Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Week in Review

Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams
Christian Education Ministry & Discipleship (part 2)
On September 29, 2006

It is important also for the church to understand that if this great task is to be successful, all must be involved in the process. The resource Christian Education Ministry Overview states, “The Christian Education ministry of the church is not a one person job. It takes many people working at different levels and in different capacities…Listening to a sermon in the corporate worship service is not enough to facilitate true growth. Discipleship also needs to be happening on the personal level, one-on-one with fellow believers, in small groups, and in midsize groups. Each of these levels offers a different dynamic to the growth process” (, 1).

One of the strategies a church can examine is the use of small groups for example. Julie Gorman, one of the contributing authors from the book, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century states, “In the race to survive, many churches have responded to this phenomenon by developing small group programs with a specific focus on accomplishing biblical mandates…The challenge for the church is to find a way to integrate the benefits of small group ministry in such a way that it is done with theological integrity and programmatic quality” (176). The author Neal F. McBride in his book, How to Lead Small Groups, adds some fundamental input when he states, “Jesus Christ is pictured as the greatest small group leader in history. He is our model. Ephesians 4:1-2 (NIV) admonishes us, ‘Be imitators of God…and live a life of love.’” (15).

When a church has established programs and strategies, it must not forget the importance of understanding “who” they are teaching. It is important for a church to understand the beliefs regarding how people learn and grow in the Christian faith. The church must take the time to understand what effects cognitive, moral, and faith development have on the learning process. There are different learning styles one may utilize in teaching. All of these things must be considered when trying to teach in a way that is developmentally appropriate.

In the book, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, the contributing author, Ellery Pullman states, “Piaget maintained that there are four major periods of cognitive development. Each period is age-related and has certain characteristics that permit various types of knowing and understanding” (68). According to the author, understanding these stages will help one better prepare for teaching different ages in an appropriate way. In the Sensorimotor Stage (0 – 2), for example, children learn about themselves and their environment through handling and experimenting with things around them. During the Preoperational Stage (2 – 7) children become more and more capable of thinking, using words to represent the objects and events they experience. The child’s imagination becomes more exposed during this stage. In the Concrete Operations Stage (7 – 11), the child develops the ability to think operationally. “An operation is a thought or mental action. Children are able to think more logically about their environment and execute mental operations that they previously had to carry out physically” (Pullman, 69).

The last of the stages, Formal Operations (11 – 15) is when children/youth are able to manipulate abstract ideas. Thought arises from a combination of maturing and experience. “A distinguishable feature of formal operational thought is the ability to think outside the box – to think of possibilities, not jus present reality” (Pullman 69). Understanding these stages, allows programming that is appropriate for each stage that will help the teacher meet the needs of the student. “There are several guidelines for applying Piaget’s concepts. First, the teaching of biblical concepts needs to focus on what learners at each stage can do and avoid what they cannot meaningfully understand. This implication needs to be understood very carefully, as recent research has shown that children in the preoperational and concrete operational stages can do more than initially believed by Piaget” (Pullman, 70).

The author’s James Riley Estep Jr. and Alvin W. Kuest, contributing writes in the book, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century states, “What is moral development? This question is often asked throughout society. Interest in the development of morals in children and adults has even reached into the arena of public education” (73). The authors inform the reader that the theories with the most impact on education have relied on cognitive development.

When theories are used in creating appropriate programs, the teacher has more tools available to them to provide what each group needs to grow. “Moral development is a critical concern for Christian educators, both in theory and practice. By gleaning insights from Scripture and the social sciences, we are better able to fashion a more complete understanding of moral development as well as provide more effective ministries in our local church… Understanding the development processes associated with moral development will allow us to be better educators in the classroom, in our Christian schools, and in our homes” (Estep, Jr. and Kuest, 81). (Come back next week for the next installment)

The Week in Review

Minister Jewel D. Williams
World Religions and Cults
Written on June 4, 2007

The Bible and The Koran: Are They the Same Truth?

Today many believe that the God of the Bible is the same God of the Koran. This belief comes from the fact that Muslims worship one God and mistakenly individuals think the Muslim belief is in agreement with the Christian faith. It is important, however to compare what the Koran states alongside the Bible to see what each faith really believes and teaches. While they both believe in one God, that is where the similarities stop. When such beliefs as the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ, salvation, and eternal judgment are compared within each faith, one will see these religions are very different. This comparison will make it clear that the God of the Bible is not the same God of the Koran.

In the book, Living Religions, the author Mary Pat Fisher states, “the first sentence chanted in the ear of a traditional Muslim infant is the Shahadah – ‘La ilaha illa Allah’, Literally, it means ‘There is no god but God.’ Exoterically, the phrase supports absolute monotheism. As the Qur’an reveals in Sura 2:163, Your God is one God: There is no god but He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.” (342). While this may seem to be in agreement with the Christian belief of one God, there is a vast different in the two understandings of the one God.

One difference is Islam’s rejections of the concept of the Trinity. In the book, Qur’an: An Introduction to Its Message, the author, Mohammad Abu-Hamdiyyah states, “In the words of Surah 112: Say: God is One, the Eternal God. He neither begat nor was begotten. And there is none equivalent to Him” (50). The Koran (Qur’an) misrepresents the teaching of Christianity regarding the Godhead, claiming that Christians believe in three Gods, Father, Mother and Son (20). In the book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam, the author, Yahiya J. Emerick states, “The Holy Spirit - Islam says that there is no Holy Spirit other than the angel Gabriel who has that nickname.” (233).

However, Christianity does not teach there are three gods, but one God with three distinct personalities, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God speaks of himself in Genesis in the plural, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27). The Scripture also speaks to Jesus being God, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Muslims do not believe this is accurate regarding Jesus, they do not believe he is God nor do they believe he is the Son of God, but a good prophet. “The Jewish prophets and Jesus all brought the same messages from God, Muslims believe. However, Qur’an teaches that God’s original messages have been added to and distorted by humans. For instance, Muslims do not accept the idea developed historically in Christianity that Jesus has the authority to pardon or atone for our sins…Muslims believe that Jesus prophesied to the coming of Muhammad when he promised that the paraclete (‘one who would be called to help the people’) would come to assist humanity after him” (Fisher, 330-340). When Jesus spoke of the paraclete, the “helper” he was speaking of the Holy Spirit that would guide individuals into all truth and equip them for the Christian life. Christianity believes Jesus is more than a prophet but he is the Son of God as well as one of the persons of the Triune God. Scripture states, “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” and also “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God:” (Matthew 17:5, Mark 1:1). These verses of Scripture clearly show the difference in beliefs.

Emerick writes, “The Qur’an puts it this way: ‘O Muhammad, We have sent revelations to you just as We sent them to Noah and the Prophets who came after him; We also sent revelations to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, his descendants, and to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron and Solomon. We revealed the Psalms to David. Revelations were also sent to those Messengers whom We have already mentioned to you and to those whose name We have not mentioned to you, and God spoke to Moses directly. All these Messengers conveyed good news to mankind and admonished them so that, after conveying the message through the Messengers, people would have no excuse to plead against God. Indeed, God is the Mighty, the Wise.’ (Qur’an 4: 163– 165)” (182). Here Muslims accept Jesus as one of many prophets, but not as the Son of God. The Christian faith accepts scripture where God declares Jesus as His Son, “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.” (Hebrews 5:5). We also have God declaring this similar message when John baptizes Jesus, where he states this is my son in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).

Another difference between these two religions is the belief regarding salvation. In The New Book of Knowledge encyclopedia, the contributing author, Shahzad Bashir states, “Islam teaches that each individual has a direct and personal relationship with God and that no intermediaries are required” (347). Emerick gives clarity to the belief about Jesus when he states, “So from the point of view of Islam, the Christian doctrine that Jesus is God is moot, because Jesus didn’t die anyway, and certainly not for the sins of humanity. Who was crucified on that fateful day? If anyone was executed, it may have been the man who betrayed Jesus. If he looked sort of like Jesus, in the confusion the Caucasian Romans may have grabbed him and killed him, thinking all Semites looked alike” (207). The Muslim then believes that salvation comes only through Allah and there is no need of someone to intercede on the behalf of sinful mankind. The Christian faith teaches that salvation comes through Jesus Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other [than Jesus]: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, where by we must (my emphasis) be saved” (Acts 4:12). (Come back next week for the next installment.)