Forgive me, for I’m going to talk briefly about The Hobbit. I watched the second movie just the other day—let’s just say I enjoyed it more than the first one. For someone who loved both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (I read them approximately once a year growing up) I thought the mood and the setting of Middle Earth was captured wonderfully. It is, however, considerably different from the book.
I realize that adaptations are made for the sake of the screen, and I’m fine with that. I was surprised in both films, however, at just how dark and confronting the evil and scary sections are. The orcs are brutal and horrific; Smaug is immense and awful; Sauron is terrifying. It’s the same story as the book, but the packaging is for adults, not children. I would consider reading the book with my daughter sometime in the next couple of years, but it will be a long time before she watches the movies.
At times we package the gospel differently for different audiences, but it’s still the same message. We keep reminding both kids and adults of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, his victory over sin and death, and our new life as his people. The methods are sometimes different—the illustrations and the questions certainly will be—but the heart of evangelism remains the same: we call everyone to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.
This form of “keeping the main thing the main thing” is by no means new or unique to The Briefing, but Tony Payne and Gordon Cheng tackle it in rather different ways in this issue. Gordon’s article on children’s ministry urges us to keep evangelizing children—that is, to keep declaring that Jesus is Lord, and you should live with him as king. The central idea isn’t rocket science, but I’m sure you will find the suggestions of actually doing it at home and at church provocative and encouraging.
Tony, writing about the ‘manifesto’ for Matthias Media’s new platform GoThereFor.com, similarly treads familiar gospel ground. But, as he argues, we need to keep coming back to the central truths of the gospel so they’re not drowned out by other voices. We need to keep bumping discipleship up the agenda so that it’s not lost amidst the distractions of a thousand other good things to do.
I’m not too worried by the changes made to my favourite books of Middle Earth. The main thing in those stories is still the main thing. I’m much more grateful for those who keep pointing us all back to the centrality of Jesus, the Son of God—if there ever was a ‘main thing’, it’s him.