Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Journey to Jesus - Stage One: The Seeker

If you haven't read the first post, start there to make sense of this.

The Seeker stage is designed to be a period of evangelism for those who are "seeking" the good news and the life of Jesus. For our community, this is generally kids who are between the ages of 9 and 12. They have been hanging around our community because they have been coming with their parents. As kids, they have been participating in our Children's Worship and have been exposed to many of the core stories of the Bible: Creation, the Flood, the call of Abraham, the Exodus, the tabernacle, Israel demanding a king, the building of the temple, the destruction of the temple, birth of Jesus, miracles of Jesus, institution of the Lord's Supper, Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension, and Pentecost.

Having been concrete, black & white thinkers, they are now beginning to be capable of abstract thought and shades of gray. However, they still need a lot of concrete bridges to get to make sense of the abstract thinking. Because of this need, I often begin our times together with some kind of concrete story or activity and then draw connections to an abstract idea. There's a reason why object lessons work well with kids, especially at this age!

For our first session, I have used Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a jumpstart to a conversation about conversion. It's obviously an imperfect connection and the parallels are a stretch and definitely fall short, but they provide a launching pad (and it's fun to watch kids who are 'too old' for this story enjoy hearing it again).

Before I read the book to them, I ask them to consider what this book might possibly have to do with them and their life of faith. In other words, "why on earth am I reading you this book?"

When I finish reading it, I let them tell me why I read it to them. The answers vary and can be quite interesting. We talk about what the caterpillar did to prepare for becoming a butterfly. We talk about his stomach ache after eating a bunch of junk food and how he felt better after he ate the nice green leaf. He spun his cocoon (actually, a chrysalis for those butterfly experts out there) and he waited. He could not turn himself into a butterfly. Eventually, one of them will usually arrive at the conclusion that the caterpillar's transformation into a butterfly has something to do with their desire to become baptized members of our community. Of course there are major differences and no metaphor is perfect, but we generally have an interesting discussion.

This conversation serves as a springboard into an explanation of the four stages of conversion (from Webber):
- recognize that I am a sinner (Romans 1:18-20; 3:10-23)
- repent from my sin and turn toward Christ (Romans 7:18-8:2)- faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:24-26; Romans 8)
- walk in obedience daily (Ephesians 3:16-4:32)

I ask them to spend time in the coming week, talking with their parents about ways they recognize their own sin and slavery to sin (Romans 7) and questions they have about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Because these kids have had exposure to the concept of the tabernacle / temple and sacrifice, they can generally grasp the concept of substitutionary atonement. However, the "God With Us" thrust of the whole story of God is not always as clear. Throughout the journey together, I am constantly wanting them to see the significance of God made flesh, dwelling among us, God's Spirit within us, always with us, always enlivening us and always enabling us.

Next post: Eikons - made in the image of God.

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