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My daughter Rebecca volunteered as a tutor last semester to help a young girl who had great difficulty reading.

The little girl really struggled with phonics. She didn’t know why certain letter combinations made certain sounds, so simply telling her what a word was and have her repeat it was not a viable long term solution. She needed help understanding why words sounded like they did.

In Paul’s letter to Ephesus he said that he didn’t want the church to be “children who are carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning or by craftiness of deceitful schemes.” (v14). In the same way that phonics help our kids understand why pronunciation is right or wrong, sound doctrine helps our kids identify whether or not biblical teaching is right or wrong.

I do a lot of thinking about the kids who run around in the gym after our services. I also think about our high school and university students who come up for air from their studies to worship with us on Sundays.

One day, many of those kids will have kids and grandkids. One day I’ll be gone and someone else will pick up the serving towel and preach Christ to the folks at Redeemer.

While visions and ministry expressions are helpful, they are far from foundational. In fact, in and of themselves, vision and ministry expressions are entirely expendable. The church needs to rest on an immovable foundation – and that foundation is called gospel doctrine.

Some prominent pastors in large churches have publicly argued that doctrine gets in the way of ‘doing church’ because doctrine is just ‘academic stuff’. Many point to the thousands in their congregations as proof. I disagree. I don’t think that equating church size with orthodoxy is a good idea. Who am I to disagree? Well I should think the answer is obvious – I am nobody.

The gospel can only be understood, celebrated, defined and preserved by doctrine.

Having no use for doctrine is a doctrine. Historically speaking, when the church has said “what matters most is how you live” never led anywhere good … because that’s the doctrine of salvation by works.

If doctrine didn’t matter, the book of Galatians wouldn’t be a thing. Paul would have just said, “They are adding things to the gospel and calling that the gospel? Whatever. The church in Galatia seems to be growing, so obviously God is in it.”

We wouldn’t drive over bridges built by engineers who had no interest in physics but had a passion for drawing things.

We wouldn’t go to a doctor  who had no interest in biology but had a passion for cutting people open.

We wouldn’t get on a plane being piloted by someone who thought mathematics was just a huge distraction from the utter excitement of going down the runway at 400mph.

We would move to another school district before sending our children to be taught by someone who loved children but had an aversion to grammar and reading because there was too much think work involved.

Christ is the key that opens the scriptures, our eyes and our hearts. (Luke 24)

I want the next generation at Redeemer to grow up knowing God’s grace and having a real passion to continually pursue it’s depths. I want our kids to think critically about what they believe and why they believe it. And the generation after that … and the one after that…

I truly believe that the inquiring minds of the millennial generation is a great thing for the church in Canada. They aren’t afraid to ask difficult questions. They want to think deeply. They can fact check statements that we make in our sermons on their smart phones.

They’re ‘e-Berean’. It’s fantastic.

While doctrine is essential, I’m not advocating we turn Sunday morning into a seminary lecture.

Even though I won’t have anything to say that’s worth listening to without sound doctrine, corporate worship is not an academic exercise.

Corporate worship is for shining a spotlight on Christ’s grace and for proclaiming His jaw-dropping gospel so the church leaves liberated, celebrating that their sins are absolved. Anything less than that isn’t worth getting out of bed for on a Sunday morning.

Sound doctrine is like the steel beams in a magnificent building. It is underneath everything, informing everything, supporting everything and in the end, determining how the scriptures are presented for all to see and enjoy.

Because Sunday morning is not a seminary classroom, churches will often provide other classes or venues for learning the scriptures in a systematic way. At Redeemer for example, we host study groups and symposiums in a cafe’ in our city where our members come to discuss doctrine more deeply, debate and ask provoking questions about their faith.

What I am advocating for is that we teach our children sound doctrine so that they can rest in the grace of Christ that we have come to enjoy.

The more our spirits are strengthened and refreshed by God’s grace, the greater our desire will be to teach it to our children so that they can share in it.

All of our children will have to deal with life and death stuff. Thankfully, sound gospel doctrine is big enough to handle the life and death stuff.

We must give our churches and our children what they can’t get in the Self Help section at Chapters or in a TedTalk. Thankfully, God’s Word can bear the weight of their toughest questions, their biggest fears and their deepest sorrows.

We can claim that grace is super-dee-duper-dee amazing … but without sound doctrine we can’t really explain why or how. We won’t be able to explain why God’s grace is still amazing when they’re going through a gut-wrenching tragedy or how God’s grace won’t get old, Sunday after Sunday.

As our kids wrestle with their faith and work through their doubts, they need to be given something substantial enough to appeal to their intellect and powerful enough to minister to their hearts.

Christ’s gospel and the doctrines of His grace are big enough to handle the weight of that burden.

Resources for families …

I’ll share just a few resources that I hope would serve you as parents teach your families. First a word on catechisms and then a few great books for your consideration.

After the protestant reformation, consensus documents were formed to serve the church so that successive generations could not be easily misled by whatever the next doctrine was that blew into the church world.

The confessions were not written by one or two men, but large councils comprised of protestant theologians, historians and linguistic experts in both Hebrew and Greek. Those councils represented the entire ecumenical church at the time of the Reformation.

The Reformation catechisms (Greek for ‘teachings’) serve as doctrinal guides. These teachings do not carry the full authority of scripture, they are faithful summaries that systematically teach the scriptures.

Our family does a variety of things around the dinner table. We have used the Heidelberg Catechism on occasion because it is poetic and has a simple, basic flow:

OUR GUILT  >   GOD’s GRACE   >   OUR GRATITUDE

We also use the New City Catechism both in our home in our Biblical Foundations Class for the students at Redeemer. It is available in an app and I highly recommend it. It combines the Heidelberg, Westminster and Belgic confessions, putting the teachings in simple language. Each teaching also has a ‘kid version’ that is quite short and easy for kids to follow.

Susan thoroughly enjoys the Mockingbird Devotional which has 365 devos that are short, poignant and gospel rich. Occasionally we read excerpts around our dinner table to spark discussion.

Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson is an engaging, solid read. He takes really big doctrinal concepts and puts them on the ground in a way that’s clear and easy to grasp.

These are a few examples of things that would nourish you and equip you to teach your family about God’s grace in fresh ways. You can also check out other resources I recommend for families here.

Breathe easy parents – your kids are God’s kids. He’s got them.

As you minister the gospel to your family, let me give you an encouraging reminder: God’s love for our children stretches even further than our own.

As parents we often feel ill equipped, but be encouraged – God’s ability to save and sustain our children is greater than our ability to mess everything up … saving people has always been His jam.

May you enjoy God’s grace with  increasing depth and share God’s grace with increasing confidence.

Press on,

Paul

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