Take a look with me at the Samaritans. When Assyria took the ten northern tribes captive, they moved people from other nations they conquered into the region to harvest the crops so Assyria could receive taxes. (Wars are most often fought over economic resources.) Israel was valuable for the crops raised there and also the tariffs that could be charged for the products that came to and from the Far East and Africa. Nearby seaports like Tyre and Sidon gained great wealth as transportation hubs, while Israel exported wheat, barley, wine and olive oil. The rulers in Nineveh wanted people there to avoid losing the wealth to be had. Here’s how 2 Kings 17:24-26 is stated in The Message:
The king of Assyria brought in people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and relocated them in the towns of Samaria, replacing the exiled Israelites. They moved in as if they owned the place and made themselves at home. When the Assyrians first moved in, God was just another god to them; they neither honored nor worshiped him. Then God sent lions among them and people were mauled and killed.
This message was then sent back to the king of Assyria: “The people you brought in to occupy the towns of Samaria don’t know what’s expected of them from the god of the land, and now he’s sent lions and they’re killing people right and left because nobody knows what the god of the land expects of them.”
Seth Godin’s blog on Saturday, November 2, challenged:
“Tenacity is not the same as persistence. Persistence is doing something again and again until it works. It sounds like ‘pestering’ for a reason. Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work. Telemarketers are persistent, Nike is tenacious.”
His closing illustration reveals what many already know, Godin is a marketer. His usually-brief daily blog often proves insightful. Frequently I can see places where his insights transcend marketing.
A friend recently asked a group of Disciple Making Movements practitioners “what spiritual traits are needed to persevere until traction and finally multiplication happens?”
I replied, “A willingness to fail forward. Perfectionism prevents the risk-taking, trial-and-error learning that each new people group demands. Like a world-class tailor, there are basics of measuring, fitting and sewing that always apply. But each person is unique and that suit is going to hang differently. Ripping out seams and re-doing the work is often required.”
Intentionally passing on a biblical worldview to your children and grandchildren is not a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor. It will require “tenacity” as Godin defines it. We must be tenacious in reaching the goal of seeing the next two generations of our family owning a biblical worldview–relishing living under the reign of Christ! ” Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work.”
Current statistics on young people “leaving” church reveal that “the old ways didn’t work.” Will we become entrenched and persist in doing them harder, longer, faster, bigger, etc.? Or will we be tenacious and learn to make new decisions so we can find new pathways in order to find new ways? Don’t be surprised when those new ways reflect Deuteronomy 6!
Exploring the issue of the worldview development in children is a challenge. The people who really need to change are the parents. The adults who shape the worldview of the children are critical. One’s worldview is more caught (or absorbed) than taught. When faced with a crisis of belief, do I trust what I know God’s Word reveals, or do I place my reliance elsewhere? “What is real?”–the fundamental worldview question seeks to explore my subjective answer to this question. It deals more with my perception of reality than rational(istic) answers to this question.
Our children witness where our professions and actions agree. They also experience the places where our “actions ring so loudly in their ears they cannot hear a word we are saying!” Because children learn our non-verbal cues long before they understand our words, they always believe the non-verbal. How we say what we say is more powerful than the meaning of the words. Tone, pace and sarcasm can radically impact how words are received.
Children learn from their parents whenever they are with them. They know when we have cowered, like Saul. They know when our profession clashes with our daily choices. They sense our authentic inner self. The best children’s curricula is the faith their parents live. How momma and daddy walk daily overwhelms thousands of classes!
But worldview is shaped in youth. Parents of friends, teachers and coaches also model from their worldviews. Comics, books and movies all interact with their perceived world from a worldview perspective. Parents cannot shelter their children from exposure to other worldviews. But they can raise them up to be discerning.
Saul reveals humanity clothed in self-reliance. David knows he cannot trust these things, “because I am not used to them.” Yes, he has experience with his staff, smooth stones and his sling. But David is not relying on these, or himself. David knows that the battle belongs to the Lord. This confrontation is much like the one that will happen hundreds of years latter between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Goliath has defied the God of Israel. His failure to recognize Who is really reigning is fundamental.
David and Goliath is a story about a crisis of belief. Saul should lead Israel to battle by confronting Goliath. That was what the people said they wanted a king to do. But in David we see God’s willingness to use the least likely to accomplish His purpose. God will get the glory for the victory over the giant and the Philistines.
Who do we trust, really?
Do we as parents live more like David or Saul? When our lives entail giants which appear capable of swatting us away like a fly, do we wait for someone else, like Saul waited? Do our children see us drawing confidence from our earlier experiences of God’s provision? What are the lion and bear stories from your life journey with God?
Are you depending on your technology more than on the Creator? Are you happy to have someone else face your giants with simple faith? Are you keen to see the deficiencies in your resources and stay on the back lines of the conflict?
How we tell the story is important. How we live it is more significant, though.
In the story line of 1 Samuel, the encounter of David and Goliath contrasts the worldview of David with that of King Saul. God has chosen Saul to be the king the people thought they wanted. Standing head and shoulders above his peers, Saul is the one who is supposed to lead the people into battle. While the conversation between David and the giant is significant to the story, the one between David and Saul is crucial. It appears this story is taken out of chronological order (the general arrangement of the book). The narrator has already introduced David’s presence in Saul’s court when he comes to play the harp. David has already been anointed to be the next king in an earlier overview section.
The conflict with the Philistines and especially with Goliath reveals a fundamental difference between Saul and David–their views of God and how that affects their approach to warfare against their enemies. Saul relies on himself and his armor. Often the artwork illustrating this scene presents a boy who is twelve or younger foolishly trying to mimic an adult. Saul’s actions, though, are not foolish because David is too small, the issue is contained in the question, “In what/whom are you trusting?”
It is great that the stories of the Bible are so integral to children’s curricula. But I am concerned that it often focuses too heavily on exploring what the human characters do.
Consider the story of David and Goliath. Traditional approaches make David the hero, whose behavior is to be imitated. Goliath is the villain and his behavior is to be avoided (if his role is explored at all). The actions of King Saul and the other soldiers (for example, David’s brothers) are also noted as negative examples of fear.
But the main character of this story is too often ignored.
Who is this story really about? Ask David. Whose reputation is David concerned about? How is it that David has so much confidence when everyone around him is terrified? David’s heroic behavior arises from his worldview that sets his beliefs and grounds his values. David knows who the main character is–God!
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. (1 Samuel 17:45, 46 NIV)
I want to create a dialogue about the spiritual formation of children. Realize that 35% of the world’s population falls in the ages of 4-14 years old. What if we adapted the best of chronological storying, discovery processes and obedience-based discipleship to the character development of children? What if we began to intentionally form the worldview of the children around us? What if we developed materials that others could use to shape the worldview of their children?
Most of the worldview studies I have read assume people already have a developed worldview since they are largely discussing adults. My earlier posts explored the value of using storying to reset worldview in people who grew up with something other than a Judeo-Christian one. A discovery process is critical to allow the biblical message to sink deep enough for a Kingdom of Heaven worldview to begin replacing the existing worldview. For children, the process is simpler since it is about the initial formation of the answers to the critical questions.
Kwast, “Understanding Culture”
Parenting often focuses on the “Behavior–What is done?” level. We want our children to behave in ways that allow them to fit into their culture. We want them to stand out as exceptional, without standing out as “weird.” We want them to value things the way we do. We want them to believe like we do. But often we fail to consider the question of “What is real?” We assume the answers we have for such a question are self-evident, thus they will automatically be held by our children. Is such an assumption wise?
While behavior is important, the emerging values, beliefs and worldview which drive it are critical. Be sure your parenting and grand parenting goes deeper!
About three years ago I counseled my daughter and son-in-law when they were developing curricula for that inner city program. They had asked me if some of the materials that were being used overseas could be utilized if they could adapt them for age appropriateness. I provided them with a copy of the “God and Man” material written by Dell and Rachel Schultze for the New Tribes work in the Philippines. I also suggested which lessons might be a priority to use since they needed to reduce the number of sessions. Both had served as volunteers for years, prior to becoming the coordinators and Bryan, was a licensed educator.
The “God and Man” material suggests the following characteristics of God be taught and then explore significant biblical passages to learn to identify them:
- God is righteous. He is holy, just, and good. He does not have any sin.
- God is all powerful. He can do anything He wants to do.
- God is all knowing. He is the source of all knowledge. He knows how to make everything. He knows every thought, every word, and every action of all people.
- God is the source of all grace. He is the source of everything that is good; love, mercy, pity, goodness, kindness, caring.
- God hates sin. He has no sin. He will judge all who sin. He will punish all who sin.
- God keeps his promises. Whatever He has promised He will do, even if a long time passes.
Eleven months ago I published a blog article that began a series addressing worldview:
These posts shared my reflections on an article, “Understanding Culture” by Lloyd E. Kwast, found on page 397 of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, Fourth Edition. Pasadena: William Carey Library. Through these six posts I explored the significant role that stories play in shaping a people group’s view of themselves, their beliefs, values and behavior.
Recently I was asked to share relevant parts of this material with a children’s education group. People from four different churches came together on a Friday evening. Most teach in regular Sunday School programs in traditional Western style churches, but several work with a program that has classes for inner city children who come from high crime and poverty stricken areas of our city. Some of these people are also involved in curriculum development.
[NOTE: Over the next several weeks I will write about this experience. I will also explore how to be intentional in developing the worldview of children. While I did not have the benefit of this material when my son and daughter were young, my first grandson is due to be born February 18, 2013. My responsibilities live on!]
Below the community values of a people group are their beliefs. Here we take note of what they believe to be true:
- What is truth?
- What are their core beliefs?
- Are they fatalistic or do they believe they can produce change in their world?
A group’s perception of reality always colors their experiences. If they believe that their lives are always overwhelmed by forces outside their control, then they usually tend toward fatalism. Change is viewed as impossible because these forces dominate their experience—in their mind.
We need to recognize that what people say their beliefs are and this level of their sense of self are rarely identical. Professed beliefs can sometimes be a cover to protect a person from cultural suicide. Here the individual disagrees with his/her society, but knows that it will be dangerous to openly proclaim personal beliefs. For others, professed beliefs are ideals that are held up as goals to strive for because they are not yet fully internalized.
What would an objective witness to your daily walk say you believe? Does your daily life evidence what you profess? Are you a woman/man of integrity? Do you walk your talk?
[NOTE: Diagram comes from Lloyd E. Kwast’s article “Understanding Culture,” pages 397-399 in the 2009 Perspectives Reader, which was edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthore.]