest started attending an adult class at their new church with some of her friends. It was amazing. I’ve had the opportunity to visit myself and I love it. The teacher spent three years in 1 Peter, which at first glance sounds like a recipe for disaster. Yet the class grew and grew and attracted people who wanted meaty lessons because he was so thorough and meaningful.  She would come home every week talking about the lesson.  I’m grateful that she had the opportunity to join the class.

One of the reasons churches may lose post-high school kids is that there isn’t a stable place to study. They can’t go to the high school classes any longer, and the young adult / college classes are too transient to be meaningful.

So why can’t kids with an interest go to adult classes? Are there any Bible verses against parents learning with children? If we expect high school students to learn algebra, Shakespeare, biology, etc., why do we have to dumb down the Bible for them?

Note: I would make the distinction that we should have smaller age / experience appropriate groups (i.e., Mothers of Pre-Schoolers, accountability groups, etc.) where people can share and interact.  In this post I am speaking of basic Bible studies.


* Reminder: Sunday School has a purpose, but parents still have the primary responsibility to teach their children.  The problem is that most are biblically illiterate.  They just take kids to church and hand the responsibility off to someone else.  If they actually read the Bible they’d know they were shirking their responsibilities.

Ephesians 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

That’s my youngest daughter’s life verse, by the way, though she prefers the translation that says not to exasperate your children (she likes to tease  me by saying, “You’re exasperating me!”). In case you think I’m kidding, this is a picture of her bedroom wall.  I’m glad my kids both kept a keen sense of humor!

Evidence for the Resurrection PowerPoint slides

The physical resurrection of Jesus is foundational to Christianity:

1 Corinthians 15 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

All Christians should know this basic truth and strive to be able to defend it when asked.

1 Peter 3 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Mary Jo Sharp is a Christian apologist who created a good overview of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus that you can share with Sunday School classes and others.  See MJ’s Evidence for the Resurrection.  Go read them now.  I’ll wait here.  (Click the “Actions” menu at the bottom to download them.)

Bonus: Here’s an interview with an atheist who converted to Christianity based on the evidence for the resurrection.

Does the complexity of the Bible mean it can’t be true?

A criticism of the Bible is that it is complex and many haven’t read it all, so how can it be true?  A commenter at another blog wrote:

If even theologians can not agree what is in the bible and what is the will of the god of christians, how could the general christian population, let alone us who are not christians be expected to?

If a god expects humans to make critical decisions on their lives based on some old religious tome (and not on pop lyrics), it is an exercice bound to fail.

But consider the criminal on the cross (Luke 23), the woman at the well (John 4) or the Philippian jailer (Acts 16 — “What must I do to be saved?”) as just a few examples.  They were saved with the most basic knowledge and approach: Trusting in Jesus.  I doubt would they have won any Bible trivia contests.  They hadn’t been to seminary, taught Sunday School, etc.  But they were saved for eternity.

The key themes of the Bible are plain, but as you might expect with the most serious and important topic in the universe, there are complex matters as well.  That does not diminish the truth of the Bible at all.  I tend to agree with the saying that the plain matters of the Bible are the most important and the most important matters are plain.

And the Bible is much more clear than it is made out to be by skeptics.  For example, there are over 100 direct and indirect claims that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Are verses like this not clear? 1 John 5:12-13 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 John 2:23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.