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Your Children and the Church

Do you choose a church based on your perceived needs of your children? This question has come to me in various forms over the years. Some are looking for a larger youth group or children’s program. Some families attend churches where their children do not have peers, or in one instance, they did not like the “type of children” that were attending the program. In either case, they begin looking for another church. The parents start investigating the churches in the area and where most of their child’s school friends attend. Then . . . They go.

I have four children. I share this with you so that you will understand that I know the desire for your kids to be in an environment where you think they will flourish. As a parent, you desire the best for your children. If you are a parent and you are struggling with this question, I would like to share a few things with you.

It is your job to lead the home

Your child is a gift from God, and you are stewarded to lead them in a manner that glorifies God. There are times that we as parents tend to relinquish power to our children that they are not ready to handle. It is not your child’s responsibility to choose a church for your family to attend; the weight is on your shoulders as a parent.

It is your job to point to Christ

In the process of evaluating a move, please consider the function of your home in the spiritual life of your child. God designed the household to be the primary place of theological instruction, and he gave us the church to help accomplish the task. Before you move to a different church for the sake of your children, evaluate if your home is taking the primary role of spiritual development.

The responsibility of the parent is more than just transportation to church services and functions. Parents have the responsibility to instruct and instill Scripture into the lives of their children. Please do not consider leaving a church that seems to have little to offer your children if you are not giving your children the foundation they need in the home. If the foundation of the household is faithful, the children will lack nothing.

As a parent, you attend church for your spiritual health, and the byproduct of that pursuit will be a spiritually healthy home and spiritually fed children. Your children will follow in your footsteps, they will worship as your worship, and they will feast on God’s Word as they watch you study God’s Word. You are a far more significant influence than any local church.

Older generations are a gift

We have a ‘s wonderful children’s program at Oak Ridge Baptist Church. The lessons that our children receive are second to none. However, I find that the program is not the foremost blessing for our children – it is the people in the church.

I sat today and watched my 8-year-old sit and have lunch with people much older than him. In fact, one is over 80. He loves these people, and the people love him. I see my 12-year-old sit and work with ladies well beyond her in age, and it is a blessing. They have helped teach her to sew and crochet – she learns from them. They model an ethic, propriety, and love of Christ that is often absent among her peers. My two middle sons love the men in our church. They see how these men treat their wives and how they serve the church body. These blessings are invaluable to my children and me.

Church isn’t about your children

The church is about God and displaying His glory. If we choose a church based on what the church offers our children, we are inadvertently teaching them that church is about them. We instill a consumerist idea about the church that only harms the church and our children. Be careful that you do not teach them that God is just honored in the “bigger and better.” Teach them about contentment and looking for the blessings God has given in the church you currently attend.

I pray these thoughts will help you as you serve your church, or as you look for a church.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Church Life, Family Life

 

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Me, My Bible, and the Holy Spirit

I was across the room, watching everyone recover from the holiday meal.  The people were perched around the room, enjoying visiting with others they had not seen in a while.  In an attempt to make conversation, I heard one of them talking about their Sunday school lesson and asked the person what they used to help them study the Bible.  The answer still rings in my ears, “I don’t use anything, all I need is the Holy Spirit.” I share this statement with you because it is not wrong, but it is also not entirely right.

The Holy Spirit enables us to understand the truths conveyed in Scripture.  Apart from him, we cannot ascertain anything spiritual.  Christ affirmed God-given understanding when he acknowledged Peter’s statement that Jesus is the Messiah (Matthew 16:17) and the role of the Holy Spirit as taught in John 14:26.

Yes, the Holy Spirit is crucial in our understanding of Scripture, but the statement made by this person neglects how the Holy Spirit often works.

The Spirit’s Gift to Mankind

We need to step back for a minute and look at God’s design of the community.  Genesis 2:18 tells us “It is not good for man to be alone.” However, to apply this strictly to the marriage context does not do it justice in the scheme of creation. Humanity was not designed to be alone. Adam and Eve were the starting point for population and community . . . We are designed to operate in a community.

This truth continues to resound in the New Testament as the church is established and needed for the fostering of faith.  The concept behind Hebrews 10:25 is believers need to meet together to help each other in the faith.  As Christians, we were designed to need iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).  It is clear – one way the need for community exhibits itself is in the design of the church.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians telling them of gifts given to the faith community, the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers (Eph 4:11).  Each of these gifts is for the equipping of the body.  No matter how you understand each of these roles, this is the point:  God gifted us with each other to help nurture our faith and spiritual growth.

Neglecting the Gift of Community

The statement given above ignores the design of God.  In essence, it says it is okay to be alone – in our study.  Yes, the Holy Spirit can teach the Word of God and help us understand its contents, but the Holy Spirit has also given us a community in which to foster that knowledge.

Let’s look at the position of a Sunday school teacher that would assert they need no help to guide their study.  Aside from ignorance, this might merely be a statement of arrogance.  After all, the teacher assumes that the students need to hear what the teacher has studied.  In other words, the lesson is essential for people to understand. However, if we genuinely believe that people only need their Bible and the Holy Spirit, then the teacher is irrelevant and not need.  Do you understand the hypocrisy and arrogance?  The teacher becomes a source that others need to hear, but the teacher needs to hear from no one else.

The same understanding applies to a pastor claiming they need no help in understanding the Bible because the Holy Spirit directs them.  I firmly believe the Holy Spirit leads people in learning and preaching.  However, if that is all that is needed, then there is no need for him to share a sermon.  Instead, he needs to tell the people to go home and read the Bible for themselves, asking the Holy Spirit for guidance.

Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)  We must learn to handle God’s Word properly, and that ability comes from the saints that have gone before us and those with us.  Our church and the community of believers are a gift from the Holy Spirit that we should not avoid or neglect.

Embracing the Gift of One Another

There have been many men of God that have touched my life and taught me more than I can record. Men like Earl Taylor and Jim Mays have encouraged and corrected me outside of the seminary structure.  Why did I listen to them?  Both of these men amassed years of experience and wisdom that I would be foolish to ignore.  In the seminary structure, there were men of God that knew Scripture and its intricate parts in a way that I long to experience.  These men knew more than me.

The Holy Spirit gifted them in different areas, and when they operated in these areas, they were a gift, used by the Holy Spirit in my life.  On my shelves sit works penned by men as they struggled to understand Scripture and how it applied to the Christian life.  They knew more than me, they studied more than I have, and they faithfully served the Kingdom of God.  Just as I would be foolish to ignore the wisdom and knowledge that have been passed on to me through mentors, it would be just as unreasonable to ignore the works of such fellow believers who are no longer with us.

No, you do not need more than your Bible and the Holy Spirit.  However, do not neglect the gift of the saints that the Holy Spirit desires to use in your pursuit of Christian growth and biblical study.  Read what others have written.  Use the plumb line of Scripture to evaluate their work. Learn from those who know more than you. Treasure the words of those who are wiser than you.

Barnabas helped Paul. Aquilla and Pricilla corrected Apollos. Paul taught Timothy, Titus, and many others.  As believers, even in eternity, we do not become omniscient.  Therefore, we still need teachers now, those living and those gone on to be with their Savior.  Let their works help you understand the Bible.

 

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2019 in Church Life

 

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The Perfect Church

It usually happens about the time someone finds out that I am a pastor.  What is the “it” to which I am referring?  “It” is when someone tells me everything they think is wrong with the church.  Sometimes it is the church they attend, but other times it is a list of reasons they no longer attend church.  Most of the time, these are deep seeded feelings.  I know this because in the impromptu conversation they are quite detailed in their explanation and there is no hesitation while they gather their thoughts.  Is the church as bad as some of them think?

Countless theological truths probably need clarity at this point.  Some want to know a definition of the church, whether I am speaking of the visible or invisible church (if this confuses you, ignore it and keep reading), if I am speaking of the local church, or if I am speaking of the global church.  Let’s set all that aside for a minute.  I am writing about the local church;  the one you and I attend each Sunday, and maybe the one that fueled the critics’ thoughts.  Whether it is the largest church you know, the smallest church you know, denominational, or non-denominational, I am talking about the local church. Moreover, I am talking about a church that holds to the authority of Scripture, the message of the Gospel (by grace through faith, only through Jesus Christ), and an orthodox view of the Trinity.  (Yes, I could probably make the list longer by giving more details, but you would eventually stop reading.)

Churches Struggle

So now, let me give you a word of caution. I am about to talk about a section of Scripture in a book that has more opinions about it than there are options for coffee from your local barista – the Book of Revelation. (Cue the surprising yet troubling music: Dun-dun-duuuun!)

As I sat a read the portion to the seven churches, I thought about the many critical feelings that people share with me about churches.  If you go back and read Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, you will find the following list, and I have tried to summarize the main focus of each message.

Ephesus: The Loveless Church
Smyrna:  The Persecuted Church
Pergamum: The Compromising Church
Thyatira: The Corrupt Church
Sardis: The Dead Church
Philadelphia: The Faithful Church
Laodicea: The Lukewarm Church

Six out of the seven churches had some pretty serious issues at hand.  In fact, only one received a favorable report.  I am not going to thoroughly explain every problem, though I do encourage you to read Christ’s evaluation of each church.  I desire to bring one thing to your attention – Christ called each group of gathered people a church.

The church at Philadelphia was not perfect, though Christ gave it commendation. However, Christ called it a church just like the gathered group in the city of Thyatira.  These churches consisted of people who struggled with sin on a daily basis.  Though in sin, Christ calls them a church and desires repentance and restoration from them. Churches struggle because they are composed of people who struggle.  Some churches handle these struggles well, and some do not.  Some churches deal with an individual’s struggles well, and some do not.  There is no perfect church.  With this in mind, we go back to the complaints, the lists of wrongs, and the voices of condemnation.

Your Church Struggles

The music may not be the greatest.  The preacher may struggle to be a pastor; the pastor may struggle with preaching well. Some people are not friendly,  the church may not have a large children’s program, and the youth program may not have the activities you desire.  The church may have Sunday School instead of small groups, or they may have small groups instead of Sunday School.  Do you see that none of these are even close to the problems that Christ saw in the seven churches addressed in Revelation?

Let’s consider that the church you attend has problems similar to those faced by the churches in Revelation.  Those issues certainly need to be addressed, and there is a biblical means for doing so in Matthew 18:15-20.  In some cases, if there is no repentance or corrective measure taken, it may be time to leave. (When to leave a church would require an entirely separate post.) However, I want you to know that the things people share we me often fall within the group of problems listed in the previous paragraph.  Rarely do they involve the issues contained in Revelation.

You Might Be Part of the Solution

Here is my question: What are you doing to be part of the solution?  We read in Ephesians 5:25-32 that Christ loves the church.  Christ showed his love to the seven churches by giving them a message to produce repentance and restoration.  Christ desires the church to be blameless and spotless.  He wanted this for the churches in Revelation, and he desires that for our local churches.  Your church with all of its problems is still a church, a group of people loved by Christ.

Let me give you three questions to ask yourself regarding your complaints:

  • Is the issue at hand a sin problem or a preference problem?

The music not being the kind of music you like to listen to is not a sin problem, it just means that your preference is not being satisfied.  If the problem is a matter of preference, it is probably an issue within your heart.  If the issue is a sin problem, then it needs to be addressed: first to the person in sin, and then possibly the leaders of the church.

  • Are you willing to help be a part of the solution?

Let’s say for a moment that you have a legitimate concern:  youth in the church have no teacher, and there are no activities. Are you willing to set up the events or are you willing to learn how to teach the youth?  Maybe your desire for something godly to happen in the church is God placing a task on your heart!

  • Do you love the church?

This last question is the most crucial one to answer.  We should love the things our Savior loves – including the church.  If you love the church, then be an edifying voice in the midst of criticism.  The world deals enough blows to the church.  Don’t join in on the condemnation.  Show grace and mercy in your speech; show love in your willingness to serve; show your dedication to Christ by your desire to walk with your church through its struggles.  If you love the church, let your words and actions give evidence.  If you do not love the church, then there is an issue in your heart that needs attention.

No church is perfect, and I may have created more questions than answers.  Do you pursue the church in love and service they way God pursues you? My prayer is that God would give you a passion for his church that would manifest itself in the way you speak and serve.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Church Life

 

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