Mailbag

The Mailbag: Is “Jesus loves you” enough of the gospel?

 

I work in a parachurch organization in which I teach children. I have a passion for these kids to know God and know His Word. My direct supervisor, as well as the head of the organization, want to only emphasize God’s love and that we are ALL children of God. I am wrestling with this because I just don’t believe that I should make saying “Jesus loves you” the main message to the kids but rather the gospel in full context (of course getting down to their level but in no way changing the message). What should I do?

It’s always great to hear from someone who’s working with children and wants to put correct theology on the bottom shelf where their little hands can reach it. Thank you for serving God’s Kingdom this way!

There are three issues I think are important to address in this situation. Let’s take a look…

We are NOT “all” God’s children.
All humans are indeed made in the imago dei – the image of God. That’s definitely an important aspect of theology to teach children, and if that’s what your supervisors actually mean when they say “we’re all God’s children,” that’s super. But they need to use correct, biblical language and say “We’re all made in the image of God,” (age-appropriately explaining what that means, of course) instead of saying “We’re all God’s children.”

It’s not just a quibble over semantics. There are two very important reasons to get this right.

First, it’s simply not true on its face and you don’t want to be teaching the children a lie. I mean, Jesus once told some Jews (aka: God’s set apart people group) He was talking to, “If God were your Father, you would love me…You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” So, obviously, people fall into one of two categories: you’re either a child of God or you’re a child of the devil. Just as a person has to be physically born into a family or adopted into a certain family in order for that particular mom and dad to be her parents and for her to be their daughter, “you must be born again,” – a spiritual birth (and adoption) – in order for God to be your Father and you to be His child.

Second, saying “We’re all God’s children,” smacks of universalism.  Universalism is basically the idea that everybody goes to Heaven when they die. No repentance is necessary, no belief in Christ, it doesn’t matter what religion you are, if any. If this is what your supervisors are teaching or wanting you to teach, I would encourage you to find employment elsewhere. This is blasphemous false doctrine that no Christian organization or its employees should be teaching.

Teaching the WHOLE gospel
Jesus loves you” is part of the gospel, and one that we need to make sure we’re including any time we share the gospel with others. It is only because of the amazing, unfathomable love of God that Christ came to earth to die in the first place. Without the love of God there would be no gospel at all. However, it is not the entirety of the gospel. The gospel also includes the components of sin, repentance, faith, and forgiveness.

Since this is a Christian organization you work for, I’m unclear on why (assuming they’re not universalists) your supervisors would not want the whole gospel taught to the children. Only three possible reasons come to mind:

1. They’re concerned that the children are too young to understand sin, repentance, faith, and forgiveness.
You didn’t mention the specific age of the children you’re working with, but I got the impression from your original message to me that they are elementary school aged. I have six children of my own and have taught every age level of children from birth through high school in church, parachurch, and school settings for most of my adult life, and I can tell you that elementary school aged children are perfectly capable of grasping these concepts when they’re explained at an age-appropriate level.

I would think anyone qualified to be in a supervisory capacity at an organization like yours would – as an experienced professional – know that children this age can intellectually handle these concepts, and would – as a Christian – want them to know the whole gospel so they can be saved and take the gospel home to their families.

2. They’re concerned anything more than a generic “Jesus loves you,” is going to offend some of the parents.
Tough. The gospel is offensive to sinners. They need to get over that fear of man right quick. And it’s not like the parents were tricked into putting their kids into a program they didn’t know was Christian, right? (By the way, this is not the tone I’d recommend using when speaking to your supervisors :0)

3. You’re spending too much of your time evangelizing the kids instead of teaching them the main topic(s) they’re there to learn.
That’s not the impression of you that I got from your original message, but just make sure that, if, for example, you were hired to teach the kids how to play kickball, you’re teaching them how to play kickball, not turning every practice session into a Bible study.

Honestly, I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around why any organization that openly bills itself as “Christian” would only want part of the gospel presented. I would suggest sitting down with your supervisors and asking them politely why they don’t want the whole gospel presented to the children at appropriate times in age-appropriate ways. Perhaps they have a good, biblical reason for it, but I’m at a loss to imagine what it is.

Submitting to authority
Submission to authority is a big theme in the New Testament. Christians submit to God’s authority, wives submit to our husbands’ authority, church members submit to the authority of their pastors and elders, as citizens we submit to our civil authorities, and, in the present day, we understand the passages about slaves submitting to their masters in light of the employee/employer relationship.

In God’s structure of authority, He is always at the top. So if any other authority in your life – husband, boss, government, pastor, etc. – wants you to do something that conflicts with God’s written Word, your response must be the same as Peter’s: “I must obey God rather than men.”

I’m still unclear as to whether or not your employers are asking you to do something that conflicts with God’s Word. After talking it over with them, praying about it, talking to your husband about it (if you’re married), and possibly seeking counsel from your pastor or a mature sister in Christ at your church, if you come to the conclusion that your supervisors are not asking you to disobey God’s Word, then the proper godly response is for you to submit to their authority and joyfully do as they ask. If you come to the conclusion that they are asking you to disobey God’s Word, prayerfully ask to meet with them again, and kindly, with Scripture, explain to them that you cannot in good conscience truncate the gospel. Perhaps God will open their eyes and they will change their policy. If not, it might be an appropriate time to tender your two week’s notice.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I correct my boss’s errant theology?

 

I work in a Christian child care facility where the leadership is neck deep in false doctrine. Nearly a year ago, I stepped out of the classroom and into a management position so now I feel I’m more on the front lines. Most of the people believing all the false teaching (Bethel, Hillsong, Todd White, Sarah Young, etc.) are gone but the big boss is still in it. I’ve been bold to speak out against it to some of the young women who work there, but when it comes to my boss, I’m a lot less bold. So I guess my question is, am I wrong for not standing up to her and pointing out her error? I’m afraid I’ll get fired. What are your thoughts on this? Should I be bold and point out error? Should I even be working there?

Sounds like a sticky and uncomfortable spot to be in. Maybe we can sort things out a little.

Let’s start by remembering whose authority you’re under. First, you’re under God’s authority, so you need to make sure your highest priority is obeying Scripture regardless of the circumstances. If you’re married, your next authority is your husband. Make sure the two of you talk it through thoroughly and that you submit to any decisions he makes. You (and maybe your husband too) might want to bounce this situation off your pastor or elders and see what their counsel is. There’s wisdom in an abundance of counselors. Finally, at work, you are under your boss’s authority. She is not a friend or a co-worker, she is your boss. The two of you are not equals, you’re subordinate to her in the workplace. “Boldly” telling her she’s wrong about something (especially if it’s in regard to something that’s not work related) is not in keeping with God’s instruction to you to submit to her authority.

I’m not really clear on whether the false doctrine is a personal belief held by your boss that has no effect on the workplace, or whether the false doctrine is workplace policy. In other words, the false doctrine is part of the classroom curriculum you have to teach, or employees are required to take part in Word of Faith type devotions and contemplative prayer every morning, or in your role as administrator you have to do business with heretical “churches,” etc. So let’s take a look at it from both angles.

If the false doctrine is not affecting your work environment and is only a personal belief held by your boss, it is not necessary, and may not be wise, to proactively push the issue any more than you would be pushy about sharing the gospel with your boss if she were a garden variety lost person. It’s something that needs to be handled carefully and with wisdom about timing, how deep to go, etc. A good rule of thumb might be to address the issue only if she brings it up and asks for your opinion.

If it’s a situation where she’s constantly pushing the false doctrine on you and assuming you’re amenable to it, one way to handle it might be to say something like, “I’m kind of uncomfortable talking about this right now. Could I take you out to lunch and explain why?” At lunch, you’ll need to briefly, carefully, and biblically explain where you stand from the perspective of, “These are my personal beliefs,” helping her to grasp that when she pushes her personal beliefs (i.e. false doctrine) on you, you feel pressured and uncomfortable because you want to please her as your boss (the Bible teaches us that we’re to submit to those in authority over us and work hard for our employers), but you also don’t want to compromise your beliefs (“We must obey God rather than men.”) Hopefully she will get the message that she’s creating a hostile work environment and will tone it down. If she doesn’t, you’ll need to consider whether or not you want to keep working there.

If the false doctrine is part of workplace policy, you’ll need to figure out how pervasive it is and whether or not it’s something that can be worked around in accord with biblical principles and your conscience. If the false doctrine pretty much permeates your job (for example, if you were a teacher and it was interwoven into the curriculum you had to teach), it’s probably time to start looking for another job, and to make an appointment with you boss and politely explain why you’ll no longer be working there.

If it’s only a small part of your (otherwise doctrinally sound) job – for example, the aforementioned morning devotions – see if there’s a workaround. Employees are given all kinds of exemptions and accommodations these days, even for religious reasons. Perhaps you could be excused from the devotions or a co-worker could handle business with the heretical “churches” while you take on another task. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all,” Romans 12:18 says. Be as cooperative and flexible as you can.

If you decide to stay at your job, the best way you can have an impact on your boss is by being a godly example. Pray fervently that God would open her eyes to the false doctrine she’s believing. Ask God to give you opportunities to slip in a doctrinally sound “word fitly spoken” in conversation from time to time. Be an “above and beyond” employee with a great attitude. Show kindness to your boss and co-workers, asking how you can pray for them, inquiring after their families, health, etc. Give doctrinally sound books as office Christmas gifts. Invite your boss and co-workers to an occasional event at your church. Suggest a doctrinally sound podcast you love if the topic comes up. There are lots of ways you can have a biblical influence on you boss. It doesn’t necessarily have to be “confront or quit.”


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Titus 2

titus 2 3 4

Titus 2

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, andsubmissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Who wrote the book of Titus? Who was the audience of the book of Titus? Which genre of biblical literature is Titus (history, poetry, epistle, etc.)? What is the theme of Titus? If you have a few minutes, read the whole book – all three chapters (the longest of which is 16 verses) – of Titus.

2. In verses 2-12 Paul addresses character attributes that certain people are to display. Who are the people, and what are the attributes he mentions for each? What are the similar or dissimilar attributes these people are to display? How does the word “likewise” (3,6) connect similar attributes?

O____ M__ (2):

O____ W____ (3):

Y____ W____ (4-5):

Y____ M__ (6):

T____ (“yourself”) (7-8):

B________ (9-10):

A__ P____ (11-12):

3. Verses 3-5 outline two very important roles for older and younger women in the church. What is the role of older women? Younger women? Examine the things older women are to teach and younger women are to learn. What are some practical ways you can carry out these instructions in your life and in the church as an older or younger woman?

4. How can we apply Paul’s instructions to “bondservants” (9-10) to our lives today? What can we learn from these verses about being a godly employee?

5. What do verses 5, 8, 10, and 14, tell us is the reason for believers to be people of godly character? What is the main idea of this chapter?