A song sung by slaves tells them to follow the drinking gourd. (To hear the song, click here: The Drinking Gourd.) The Drinking Gourd is the name they used for the constellation commonly known as the Big Dipper. It was sung to tell slaves which direction to go when they fled: toward the North Star. They could escape to the free North if only they continued toward the North Star. However, if they did not head the song’s instructions, they could find themselves forever on the run in hostile territory, perhaps in an even more oppressive environment.
We can find ourselves doing the same thing, wandering aimlessly, perhaps even in to places that are spiritually dangerous. The good news: As Jesus followers, we have a source of absolute Truth, scripture. “All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be fully equipped for every good deed” (2 Timothy 3:16). As a team, we committed to using scripture as our basis for every lesson and encouraged our students to become familiar navigating in the Bible.
On a practical level, we accomplished this by using the Bible as the actual lesson and having students find, read, and interpret it to the best of their ability. At the preschool level, this may mean the teacher simply has a Bible open and reads a verse or two in appropriate places, but on the elementary level, this can mean that students volunteer to teach the entire lesson with only a little assistance in interpretation.
I like this model firstly because avoids proof-texting, or when someone starts with the lesson and then tries to find texts to prove their point. Hermeneutically speaking, this is very dangerous, and can lead to teaching half-truths. For example, I want to teach that God has plans to prosper my students, so I choose to have them look at Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” There is nothing inherently untrue about that; God did say that about his people. However, I miss the more beautiful truth of the passage. It comes in the midst of letter written to a disobedient people in exile because of their rebellion against God. Judgment has come for their idolatry. The beauty of Jeremiah 29:11 is that even though punishment is coming for their sin, God is still pursuing his unfaithful nation and preparing a way of redemption. Though they deserve to be abandoned, God still has plans to prosper them. By creating a lesson simply with verses without context, I failed to teach the deeper truth of the scripture. I am not an infallible source of truth; do not take me at my word. Let’s go to the God of the universe and asks what he has to say.
Secondly, I like that students are taught how to navigate scripture independently. They do not have to rely on me or another adult to hear what God has to say; they know where and how to find Truth on their own. Reading the Bible is no longer intimidating. It is familiar and understandable and able to be applied to their lives.
How do you feel about ditching the pre-written lessons and going straight to the Bible? What are your thoughts?