Teaching Youth God’s Big Picture

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Hope This Helps (HTH) is a series, where fellow youth workers share resources they’ve found helpful in ministry.  Of course, some things work in some churches and not others.  But, as always, hope this helps.

I missed the best Bible study ever, and you did, too!  Seriously!  I wish I could have been there.  Imagine what it would have been like and how the entirety of the Old Testament must have come alive!  

Even though we missed it, we can find the main idea from that study in Luke 24:27. While on the road to Emmaus with two men, Jesus “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”  In other words, Jesus took them on a tour of the Old Testament, showing how He, as the central theme, is prefigured and foreshadowed.  As Jesus said earlier in His ministry, the Scriptures “bear witness about me” (John 5:39, 46).

One of the most exciting things for me personally and one of my goals in preaching to youth is to discover these connections and show them in the text.  It increases my joy in and awe for God when I rightly and more fully see the Bible telling one great story with Jesus Christ at the center of it, rather than a large collection of antiquated and disconnected stories.

Biblical theology is an approach to Scripture that focuses on identifying these connections throughout the Bible and viewing the Bible and its various themes as an integrated whole.  One book worth its weight in gold is called “God’s Big Picture” by Vaughan Roberts.  The book aims to help the reader understand the overall storyline of the Bible and how it develops and changes throughout Scripture.  But the greatest value in the book comes in helping us see how Jesus shows up all throughout Scripture, how He is prefigured and foreshadowed.  So many times I was surprised at how Jesus is hinted at in passages I had read countless times before.

Even though I’ve never been to seminary, I found the book very accessible, readable and not overly academic.  Roberts writes with clarity but does not dilute theological insights or over-simplify biblical connections.  As an added bonus for a visual learner like myself, there are some very helpful charts to visually depict the progression of the Bible’s storyline, which my youth group found helpful as well.

As a youth pastor wanting my youth group to understand the bible as a whole, this book has been invaluable.  Roberts’ eight-chapter explanation of Genesis through Revelation was the backbone and outline for what became a 12-week series for my youth group. Each chapter placed a segment of Scripture within the overall progression of the Kingdom of God.  The author shows how the following dimensions unfold throughout Scripture: God’s people, God’s place, and God’s rule and blessing.  

For our study, I preached messages that followed Roberts’ chapter divisions and highlighted how Jesus is the central theme throughout Scripture.  I also used a few other resources listed below.  Be sure to add A.M. Hodgkin’s work “Christ in All the Scriptures” to your bookshelf — it added many valuable contributions.

I found many students very eager to cover the whole Bible in such a short period of time, probably in part because we so often read and study it in such small segments.  Some of the youth even purchased the book to read along as we went through the series.  I was so delighted to see them growing in their understanding of how the storyline of the Bible flows and fits together.

Finally, I found the end of the series to be an ideal time to make a whole-Bible observation.  Having just run through all the major events and progression of Scripture, it was the perfect time to demonstrate for them why God does all that He does.  Namely, that God’s highest motivation is the increase and praise of His glory, which, once understood, lays deep theological foundations to support all the other teachings of Scripture.  Thanks to Roberts’ helpful book, this massive truth was ripe for the harvest and easily accessible to my students.

I challenge and encourage you to give your youth group a taste of the sweet honey found in biblical theology.  I’m definitely going to repeat this series every four years for each generation of students.  When we see Christ in the entire Bible, we more fully appreciate the Old Testament pointers, more accurately understand the progression of biblical history, and worship Him all the more for what He’s done for us in the Gospel.  There are so many places that point ahead to His work on the cross for us.  Go find them and enjoy them! 

Other resources used in the teaching series:

  • “Christ in All the Scriptures” by A.M. Hodgkin
  • “According to Plan” by Graeme Goldsworthy
  • “Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church” by Michael Lawrence
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