We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Awana Concerns, Part 2

This is an examination of the Awana 6th Grade Bible study book on Acts, Trek: His People.  As with the 3rd grade book, there are a lot of inane requests for the student to draw pictures and such busy work, including photographing things, which have nothing to do with the topic.  There is also a lot of focus on having the student to be serving the church in some way and making him feel guilty if he isn’t.  Due to the fact that our culture keeps children immature and childish until long after college, 6th-graders as a whole are not really equipped to do much service for the church, and it is unfair — and inappropriate — to put such pressures on them.  While a large percentage of the text of this book is just fine, the bad sections are like a drop of cyanide in a glass of water.

Here is my page-by-page analysis of problems with the 6th-grade text.

Page 3.  Discussing how God used numerous people to preach the gospel: He wouldn’t use a single person but rather teams and teams of people.  Fellowships would reach the world with His message.  This life that He created for us would only function best according to His original design when He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.
This is a blatant abuse and misuse of Scripture.  This passage in Genesis has ONE meaning and that was to give the man Adam a “helpmeet” - a mate, a companion.  It is about giving man a woman, so that the entire human race would have men with women so as to not be alone, and it was in the context of the union of these two as a beginning of the institution of marriage.  Using this passage the way this “study” does teaches a horrible hermeneutic principle.

Page 3.  They would begin to establish the kingdom of God here on earth…
Luke 17:21 says that “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (NIV)  
The apostles were not establishing what Christ already said was here.

Page 4.  As with the 3rd grade text, this one also has inane busy work to supposedly teach a lesson about the Church.  Page 4 gives three choices of a “mission” for the student to “complete an act of service” for someone.  The choices are to help someone in your home “like washing dishes and folding all the laundry,” or to help “Someone in your community (like donating clothing or food to a shelter),” or to help “Someone in the world (like sending a care package to a local missionary through your church).”
This is nothing more than the social gospel and has absolutely nothing to do with the study of the book of Acts.  The next page is about asking a leader or parent for other ideas, what you did, what abilities you used and what your “mission outcome” was.  The student was also told to “Think about how your mission would be accomplished differently if combined with the abilities of other people in your group.”  This is a total waste of the student’s time because it has noting to do with Acts.

Page 6.  [Luke] also tells us what Jesus said to His followers before He left: “Don’t go anywhere. This story is only just beginning. Wait till you see what happens next!”  
I’d really like to know where they find this in the Bible.  The book doesn’t say this is a paraphrase, rather the implication is that this is a quote.  Then it says, Specifically, Jesus gave them a mission: “Go and tell My story to the world.”  Again, implying this is a direct quote, especially with the use of the word “specifically.” This is very poor teaching, adding to what the Bible actually says.

Page 7.  Luke became one of those super-powered gospel tellers.  
Um, no.  He did not have super powers.  This is a childish way to explain the facts. 

Page 9What has God asked you to do with His power?  Why would we ever try to do what He asks without His power?  
Is the book suggesting that the students are receiving direct revelation from God asking them to do something?  How are they supposed to know what God has asked them to do, besides what the Bible says all Christians are to do?  This sounds very much like they are promoting charismatic beliefs.

Page 37.  A key part of church life is fellowship, especially eating and praying together.  
I don’t find anywhere in Scripture where it says eating together is a key part of fellowship life.  Perhaps the author misunderstood the communion as being “eating” together.  The Bible does point out that the N.T. believers did eat together, but that doesn’t mean it is a “key part.”
Work with one of your parents to help prepare a meal for your family.  You don’t have to do everything but you should participate in cooking, setting the table, and serving the food.  Also, before you begin eating, say a prayer of blessing over the food.  If possible, take a picture of the food and the table before you eat together
What has any of this to do with Christian fellowship?  Nothing.  They took the idea that eating together is an important part of fellowship and transferred it to helping with a meal at home.  This is teaching poor biblical hermeneutics.  And what about taking a photo of the food?!?!  Busy work to do what with — post on Facebook?

Page 38.  Remember J.R.R. Tolkiens’s first book in the Lord of the Rings series? It’s called “The Fellowship of the Ring,” and it’s the story of nine very different people on a journey together to accomplish a specific and dangerous mission.
Seriously? How many 6th graders have read the book?  Few, I’m guessing.  Possibly by this age they’ve seen the movie, but my guess is that most have not.  Using a worldly story with which they may not even be familiar is a poor example for an analogy about a “fellowship.”

Page 41The early Christians didn’t go to church. They did life together in all kinds of ways.  They thought of themselves as belonging to Christ and to each other.  They rearranged their schedules and their finances and their relationships to be there for each other.
Yes they did “go to church” in the same way we “go to church” — they assembled together in various places just as we do.  Did they “rearrange” their schedules to do so?  We have no evidence of this so this is just something the authors made up. 

Page 49.  A man unable to walk from the day he was born asks Peter for money.  Instead, Peter heals the man in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  It’s no wonder all the people were filled with wonder and amazement.  Jesus might have walked past this man numerous times during His years on earth.  What are some possible reasons that He didn’t heal the man until this moment?
Now the author of this book speculates that Jesus walked by a cripple and ignored him.  There is absolutely no biblical warrant for this, let alone speculations as to why Jesus ignored Him!  This is horrendous teaching!

Page 50.  Peter and John got busted by the Jewish religious leaders for healing and teaching in the name of Jesus.
“Busted”?!?!  What sort of dumbing down language is this?!?!  All the leaders did was to bring Peter and John before them and challenge them to no longer teach or speak in Jesus’ name, and threatened them to stop.  No one was “busted.”

Page 53.  A couple weeks ago you helped make dinner for your family.  Now it’s time to make lunch for a friend. Contact a friend and tell him you want to make lunch for him tomorrow.  Ask him what he would like to eat (based on the food you have in your house).  Make the lunch and bring it to him.
You then need to record your experience and take a photo of your friend with the food, just like they had the student do with the family meal!!  What has this to do with learning about the Church?!?!?  What if the student is living in a home where they are doing good just to have food for themselves?!?!  Ostensibly the idea is to learn generosity, but you don’t contrive situations to teach that.  This is just more busy work which reeks of the social gospel.

Page 57.  In what way does your church serve the poor in your community?
The context of this is, of course, regarding how the early church shared resources among one another.  First, we have to remember that this is descriptive rather than prescriptive.  It was because the Christians had to stick together to survive where they were being quickly seen as outcasts.  Nevertheless, the poor in the local community shouldn’t be a focus of the Church unless they have already taken care of the poor IN THE CHURCH (Gal. 6:9-10).  Too often churches are all about helping the poor, but it is the social gospel they are preaching and they ignore the needy within their own or neighboring congregation.

Page 58.  What are you doing right now in your life to use what you have to meet the needs of others in the church?
What a load to put on a 6th-grader!!!  I don’t know how much a 6th-grader can meet the needs of other people in the assembly.  It really has no bearing in regards to Acts 4:36-37.  The forced analogies of this book are terrible!

Page 60.  This brand-new Church would be committed to the Word of God, spend their time eating and praying … 
What is with the authors of this book and eating?!?!  Of course everyone has to eat, but that is not what distinguished the Church — they did not spend their time eating!  

Page 87.  Make a list of ways you could use those skills or hobbies [in the previous section] to contribute to the needs of your church.
Sixth-graders should not be looking for how they can help their local assembly, rather they should be concentrating on how they can help their family.

Page 91How are you serving others in your church?  And if you’re not, what are you waiting for?
How about waiting to be older than a sixth-grader so as to have some discernment and understanding of the whole assembled community?  What if the parents attend but are not involved and the student has no transport to the church building?  This puts a load of unnecessary guilt on the student.

Page 92.  Don’t wait for the perfect job for you.  Start serving, and see what God does in your life. … In what ways could you free up your church leaders to be more effective?
As stated previously, this is a real burden to put on a 6th-grader.  Really, how does an 11- or 12-year-old student “free up…church leaders to be more effective”?!?

Page 95.  Find out what events had to have happened to make you part of your family.  Ask your parents/guardians: “What event in your past, if it never happened, would have changed the course of your life so much that I wouldn’t exist?”  Record the story below.
A perfect example of inane busy work.  There is only ONE event which would prevent the child from existing and that would be that his parents never met or married.  It is ridiculous to even ask such a question, and it has nothing to do with studying the book of Acts.

Page 99.  Why do you think people who claim to believe in and follow God so often reject and rebel against the leaders God gives them?
There are bad assumptions here.  Number one, who says the leaders were given by God rather than allowed by God?  Two, what if the leaders have become false teachers or are false teachers to begin with? What if the leaders get caught up in gross sin?  Shouldn’t these be causes for rejection and rebelling against their leadership?

Page 201.  Connecting with others is part of what humanity was created to do.  Remember back in the garden when God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone”?  We were created to live life with others….
This is abusing Scripture.  As noted when the same passage was abused on page 3, that passage has one meaning, and that is that man (Adam) needed a “helper suitable for him”; it was about making woman (Eve) as a companion for man.  Abusing this passage in this manner teaches students a poor way of interpreting Scripture.

Page 254.  If you have a brother or sister, then you probably realize that you’re never going to get rid of them.
What about families which have split and siblings never see each other again?  What about when, as adults, siblings cut off all contact for various reasons?  There may be students in such situations; the person writing this statement used very poor judgment when dealing with 6th-graders.

The Awana program is ostensibly for Christian children and children of Christian parents.  It is true that many unbelievers or those from unbelieving families attend, but that isn’t the focus — nor should it be.

Awana should not just be about Bible verse memorization, rather it should also be about teaching proper ways to interpret Scripture.  When the authors of these books abuse Scripture they teach the students to also make the Scripture say what they want it to say.  Awana should also teach discernment, but when the authors add to the teachings of Scripture their own ideas, then they are teaching the students to do the same.

Lastly, 11- and 12-year-olds are able to learn deeper understandings of the Bible and do not need “dumbed-down” lessons with games and drawings and taking photos (what if the student doesn’t even have a camera?), nor do they need feel-good self-focused exercises.

Awana needs to seriously consider cleaning up these textbooks and teach what the Bible says and how to understand it, and leaving out all the fluff and nonsense.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is in the new AWANA curriculum? What a mess! I agree with your assessment.

One of your previous commenters (in your other AWANA post) said they thought Saddleback 'church' was involved in the rewrite. I would believe it, based on these direct quotes you posted from the AWANA book. The misuse of Scripture, the weak theology, the "hipster" phraseology, use of worldly/pop culture references, and the emphasis on works, works, works, all are hallmarks of the market driven philosophy.

While I believe all children should be taught the truth of the Christian faith, everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that Jesus' command to go and make disciples was given to MATURE BELIEVING ADULTS, not to children. Saved adults should be teaching, serving, and training up the next generation. Children should be doing what God said children are to do: learn. However, the children still need to be regenerated by God, and matured in the faith, before they can be used in the service of the Lord. So this AWANA curriculum is not only placing undue emphasis on works, but it's also assuming the child is regenerate, which they may not even be. Teaching an unbelieving child to "work" for God is folly.

Even if they are saved, children cannot serve in adult capacities where they lack the wisdom, discernment, and maturity to do the job correctly. Telling a 5th/6th grader to "free up their church leaders?", that is absolutely outrageous! Like you said, what a burden to place on that child!

p41, "the church did life together", ugh, another Christian cliche. Maybe they can "love on" each other, too. Ugh.

Taking pictures of food? I lol'ed and said "For what? Pinterest?" I guess we weren't far off in our thinking, you said "To post on Facebook?". HAHA.

p254 - what about the verse that says Christ will divide mother and daughter, son and father, son/daughter and inlaws, etc...? A man's own enemies will be that of his household. The Gospel divides, even families, because some believe, and some do not.

Your response to p99:
"There are bad assumptions here. Number one, who says the leaders were given by God rather than allowed by God? Two, what if the leaders have become false teachers or are false teachers to begin with? What if the leaders get caught up in gross sin? Shouldn’t these be causes for rejection and rebelling against their leadership?"

Exactly, Glenn!!! Leaders are not given by God, nor appointed by God, but PERMITTED by God, so long as they TEACH and LIVE correctly. Otherwise, believers are free to reject those false/compromised/sinning leaders and shake the dust off. But the way the market driven paradigm teaches leadership: they incorrectly believe leaders are anointed-no-matter-what, and teach that believers are to submit-no-matter-what and never question authority. It's a complete contortion of Hebrews 13:17.

Your last paragraph (conclusion) was well said.

I'm glad I'm not teaching AWANA anymore. I would flatly refuse to teach the aspects of their curriculum that you just posted here.