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It’s for the sake of the children, Pastor

25/11/2011

I’ve been a Christian Minister for around 30 years, and most of that ministry was spent in small rural churches. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had a conversation with a church member that went something like this…

“Pastor, I’m sorry to tell you that we are going to have to leave the church. Now, please understand that it’s nothing that you have done or said, – we’ve not been offended, or anything like that.

No, it’s not your preaching either, brother. In fact we’ve enjoyed your ministry, and found it helpful, and we feel that we have grown spiritually here.

Oh yes, we’ll miss all our friends here at the church, after all we’ve been attending here for many years now, and it will be a great wrench to have to leave our friends, but we do have to leave.

Why have we to leave, Pastor, – oh, we thought you would know! It’s for the sake of the children, of course…”

In fact what had happened was that the big church up the road had more young people, better youth organisations, more youthful ‘worship,’ more money to spend on activities, or more hi-tech facilities, or ‘sound-bite sermons’ or a praise band, or clowns who danced before each hymn or… Or they had a dedicated, full time ‘youth pastor.’

Whatever, inevitably the people concerned left the church fellowship where their faith had been nurtured for years, and went to another church, one perhaps that believed different doctrines, and in some cases was the very opposite of where they had previously worshipped. And they did it in the strange hope that moving church would keep their children interested in Christianity, and keep them within the church, in the hope that one day they might be saved.

And in case my opening remarks gave you the impression that this just happens in small rural churches, it doesn’t. I know of people in city churches, who have looked across the town or across the road and have seen another church, which at that time seemed to be attracting lots of young people, and the grass over there seemed greener, and off they went.

So, ‘Its for the sake of the children, Pastor’. But what does it tell us about the attitudes of evangelicals to their children. In my opinion, just based on observations made over my period in ministry:-

  1. They seldom understand or appreciate the Covenant of Grace. The children of believers are the children of promise,they are part of Bod’s heritage. Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, They have a special place in God’s plan. They are not born as the heirs of salvation, but they are born as the heirs of the promise of salvation.
    1. Herman Witsius* wrote: Here certainly appears the extraordinary love of our God, in that as soon as we are born, and just as we come from our mother, he hath commanded us to be solemnly brought from her bosom, as it were into his own arms, that he should bestow upon us, in the very cradle, the tokens of our dignity and future kingdom; that he should put that song in our mouth, Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breast: I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother ’s belly” (Ps. 22:9-10), that, in a word, he should join us to himself in the most solemn covenant from our most tender years: the remembrance of which, as it is glorious and full of consolation to us, so in like manner it tends to pro- mote Christian virtues, and the strictest holiness, through the whole course of our lives.
    2. Peter reminded us of the fact of God’s Covenant when he preached at Pentecost in Acts 2:39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.
    3. Being born into a Christian home is an amazing privilege for the child. For the parents, it means responsibilities. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 7, that our children are ‘holy’ they are separate, they are clean, they are to be kept from the world as best we are able.
    4. Yet evangelicals ignore these biblical teachings and regard their children instead as being outside the covenants of God and no different from other children – and that’s just how they let them behave, just like the children of the world.
  2. They regard their children as little pampered princes and princesses, whose whims must be catered for, who cannot ever be allowed to be ‘bored’ – so church must be made to suit them, and to keep them amused, rather than be troubled teaching them that everything in life, and especially worship, revolves around God, not around them.
  3. They have, by and large, abrogated their parental responsibilityto bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. While others have roles and influence in their lives, the task of evangelising covenant children lies primarily with the parents. This is a basic biblical principle.
    1. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deut. 6:4-9;
    2. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus 2 Tim. 3:14-15
  4. They have given up on the Family Altar and Family Worship. And perhaps this is the root of all of the problems with our children that evangelicals face today. The family altar has broken down. We are so pressured by modern life that the essentials have slipped. We no longer gather our children around us to read the Scriptures to them or to pray with them. We don’t teach them the catechism or instruct them in righteousness. Our Christian homes have become like every other home, where raucous music dominates our waking moments, where radios blare, and televisions vie for attention, with their daily offerings of salacious talk, ‘attractive adulteries’ and ‘alternative lifestyles.’. And we are sucked into their web, just like every non-Christian family in our secular streets and towns, and spiritual family values are neglected.

So, many modern evangelical parents, despairing that their children are more interested in ‘rap music’ or football than they are in Jesus, then expect others, – the pastor, the Sunday School teacher, the church, whoever, to make sure that their child has a Christian influence upon their lives, and as a result of all of the above, they will go to whatever church – anywhere where they think that expectation will be best met. Whatever that church actually believes or practices is often irrelevant, – just so long as the children are catered for, in the way we think will keep them interested.

And in doing so they betray their existing church loyalties, their pastor who has cared for them, prayed for them and supported them, and even their children, for they are doing them no favours in considering them as just little sinners who must be shuffled around meetings and projects in the hope that they will ‘get saved.’

Joel Beeke, writing in his book, ‘Living for God’s Glory’ writes,

We are so concerned about losing our young people that we never ask them to gaze on the the holiness of God or challenge them to live out that holiness in the childlike fear of God. We condone materialism, worldliness, and triviality because we have so little sense of an ever-present, infinitely holy God.” p44-45

How insightful and succinct is that.

—————————————————–

* Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man (London: R. Baynes, 1822), 2:442

** Joel Beeke, Living for God’s Glory, Reformation Trust, Orlando, 2008, 44-45

From → Editorial

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