Why do we do what we do? Check out the video below to find out LifeWay Kids’ philosophy of ministry.
The term moralistic therapeutic deism (MTD for short) has been tossed around the Christian blogosphere for a few years now, but what is it? Where did it come from? And why do you need to know it as a kids ministry leader?
In 2005, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton released a book called Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. In their book, Smith and Denton coined the term moralistic therapeutic deism to describe the “defacto dominate religion among contemporary teenagers.” MTD is a heretical system of thought that has infiltrated evangelicalism and Christianity as a whole. It is subtle and dangerous.
Let’s break it down:
Moralistic – God wants people to behave.
Therapeutic – God wants people to be happy and well-adjusted.
Deism – There is a God, but He made the world and then left it alone. God isn’t personally involved in the everyday lives of people.
On the surface, MTD doesn’t sound all that bad, right? Producing happy moral people sounds like a worthy goal. But is this the kind of Christianity the Bible teaches? Did Christ die so we could be good and well-adjusted?
In the words of the apostle Paul, “May it never be!”
God desires far more from us and for us than our good behavior and temporal happiness. Jesus Christ came into the world to redeem creation from the curse of sin. Well-behaved and well-adjusted people are not His goal. God’s plan is complete and utter transformation–not just of humanity, but creation as a whole.
When did moralistic therapeutic deism replace biblical Christianity in kids’ hearts and minds? When well-intentioned churches started spending more time telling kids what they need to do instead of telling them what Jesus Christ has already done.
We told kids they need to obey right away otherwise bad things could happen to them, like being swallowed by a great fish like Jonah. We told kids they need to be brave like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and God will protect them. We made kids memorize the Ten Commandments and then told them to work hard to keep them.
We forgot to show kids that God still used Jonah after He disobeyed and that an entire city repented of their sin and turned to God. We neglected to point kids to that fourth figure in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The one “like a son of the gods.” We forgot to tell kids that Jesus Christ kept every one of the commandments perfectly on their behalf.
Morals only go after the behavior. The gospel gets to the root of the behavior by addressing the heart. For kids to be transformed, they need to know that they are sinners. They need to know that they are far from God, but that in His love and grace, God took on human flesh to rescue them. Teach them that Jesus Christ lived the perfect, sinless life they could never live on their own. Tell them how Jesus took the punishment their sins deserve by dying on the cross in their place. Assure them that Jesus rose from the dead, defeating sin and death forever. Help kids discover that they are part of a kingdom far greater than the world they can see.
God wants more for your kids. Don’t give your kids moralistic therapeutic deism. Give them the only thing that can transform their heart. Give them the gospel of Jesus Christ.
By Kim Harris, Leadership Strategist
West Cobb Church, Marietta, GA
Three-year-old Bain stands up, grinning from ear to ear, and proudly sings the ABC song. His family is so proud! Our little great nephew is learning so much and is quickly on his way to learning how to read.
Should we pull him out of school, quit reading books to him, and stop encouraging him in his language development? … of course not! This is just the beginning for Bain and his life long journey of reading and learning.
Bain can also quote a portion of John 13:34, “Love one another.” He learned this simple Bible thought in his preschool Sunday School class. His family is equally as proud of this accomplishment. But, is this the end of his spiritual development? Of course, not! It is just the beginning.
All too often we confuse a child’s ability to quote Bible verses and facts as the goal. We figuratively dust our hands off, pat ourselves on the back, and skip to the next verse or chapter, when in fact, those learned skills are just the beginning of a child’s journey toward understanding.
Now that Bain can quote “Love one another,” the next step is for him to understand what it means to love one another. That takes it to a whole new level.
Two simple action steps will help a child to really understand:
1. Kids need to EXPERIENCE love. They need to be able to know what it feels like to love and be loved. This is best accomplished when those around care for them, speak to them with kind words, treat them with love and respect, and respond to their needs in a kind and loving manner.
2. Kids need to PRACTICE loving one another. Not until a child begins to show others love will they truly understand and know what it means to love one another.
So, we are loving on Bain and providing him opportunities to “love one another” in ways that are appropriate to him. In time Bain will figure it all out and understand the rest of John 13:34… “as I have loved you!” Then we’ll be ready to help him reach the real goal … saving knowledge.
But for now, we are content with singing “Jesus Loves Me” and the ABC song and watching him mature into the man God intends him to be.
Give thanks in everything,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We hope you’ve been keeping an eye on the Kids Ministry 101 blog for our Friday Freebies! Today we’re giving away 2 coloring pages from Bible Studies For Life: Kids. We pray that as your kids color these pictures of Jesus, they’ll grow in their knowledge and love for Him. Oh, how Jesus loves children!
Moms love personalized gifts. Whether they’re handwritten notes, handcrafted artwork, or homemade cookies, gifts mean more when time and energy are expended. Help kids celebrate Mother’s Day with the coloring pages below. After the kids finish coloring, encourage parents to hang this priceless artwork on their refrigerators and remember how blessed they are to be mothers.
Can you really ever have too many coloring pages? For the last couple of weeks, we’ve provided some options to use leading up to Easter. We’re continuing this pattern today with four more pages, as seen below. Happy coloring!
Easter is just around the corner! How are you planning to celebrate with your small groups? We thought we’d go ahead and provide a couple of Easter-themed activity pages for you. Use them in your small group, at home with your kids, or in the car on trips to visit relatives! Let’s celebrate Jesus’ resurrection!