Suppose you had a Ferrari that was currently not in roadworthy condition, but that could be like new if you spend $2 000 to repair it. This car would be un-roadworthy right now, but not worthless – it will really be worth spending the money to repair your Ferrari.
The CEF message is sort of like that, except that it regards each person as the un-roadworthy or ex-un-roadworthy Ferrari, originally made very good (in God’s image!), that could be, or was, repaired by the price Jesus paid.
This article will explain the main Child Evangelism Fellowship message. Fans and critics of CEF alike has to agree that what is reported here is more or less what Good News Clubs teaches. The degree to which the message is good or bad could be disputed, that this is taught cannot. If you are familiar with CEF, you could skip or skim this post.
There is a message that is part of CEF teacher training and in some form part of almost every CEF lesson. CEF sums it up into a Wordless Book of 5 colors, sometimes:
Gold: God made everything, God made you. God loves you and wants you in heaven with him. God is holy. (Gold stands for a crown – God is King – or for the streets of heaven.)
Dark: But you sinned and God cannot allow sin in heaven.(Dark stands for darkness in the heart)
Red: Jesus was punished for your sin on the cross. (Red is the color of blood.) He rose again from the death.
White: If you choose Jesus, your sins are forgiven, and you can be with God in heaven one day. (White is the opposite of dark)
Green: Grow as a Christian by knowing the Bible, praying, witnessing, asking God’s forgiveness when you sin again, and meeting with other believers. (Green is the color of growing grass and plants.)
Example of a CEF Lesson
This, for example, is how CEF teach the story of the paralyzed man whose friends broke the roof to get him to Jesus1: (Luke 5:17-26) For practicality’s sake, I will shorten most of the story. Bolded blue words are exactly what is written in the book lesson, plain blue words is the very much shortened background story. In reality, background stories take up more time in a CEF lesson than the oft-repeated gospel formula. Black words are mine.
Jesus was teaching a large crowd in a house in Capernaum as the Pharisees and teachers of the law watched and listened. Some men brought their paralyzed friend on a bed to lay before Jesus. He was unable to do anything about his sickness. What a sad and helpless condition he was in. Without God you are also in a sad and helpless condition. Did you know that everyone is born into this world with sin in his heart …? Sin … is everything you or I do, say or think that goes against God’s laws. For example… The punishment for sin is … separation from God forever. (Note: This was the Dark Page message)
His friends started opening the roof… they would do anything to get him to Jesus. If you know Jesus as your Savior, God can use you to meet a need in a friend’s life. Perhaps your friend is sick. Maybe he needs courage to face a difficult problem. Or maybe he needs to know Jesus as his Savior. Only God can meet the needs in your friend’s life, but He can use you to show his love and give encouragement… What else can you do to meet a friend’s need? (Let children share ideas.) (Note: This was one example of the multitude of possible Green Page messages)
That’s what these four men did. Inside the house Jesus was teaching…They lowered the paralyzed friend… Jesus said “your sins are forgiven” to the man…
Only God can forgive sins – and Jesus is God! The Lord Jesus Christ was God in a human body. He came to earth from heaven and lived a perfect life. Later … Jesus willingly allowed wicked men to put Him to death on a cross. He suffered and died on the cross … for the sins of the world – for your sins and mine… The Bible says: “In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:14) Jesus bled and died on the cross so that you and I could be forgiven of our sins. After Jesus died he was buried… came alive again… was seen by many… returned to His heavenly home, where He is alive today… Jesus came to meet your greatest need – your need to be forgiven. (Note: This was the Red Page message)
He came to meet the greatest need of the paralyzed man as well… The Pharisees and scribes were shocked, asked who except God can forgive sins… To prove what He can do, Jesus told man to arise and take his bed… Jesus really loved this man!
And Jesus loves you too. He is… Creator. He made everything… (Let children name things God made.) He made you! He made you special so you could know Him and have a friendship with Him. He also wants you to know he is holy – completely without sin. God never does, says or thinks anything sinful. He can’t even hve sin in his presense. Yet this holy God loves you! In the Bible God says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3). God’s love for you is forever.! Jesus … wants you to know Him. He wants to be your Savior and friend. He loves you so much! (Note: This was the Gold Page message)
Jesus loved the paralyzed man too, so… Man stood up and walked! He praised God. Jesus forgave sins and made him walk.
Jesus… wants to meet your greatest need too. He came to forgive your sins. Maybe you realize today that your sin seperates you from God. You must believe (put your trust) in Jesus, who died on the cross for your sins and rose again. The Bible says: “Whosoever believes in Him shal not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15). If you trust completely in the Lord Jesus and what He did on the cross for you… you will not have to be seperated from God. He will change you on the inside and you will be able to live with Hm forever. Would you like to believe on the Lord Jesus today?… If you [do], please meet me [designate time and location] so I can show you from God’s word how you can have your sins forgiven today. (Note: This was the White Page message)
The majority of CEF songs strengthen the same messages:
Song Example 1:
Good news, good news, Christ died for me (Red Page), Good news, good news, if I believe (White Page), Good news, good news, I’m saved eternally (more from the White Page), that’s wonderful extra good news.
Song Example 2:
Go and tell the story of the Christ of Calvary, go and tell the story of the Christ of Calvary (Red Page), he’ll forgive (White Page) their sins (Dark Page), He will save their souls, He will cleanse their hearts (White Page), He will make them whole (Green Page), go and tell the story of the Christ of Calvary. (Red Page)
Quoting a critic:
On this point, Intrinsic Dignity is still more or less correct: (ID in red, my words in dark color)
The Club’s curriculum is … weekly Bible stories… Each 60-90 minute lesson is interwoven with presentations of the “Gospel” according to the so-called “Wordless Book.” The “Wordless Book” refers to the colors gold, black, red, white, and green, which respectively symbolize heaven (My note: When summed up gold is for God, not just heaven), the child’s sin nature (My note: Black is for sin, in general – not just the sin of the individual child, as the unnamed person or group by the name of Intrinsic Dignity wants to assert) , Jesus’s shed blood, righteousness, and growth. Each Bible story is divided into sections; and in between each section, the lesson draws a parallel between the preceding section of the Bible story and one of the “Wordless Book” themes. Most lessons also feature didactic exercises, memory verse quizzes, songs, games and prizes, all designed to reinforce the lesson themes.
ID is right about red and white and green. But the mere fact that white (righteousness) – the actual message the dark page leads up to – speaks of the human heart made clean by God, proves that the big message of the club is not, as he will assert later, about sin, a message that would, as Intrinsic Dignity assert “shame and terrify children and assault their self-esteem.”
1Quotes for the paralyzed man story is from the CEF lesson book “Jesus, my Savior and friend.”