I had to apologize to my son recently.

We were on our way to church one Sunday, and he said, “Dad, I think I know all the Bible stories now.”

“Really?” I said. “All of them?”

“Just about,” he replied. “And I know all the songs we sing in church too.”

“That should make it easier for you to sing along,” I said.

“I don’t know why we keep going over the same stories and singing the same songs. Don’t they think we’ve got it down by now?”

“I’ve been studying the Bible and singing songs for a long time, Timothy. And I get something new from God’s Word every week.”

By this time, we were getting out of the van and walking towards the worship center. That’s when he said, “I don’t think we need to go to church every week. Why don’t we just wait until there’s something new to learn?”

~~~~~

I mulled over that conversation the rest of the day. We discussed it over lunch. Timothy’s grandmother, visiting us from Romania, started telling him about how she was reading through the Minor Prophets again, discovering things she’d forgotten over time. My wife started asking Timothy questions about stories she knew he wasn’t familiar with.

Meanwhile, I was wondering if the fact our son is in a Christian home, Christian school, and a good, Bible-teaching church has somehow overexposed him to the Scriptures. He’s a 9-year-old with lots of Bible knowledge and entire chapters of the Bible memorized.

And then, it hit me. For months (maybe years), I’ve conditioned him to think that attending a worship service is all about learning. From our Saturday night prayers (“Be with us tomorrow, Lord, as we go to church and learn more about You”) to after-church conversations (“What did you learn in Sunday School today?”), our way of talking about church is predominantly educational. No wonder he thought we should move on. If church is school, then eventually, you graduate, right?

So, that night as I tucked him into bed, I apologized for not being clear on the reason we gather with other believers. “It’s not just about learning,” I told him. “It’s about worship. The learning is connected to our worship.”

“Is that why we sing the same songs?” he asked.

“Yes. When it’s easy for people to sing, they can concentrate on what they’re singing instead of struggling to learn a new song. Do you know how you like it when all the instruments fade away and you can hear everyone in church singing the same song as loud as they can – all of our voices harmonizing? That’s not about learning… it’s about worship. All of us together, worshipping God for how awesome He is.”

“We did David and Goliath today,” he said. “I already knew all about it. And the teacher left out the best part – when David used Goliath’s sword to cut his head off!”

“Yes, that is pretty cool,” I told him. “And you already know the story of David and Goliath. But the point of hearing the story again and again is not so that you learn more facts about the story. It’s that you are amazed again at God using a little guy like David to do something big for His people. That’s the way God is. That’s why we sing songs like, ‘How Great Is Our God’ in church, and ‘Glorious and Mighty.’ We are worshipping Him for what He has done.”

“I like those songs.”

“Me too. And next time we sing them, think about the story of David and Goliath, and how powerful God is.”

“So it’s not just about learning.”

“Nope. The church isn’t a class you go to, son. It’s a people you belong to. It’s about worship. I’m sorry, son, if I’ve made you think otherwise.”

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31 thoughts on ““Dad, I Think I Know All the Bible Stories Now””

  1. Brianna says:

    I’ve had this same problem with my children, and I’ve been so worried they would get that… “church kid” attitude. You know the one. If you’ve ever taught a kid’s class, there’s one or more kids that know all the answers, all the memory verses, and they correct you if you say something slightly off. It’s awful! I have been trying to teach them that “they can learn something from anyone,” but maybe I should change to this approach- that church isn’t about learning. :-)

  2. This. This is so key. This is what people don’t get. ‘I know it already’ (when, unlike your son, they probably don’t), but that’s not the point. They point is that we gather to worship God and receive grace in that worship. The point is communion with the Triune God as a body. This is a great post.

  3. Derek says:

    Hey Trevin, as a new dad myself, I really appreciate this post. As someone who puts a lot of focus on educating myself on the culture and backdrop of the scriptures so I can better understand them, I really appreciate this post. I am emphasized the “learning” aspect of church too much, I think. I could see myself doing the same to my little girl. Thanks for this parental advice.

  4. Great, great insight Trevin and wonderful example of training up our children. Cool how – as i’m sure you;ve seen many times too – God uses our kids to shape us, even as we are trying to shape them. How great is it that we have a God who alone is worthy of our worship (heart) as well as our life long pursuit (mind) and offering of all that is within us (soul/strength).
    God’s peace –
    W.

  5. Andy says:

    “By this time, we were getting out of the van..”

    I thought maybe this had something to do with. Alas, wrong again.

  6. Micah says:

    This is solid. I grew up with much the same view – preaching was focused on “teaching”, and discipleship was about “learning”. Only in recent years have I come to appreciate preaching as sacramental, and listening to the Gospel proclaimed in community as itself an act of worship.

  7. Ivan Mesa says:

    How kind of God to providentially bring about this conversation. It’s a good word, Trevin. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Missy Wymer says:

    Your son, Timothy is on to something. I appreciate his honesty. A couple of weeks ago, the Christian Standard shared some alarming stats on the rate of young people leaving the Church. Timothy is fortunate to have parents who ponder tough questions, but other kids may not be as fortunate. What should the Church be doing differently? We all need to ponder this and take action. Our kids are too important to loose!

  9. Jordan Doty says:

    Great thoughts, and I wonder if it could be taken further. Not only do we go to learn, and ultimately to worship, but to experience God together In community, to fellowship together and serve each other, to welcome new people in and disciple together, to get ready and go out on mission, etc. lots of angels and aspects of loving God, loving people, and being and making followers of Jesus.

  10. Jacob Allee says:

    This was though provoking. I really appreciate it.

  11. Stephanie says:

    I JUST had this conversation with my daughter. She said that her Sunday school class is the same as school. They just learn about the Bible instead of science or grammar or history. I love the way you described church as worship and am going to use that with her as well. I really appreciate this post!

  12. Aaron says:

    I think a lot of ‘churched’ kids go through this, Trevin, including my daughter – who is in the know-it-all stage anyway. Add on top of that the ‘boredom’ factor of going to a relatively conservative liturgical service and it becomes a little more challenging to explain just why we do this (my D is only 6).

    Sounds like you handled it well with your son. Excellent insights!

  13. Garrett Kell says:

    Praise God. Good word bro. This isn’t just a lesson for our kiddos either. Church members, pastors, and seminarians should keep this front and center. God is more than a subject to study, He is a Savior to worship. May He give us this perspective so we might worship Him more purely. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Melody says:

    Great response! I think every church kid hits that point where they know it all and aren’t sure why they keep coming to church.

  15. Gwen says:

    So true! A great reminder. When I was bringing a girl to church with me, I decided to switch up my reminder in the morning from “are you ready for church?” to “are you ready for worship?” one day. I don’t know if she thought of church as simply just a place to learn or a place to just go through the motions, but it definitely threw her off and provided great discussion later :)

  16. Dave says:

    Very good discussion. I was sorry, though, that you didn’t mention the value of loving “obedience” as the goal of ongoing interaction with the same stories. A big part of what makes the Bible (and thus church)really interesting is God’s Spirit speaking to our hearts and pointing us to ways we can grow in the image of Christ. By His Spirit, the same “old” stories lead us to fresh adventures in obedience. I think this is why Miraculous Movements (as described, for example, in the book by this title) are so exciting while a lot of Western churches are so boring. Too often we’ve taken Jesus’ stirring command “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” and turned it into the dull “teach them everything I have commanded you.”

  17. Dave Burt says:

    This issue has particular application to theological students. Mike Bird advises his students, “do not forget your first love” (God).

    “You cannot have a relationship with your Christology, but you can have a relationship with Jesus; your eschatology is not going to change the world, but the Lord Jesus will; noone will be saved by in your soteriology, but the Lord Jesus will save you; and no matter how much you love your theology, it will never love you back.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2013/10/advice-to-my-students/

    Learning about God must only ever be done in order to know him better personally. (Eph 1:17)

  18. Malia says:

    Hi Trevin. Thanks for sharing this, I just read this in French on NotreEglise.com and I’m glad that God used this conversation with your son to push you to reflection on why we do “church” and that His Spirit pushed you to share this with us. I think it is a great danger in our American churches to focus too much on the “intellectual” side of gaining knowledge. Adoration IS key and that adoration should also lead us to SERVE our brothers and sisters in the church. I feel like this is a vital part that is also missing in our churches (here and in France) of letting God’s Word transform us so that we might DESIRE to be used by Him. I think we should encourage all church members big and small to engage in serving others, first in the church and then outside of the church, to further be the witnesses of God’s grace as the church is to be. (Ephesians 2).

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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