Sunday, December 14, 2003

Christmas, Children, & Church

His students were really put out. Their teacher was a busy man with a full schedule of ministry; preaching engagements, church conferences, counseling sessions, church planting, and the all important seminary teaching he was giving to a select group to prepare them for ministry also. The days were long and full as the teacher's reputation continued to grow, and great crowds would come to see him. Things were so hectic that there were times when the teacher had no time even to eat a decent meal.

Now in the midst of all of that hectic activity, some parents had the audacity to bring their young children to the teacher, requesting that he would take valuable time out of an already filled schedule, and pray for those children and bless them!

That was the last straw! Don't these parents know there is important Kingdom work to be done, and that the teachers time was valuable, and there were much more important things for him to be doing then spending time with some little kids? Where was their sense of Kingdom priority? How could these parents be so selfish and petty?

"... Some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." And after laying His hands on them, He departed... " (Matthew 19:13-15)

At church tonight we had the Children's Christmas program. It was a nice time, cute little children, enthusiastic singing, and all the rest. From the mouth of babes as it were, praise was given to our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel was presented, and perhaps for a few who would not normally go to a regular church service, they heard that gospel message for the first time. I rejoice that we attend a church that loves children and clearly demonstrates that love to them.

As I sat there listening, I thought back to a conversation I had a few years ago with one of the pastors of our former church. He told me children were not part of the church family until they joined the church, (which they were not allowed to do until the latter teen years). In that church there was no vision of children being a part of a wider local church family extending beyond the actual membership. There was no active church outreach to children and young people. Any outreach there was, was done by parents, but was not a "church" outreach. It was as if children were to be seen and not heard. (Now you know one of the reasons we no longer attend that church.)

Children as young as 3 or 4 years old were expected to learn to sit through the 1 1/2 hour worship service listening to preaching way over their heads and by men whose preaching would regularly include angry yelling, scolding, and berating. (Yes, I have specific examples in mind, but will spare you.) God only knows how many of those children grew up dreading Sunday mornings. One mark in many of the families that left and are now attending other churches is that the children now look forward to going to church instead of dreading it.

Of all the children that have grown up in that former church, less then 5% of those remain in that church or in a similar sister church in another place. The grown children that left did not all defect to the world. A good majority of them are active members in other evangelical churches, but will have little or nothing to do with the church they grew up in or the movement with which it is associated.

If Jesus willingly made it a priority to minister specifically to children, and He did, how much more should His bride, the church, reflect that love and ministry to those children within the wider scope of the church community as well as outside that community. In that light, flimsy excuses based on a scholastic overbearing application of a miss-applied regulative principle seem shallow and self-serving indeed.

~ The Billy Goat ~

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