I’m in the middle of a series on Jesus and the next one coming up is called “Jesus: the unDeserving Debtor.” I have a meaty outline answering the who, what, where, when, why, and how Jesus paid for our sin, canceled our debt, and made us right with God. This outline has tons of Scripture to cross-reference and back up my argument. It’s sound.
But then throw in the element that it is for a middle school audience.
Almost every book I’ve read and nearly every junior high pastor I’ve met is conditioned to ask things like:
“Is it too scholarly for them? Is it too deep? Is it too long? Is it too abstract? Is it too concrete? Do I have enough illustrations? Are those illustrations relevant to the current culture? Are those illustrations funny? Should they be funny? Can I make the gospel entertaining? Will it capture their attention? Should I use story? Should I make up stories and call them case-studies? Should I put the students in groups? Should I tone it down? Should I get kids on stage? How can they act out the gospel? Should I have them nail their sins to a cross? Should I have them write their sins on a black cloth with a black marker?” On and on and on.
I’ve agonized all day with my outline and my audience. And I’ve lost track of the message.
I’ve been too worried about finding the right stories or the right place to use a plunger as an object lesson. I’ve been too worried about teaching to the adolescent brain rather than the human heart. I’ve made it so hard that I can’t preach the gospel.
In the end, I did tone it down (because we only have 30 minutes to work with). I did use a few illustrations (because the atrocity that is crucifixion is heavy for even the most seasoned follower of Christ). But I kept the gospel the gospel according to God’s Word. And no book, seminar, or methodology can ever make that better…even if it is a middle school audience.