Vaccines have understandably taken on a new wonder recently. It’s the thing that appears to be bringing about a lowering of illness and death, and the reason we are starting to have more freedoms.
As a ex nurse, I’ve always been a believer in all vaccines. They are a good thing. A dead, weakened or synthetically produced version of a virus is injected into a human to produce a resistance to the real virus. Genius!
But when you put the idea of vaccination into a spiritual context, it’s not so good.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you give our children and young people a watered down or dead version of faith, the Bible or even God, then what you are essentially doing is vaccinating them against the real thing. God becomes a faded version of His true glory, and faith is made weak and close to death
I believe in giving good theology to our children and young people, but sadly we have had years of each generation being given a watered down ‘tweeology’ instead, meaning there are a lot of adults that have either been vaccinated against the real thing and left the church, or who are teaching the same watered-down version to the next generation.
What do I mean by ‘Tweeology’? Well, I mean a lot of things. It can take the form of bible stories and verses ripped out of context; it can be only giving half the story about what faith in Jesus means. It can mean making faith ‘me’ centric rather God centric.
Well – that sounds cheerful doesn’t it?! I’m not one for negativity normally, as it rarely achieves anything. But, I need to state the situation as it is.
Why do we need good theology?
In 1 Peter 3:15 we are tasked to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. And then told to “do this with gentleness and respect”.
You need to know your Bible to do that.
A couple of years ago I had the privilege of teaching a large group of children’s leaders and the subject of the seminar was “Teaching the Whole Story of the Bible”. A subject I love!
A large portion of the group didn’t know how the Exodus and Passover linked to Jesus. In fact, many didn’t know that many parts of the Old Testament point to Jesus. And on that subject, I’ve even seen a great version of a children’s story bible rejected by children’s workers because it kept mentioning Jesus in the Old Testament stories.
This is basic but important theology. It helps us make sense of Jesus and the cross, and without it the faith vaccination programme continues.
Here’s some examples of some theology we need to think about if we work with children:
Theology tells us who chose who – did we choose to follow Jesus, or did God choose us?
Theology shows us why and to whom we pray – are we talking to God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit? Or is it to God, through the Holy Spirit, because of Jesus?
Theology tells us about children and young people coming to faith – what do you believe about how that happens?
We need to know what God thinks and the Bible says (The same thing actually!) about all sorts of things and that’s theology.
We need to know how to pass these things on to the next generation in a way that shows the awesomeness of God, builds spiritual resilience when life gets tough and allows our children to wrestle with the big question of life and faith.
Is this vaccination against faith reversible? Yes, there is an antidote to it. Teach the bible carefully with respect and faith. Prepare well and allow children to ask questions and ponder for themselves. And that’s just for starters.
In the whole of a child’s week, we have very little time with them.
Let’s make it count.