Gospel-Centered Teaching – A Review

gospel-centered teachingIntroduction

Over the last few years we have seen an influx of resources for a Jesus-centered approach to Scripture. Partially in reaction to moralistic teachings, these aids present the great rescue plan of God as seen in Scripture. While most of these resources have been for pastors and seminary students, author Trevin Wax has written an accessible book perfect for Sunday School teachers and small group leaders.

In Gospel-Centered Teaching, Wax invites readers to see how the gospel of Jesus Christ can be found throughout the entire Bible. For many this is not a new concept; often, though, this truth does not work its way into our small groups or Sunday School lessons. In a winsome, conversational style of writing, Wax provides a clear vision for seeing God’s redemption plan in Scripture, and how that ought to impact our lessons, discussions, and applications.

In this short book, Wax covers a lot of ground. In the first chapter, he identifies the current problems found in too many church Sunday Schools and small groups. Whether it is a lack of biblical knowledge, lack of deep doctrinal discussions, or prevalence of moralistic teachings, Wax argues that all are symptoms of a greater problem: Bible studies are missing a drive to worship. In Wax’s words:

The Bible is ultimately about Jesus, which means that Bible study ought to lead us to worship Him. (Kindle loc. 178).

The solution presented in this book is simple: make Christ the center of every Bible study and Sunday school lesson. In the next chapter, Wax introduces readers to the concept of reading the Bible through a gospel-centered lens. He argues that the gospel must be infused into every lesson, not just tacked on to the end as an afterthought.

In the third chapter, Wax provides teachers with helpful tips on how to practically see the gospel in Scripture. He challenges the common moralistic readings of Old Testament characters, saying:

The heroes of the Old Testament are there for us to learn from—both good traits to be cultivated and bad traits to be avoided. But these heroes serve another purpose. Their stories point us toward the flawless One. They are heroes, but only in a secondary sense. God is the true Hero of the Bible, and we see the most heroic action of all in the rescue mission accomplished by His Son. If you teach the Bible as if it is a collection of stand-alone tales, your people will never see how these stories connect to tell the big story of salvation through Jesus Christ. (Kindle loc. 377, emphasis mine).

In this chapter there is also a defense of teaching theology to children. Wax argues against watering down Bible lessons for younger children; instead, we should use the words and concepts that best define our faith, in order to introduce our children to them so they become familiar. In the words of Wax:

Small kids need big words. Not because they understand everything all at once but because, over time, God uses the inspired words of His Book to convict kids of sin and convince them to repent and believe in Christ. (Kindle loc. 553).

My Thoughts

Much of the approach Wax presents in this book can be seen on display in The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered curriculum for the church which he edits. In both the curriculum and this book, teachers are inspired to see every single lesson as a glimpse of Christ. That way, each lesson is not to provide a moralistic list of dos and don’ts, but rather a biblical picture of sin, death, and the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Serious theological concepts like sin, repentance, and atonement are frequently mentioned, even in the preschool ages, so that all ages are building a deep and firm understanding of what Christ has done.

In Gospel-Centered Teaching, Trevin Wax has provided an excellent guide on how to see and present Christ in every lesson. While this is an introductory book to this topic, Wax provides readers with some very good book recommendations for further seeing Christ through the entire Bible. I would want to get this book into the hands of every children’s worker and small group leader in a church, as a means of refuting moralistic teachings. Pastors and ministry leaders can use this book as the basis for training sessions for ministry workers, in order to unite behind a gospel-centered approach to Scripture.

Book Info

Thanks to B&H Publishing, via NetGalley, for a complementary review copy of this book!

Brandon Schmidt

I am Brandon Schmidt: writer, husband, father, brother, reader, and laugher.

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