Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Journey to Jesus Hearer stage - long overdue

I apologize for taking forever to add the next installment of this series... I was at the Ecclesia National Gathering (you can hear all the sessions here), and then we had family in town for Geoff's ordination and my consecration at Life on the Vine. Catching up on homeschool, stuff around the house, and preparing a sermon kept me from posting again with any kind of promptness. Ah well... carry on!

I explained the overview of Journey to Jesus, outlined the four stages of conversion, and then talked about the need for conversion. These beginning discussions complete the "seeker" stage. At this point, the kids are introduced to the community as ones who are discerning baptism. We ask the congregation to talk with them, to encourage them, to pray for them as they discern.

Following the "seeker" stage, we move into the "hearer" stage, where we take time to explore the major beliefs of our community. In our community, we are still largely focusing on the Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed and our church mission statement.

The Apostle's Creed is chock full of great doctrinal statements that, in itself, could take a series of weeks. Instead of studying it line by line, my goal is to help the kids see how it's organized, recognize that it is like the 'cheat sheet' of scripture, and commit it to memory.

We break the structure into three sections: belief in God the Father, belief in Jesus the Son, belief in the Holy Spirit. By asking the simple question, "what does the Apostle's Creed say about God as Father / Son / Holy Spirit?" we tease out the major creedal statements. The last section only has one line about the Holy Spirit. This seems out of proportion to the discussion of God as Father and Son (especially Son). However, I like to point out that none of the things that follow "I believe in the Holy Spirit" are possible without the Holy Spirit: the universal church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, life everlasting.

Now that we've explored what the creed says, I ask, "why would it be important to have this memorized?" By discussing various statements they might hear or read, the kids begin to see that having a memorized 'cheat sheet' of the 'non-negotiable' beliefs about God, they are better able to recognize things that don't line up with scripture without having to memorize the whole Bible. For example: Jesus was just a good guy, our bodies don't matter, our church is the only church, God keeps track of every bad thing you do, the universe began by chance.

To memorize, I write the creed on a dry erase board and we do an old-fashioned technique of chanting and erasing until we've got most of it. The kids take turns erasing words or phrases and we keep chanting it together until we run out of time (or out of words to erase). I encourage them to say it as a family every day for the coming week (helping parents memorize if they don't know it).

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