One of the questions that I struggle with on a regular basis has to do with sharing the Good News in a way that stays true to the gospel but is also relevant within both the cultural context of my ministry field.
As I read Sam Williamson’s book, Is Sunday School Destroying our Kids? How Moralism Suffocates Grace (Ann Arbor, MI: Beliefs of the Heart Press, 2013) I kept recognizing myself, and some other pastors that I have known over the years. Sometimes, but not always, that’s a good thing. Let’s just say that I wish I hadn’t been so easily recognizable in this book, because most of those instances fell into the “not always” category.
Williamson points out what I see as an all too frequent problem: we dummy down the Bible in an attempt to make it more attractive. We gloss over the unsavory parts, and focus on the parts that we think will make us better people. Hello! The main reason Jesus died on the cross, is because human beings aren't capable of making themselves good enough. Yet, as the author points out, we tell the stories of bible heroes and then ask our kids to live up to some impossibly high standard based on those stories. Be as faithful as Abraham; be as good as Joseph, have a pure heart like David did, be obedient like Esther. (And if you do all that, and still aren’t good, then Jesus saves.) I think, along with the author, that that’s putting things backward.
Chapter 11 (We Read the Bible the Wrong Way) sums it all up for me: “The Bible is not about us!” Williamson writes about how people tend to read the bible, as doctrine, as rules for behavior and for inspiration. Sometimes we just miss the point. Scripture has doctrine and guidelines and can be very inspirational, but “it’s not about us; [it’s] God's revelation about himself.” Try reading it through those lenses.
As I read the first couple of chapters I was intrigued, I like the way Williamson showed what he was talking about in the chapter on Esther, and was looking forward to seeing how he applied his thesis to Joseph, Abraham, and David. Then the whole tenor changed. He still writes about sharing the message that is the Gospel, but suddenly it didn't seem like we were talking Sunday school anymore.
That piece of the puzzle is solved in the afterword, “Despite its title, this book is not about Sunday school or its teachers. It’s about our daily need to remember grace.” If you’re thinking about leaving your church, please read this book before you make your decision. Read the book, apply it, and consider giving your copy to a member of your churches leadership team. Who knows what kind of miracles God has in store for you?
I requested this book from the author because I was intrigued by the title. Based on what I expected from that title, I was disappointed, based on the book itself, I was delighted. This is a short book, easy to read and full of wisdom.
I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review.