Foundations of Faith

Last Sunday’s children’s talk was a revelation. Many of us were brought up on the bread and butter of basic bible facts: ability to name the books of the bible, names and places, characters and stories. Clearly the current generation takes a different approach. If we were honest, many of us would admit those Sunday School lessons of rote learning were indeed a chore: things we suffered under the call for discipline. People today are much less likely to accept these things as necessary, unless a case can be put.

There is a clear danger in this unfamiliarity with scripture. It is found in the old saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him a meal. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for life.” Skeptical of ‘religion’ (as compared with notions of 'spirituality' and 'faith'), the modern person eschews such learning of facts as both uninspiring and irrelevant. But unfamiliarity with the Bible sentences us to dependence upon others to interpret the word of God on our behalf. When we want to find the heart of God on a particular matter, we don’t know where to begin. And in many cases we do not have the foundations on which to build knowledge.

All this is not said to place blame at any particular feet, but to identify a key challenge being faced in a new way, focussed in the question: “Will our children have faith?”

How do we lay these foundations in ways which are not destructive to the overall purpose? While we are tempted to say, “the old ways never hurt us,” we need to remember that we are still here. We are the ‘success stories’ of the old system. What sustained us destroyed others. What built faith in us, undermined faith in others.

Some might argue that such ‘trivial facts’ are irrelevant. I do not subscribe entirely to that notion. Children need to make their own journey in faith, but we need to give them some basic road maps and directions to start them on the way. Or to use another metaphor: we need to give them some plasticine which they can shape for themselves. If we do not introduce them to the stories of scripture, we allow the stories of our commercial world to shape them. They are not growing up in a vacuum: society knows well how to communicate its values: it does it in 30 second grabs in the middle of its entertainment. How are we communicating the faith of Jesus Christ?

This is a problem for the whole community of faith. It is epitomised in the shortage of Sunday School teachers. It takes hard work to present a lesson in an interesting and engaging way. Thank God for those amongst us who are committed to this ministry.
But we have a challenge before us. One that will not go away.

July 16, 2000
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