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Archive for the ‘Children’s Ministry’ Category

Brian Croft over at the “Practical Shepherding” blog has posted an excellent article on how a local church should minister to a convicted sexual offender in their congregation.  Having supervised sexual offenders for several years as a probation officer prior to entering full-time ministry, this topic was of particular interest to me.  I think a lot of churches simply bury their heads in the sand and refuse to address the issue… and thereby they place others in danger of being sinned against.  This is a touchy subject, but Brian’s suggestions are excellent.  You can find his post here http://briancroft.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/how-do-you-welcome-a-man-in-your-church-who-is-an-habitual-child-molester/.  (Read down through the comments thread to find my suggestions if you are interested…)

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I came across an article by David Nienhuis in the recent issue of Modern Reformation which I have read several times.  In it, he addresses the issue of biblical illiteracy among modern evangelicals, particularly among young evangelicals.  It is a very insightful article.  Having spent several years working with young people in the local church, I can say that I think his assessment is quite accurate.  You can find his article here http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=1110&var3=main&var4=Home.  It is a little long, but it is worth the time to read.

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Dr. Russell Moore has some interesting (convicting?) thoughts on unrestricted and unmonitored cellphone usage among our children.  Like virtually everything he writes, it is worth the time to read.  Here is an excerpt…

“The formation and discipline of children, after all, is built on the pattern of God’s fatherly discipline of his people (Heb 12:3-11), seen in his discipline of Israel (Deut 8:1-20) and, ultimately, in his discipleship of the incarnate Christ (Luke 2:20, John 5:19-20; Heb 2:10). Our discipline of our families is rooted, then, in the Fatherhood “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:14).

I wonder, then, when it comes to cell phones, how many parents do precisely what our Father never does, and never will do. James tell us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:14). The Apostle Paul tells us that “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).

That’s why our God, through the Law of Moses, treats his people as a tightly-governed child “under guardians and managers until the date set by his father” (Gal 4:2). He carefully works us toward maturity, seeing that we’re faithful in small things before putting us over many things. That’s what a good and loving Father does.

A pre-teen or a teenager with unrestricted cell-phone usage (or Internet or television consumption) is being placed in a very, very difficult place of temptation. The company of that young man or woman is now away from the scrutiny of parents, and is now left only to his or her discretion or conscience.  Are there some young Christians who can handle such? Of course. Should you assume your child is one of them? Your Father is more careful of you than that.”

Read the whole thing.  You can find it here http://www.russellmoore.com/index.php/2009/02/09/does-your-childs-cell-phone-preach-another-gospel/

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Dr. Gene Veith recently posted some interesting facts about growth among the Amish (they have grown 84% since 1992.)  The majority of this growth is the result of high birthrates (on average, each Amish family has 5 children with 85% of these children remaining Amish.)  The thrust of his post is the weakness among evangelicals when it comes to evangelizing their own children.  Sobering stuff here.  You can read it for yourself at http://www.geneveith.com/church-growth-amish-style/_992/

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Dr. John Piper has posted a brief description of how he has tried to train up his children spiritually.  It is worth reading or listening to the audio.  You can find it here http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/AskPastorJohn/ByTopic/104/3208/

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As I have said before on this blog, I am a homeschooling father.  I take the biblical commands to evangelize and disciple my children seriously (i.e. Deut 6:4-9, Eph 6:4, etc.)  In an attempt to accomplish these God-given responsibilities, my wife and I have made the choice to keep our children home for their education.  Although I would not say that homeschooling is the only way in which a parent can fulfill the God-given mandate to evangelize and disciple one’s children, this is our way of striving to apply this teaching of Scripture to our life.  With this said, despite my best efforts, I am a sinner and I know that I fall short of God’s expectation of me as a father on daily basis.  But this is something I take very seriously.

I am also a pastor.  As a pastor, I am called to “shepherd the flock of God” (I Pet 5:2.)  Paul gives us a helpful (and convicting) description of what this is in Acts 20

Acts 20:18-21, 28-31 (ESV) – 18 And when they (i.e. the Ephesian elders) came to him (Paul), he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ… 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.

Again… I am humbled by the awesome description of my responsibilities as a pastor.  Far too often, I fall short of what God expects of me as a shepherd of His flock.  Praise God for my Savior, who died to forgive all my sins!

But one of the most pressing questions upon my mind over the past couple of years has been how to bring these two aspects of the Christian life together. And, as a pastor, how do I strive to integrate these two aspects (family-based evangelism/discipleship and church-based evangelism/discipleship) in the local church I am called to shepherd?

There seems to be a movement among evangelicals today to try to pit the family and the Church against one another.  I see this tendency often among homeschooling families who, like myself, see the home as essential for the evangelism and discipleship of children in a wicked world.  But, unfortunately, more and more families (particularly homeschooling families) are leaving the church all the time in an effort to retain a family emphasis on evangelism and discipleship of children.

Now I am not going to say that churches (note:  “churches”, not the “Church”) are perfect.  Many churches have usurped the role of the family in evangelism and discipleship. And many parents have been more than willing to turn over the spiritual nurture of their children to “professionals” (i.e. Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, etc…) rather than accepting this daunting responsibility which God has given to them. 

But we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  The family and the church should not be odds.  The family is important to God.  Parents are COMMANDED to train up their children to know and love God (Deut 6:4-9, Eph 6:4.)  A man whose family is not in order cannot be an elder in the church (I Tim 3:4-5.)  But at the same time, Christ shed His blood for the Church (Acts 20:28, Eph 5:25-27)… not the family.  There is no question that the Church is central in the New Covenant era.  In fact, Jesus seems to state that the relationship of believers to one another is more intimate and central than natural, familial relationships (Matt 12:46-50, Lk 9:59-62, Lk 14:26.)  Not to mention the fact that, by and large, the majority of the New Testament is written to churches… not to individual families (i.e. epistles…)

This is not a white and black… either/or issue.  The family is ordained by God to be a center of biblical instruction (Deut 6:4-9.)  But the Church is uniquely ordained by God to reflect His glory.  In fact, Ephesians 3:8-10 seems to say that the Church is God’s ultimate plan of redemption.  Note this carefully. The Church… not the family… is the focus of God displaying His glory and has been for all eternity.  However, with this said, both are critical in God’s plan of redemption in bringing glory to Himself.  We cannot do without one or the other.  The family and the church should not be at odds with one another.  They should be seamlessly joined together for the glory of God.  One should support the other with the ultimate goal of God’s magnificence being seen by all creation!

I find that I have been highly ineffective as a pastor in trying to integrate these two strands of teaching in Scripture in the local church.  People on both sides of the issue are always mad at me.  Those who believe in age-segregated programs of evangelism and discipleship in the church get angry that I am not more supportive of their efforts to reach children for Christ (which I believe is a uniquely parental role.)  While, at the same time, those committed to the centrality of the family in evangelism/discipleship often accuse me of not being committed enough to a “family-integrated model.”  However, that doesn’t change the fact that I think both extremes are quite wrong.  We need to affirm both the centrality of the family and the Church.  And how this is applied will look different in differing contexts.

This brings me to the reason why I started writing this post.  Dr. Michael Lawrence has written an excellent review of Dr. Voddie Baucham’s book “Family-Driven Faith” over at the 9Marks website.  I greatly respect both of these men and have benefited from the teaching of both of them.  Dr. Baucham is an articulate advocate for the “family-integrated” side of the argument and his book is a helpful read.  It will challenge you as a parent to take seriously your God-given role as a parent.   However, I have always been a little uncomfortable with some of his applications, particularly in regards to the local church.  He seems to say that the family “trumps” the church (my word, not his.)  Dr. Lawrence does a far better job than I ever could of identifying these issues and attempting to bring balance between these two extremes.  I would highly recommend Dr. Lawrence’s review, even if you aren’t going to read Dr. Baucham’s book.  It would be time well spent.  You can find it here http://9marks.org/CC/article/0,,PTID314526%7CCHID598014%7CCIID2438258,00.html.

In the end… pray for the family and the Church.  Raise your children to know and love God!  Teach them diligently!  And love the Church… after all… Jesus shed His blood to save Her!

 

 

 

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Rick Phillips has an encouraging (and convicting) post over at the Reformation 21 blog regarding how to train up Christian children.  You can find it here http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2008/08/discipling-christian-children-1.php

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