Book Release: Are you More Spiritual Than a 5th Grader?
Interview by V. Michelle Bernard
Karl Haffner, pastor of the Ohio Conference’s Kettering church in Kettering, Ohio, and his daughter Claire recently joined forces to repackage and update a series of messages that Elder Morris Venden, gave at a Week of Prayer at Andrews University (Mich.) in 1975.
Karl Haffner says the sermons, focused on having a relationship with God, were life changing to him. “His theology is so profound, and yet my daughter understands it,” he says in the preface.
In addition to updating the sermons and adding several new chapters. Claire has added the following “classes” to help children better understand the message:
- First-Grade Art—The message illustrated in a picture
- Second-Grade Computers—The core idea expressed via technology
- Third-Grade Bible—A Bible verse to memorize
- Fourth-Grade Writing—Includes a quote or illustration demonstrating the main point
- Fifth-Grade Math—Puts the entire lesson into equations.
Q: What touched you most about this sermon series?
A: The central idea of the series that impacted me the most was the notion of sanctification by faith alone. It was an amazingly freeing concept that I can fully trust Jesus to not just save me from my past sins and glorify me when He comes again, but that I can trust Him fully now to change me. There is nothing I can do to change myself short of surrendering my will fully to Him and trusting Him.
Q: How would you like people to use this book?
A: I'd love to see the book used in small groups and Sabbath School classes to encourage one another in the daily relationship with Jesus. To be helpful toward this end, I've included discussion questions at the end of the book for each chapter. I will use the book in my local church in the pastor's Bible class to help new believers to nurture a personal friendship with Jesus.
The whole point is to help people to spend time in the Word and prayer each day, not with the intent of reading through the Bible in a year or gaining brownie points with God or even to learn about Jesus—but solely to foster a closer connection with Jesus.
Studies suggest less than 20 percent of Seventh-day Adventists have any time alone with Jesus for the purpose of getting to know Him. If that's not happening then we're playing church and the best we can hope for is a form of godliness, but completely bereft of God's power.
Q: How did writing this book impact your spiritual life?
A: No writing project has impacted my spiritual journey as much as this one. [Vendon’s] sermons were like a geyser to a parched soul. Writing this book with my daughter has been the most rewarding experience of my professional career. It has changed the emphasis of my preaching. It has changed my personal habits. And it has changed my attitude and heart toward God.
Through this book I have enjoyed a recalibration of the soul and have been reminded of the essence of true faith. In the end, authentic spirituality and faith is not about behaving for God or even believing in God; it is ultimately about being with God.
The book can be purchased on Adventist Book Center.com.