January 2006


If you have poorly behaved children and/or parent’s that have no common sense on how to control their children, will anyone volunteer to host the church? And won’t that just kill your meeting times?
 

From the beginning of the Christian age, socially undesirable people have been welcome in God’s kingdom. Parents who don’t control their children and children who behave poorly both fall into the socially undesirable category. (1 Cor 12:21-26; James 2:5-7, Luke 4:18)
 

We have an obligation to be considerate, sympathetic, compassionate for those who have problems or are immature (1 Peter 3:8). We are obligated to show hospitality and open our homes even when some of our church family do not treat our property with proper respect (1 Peter 4:9). And, yes, these behaviors will drive us crazy, but in the vein of 1 Cor 12:21-26, we will have to make due because we are one body.
 

But… We have the obligations to these members of God’s family, our family, to speak plainly to them and explain how their irresponsible behavior is hurting the family and can’t be tolerated (Eph 4:25). We must teach and admonish these members so that they can become useful in the family. The older women should teach the younger mother’s, the older men are to set the right example, and we can’t back down on insisting on right behavior in the church (see Titus 2, especially v. 15).
 

I know that this course of action will turn people off, but our holiness means that we will follow God’s direction regardless of how socially unacceptable our “discipline” is in these matters.
 

Editor’s Note: This can be one of the most devisive issues for families with young children. It is important for those who would give instruction to young parents to have a relationship with the parents before trying to give advice.
 

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1 Corinthians 14:21-26 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
 

James 2:5-7 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
 

Luke 4:18-19 The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
      because he has anointed me
      to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind,
   to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
 

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
 

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
 

1 Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
 

worshipHave you ever heard someone say “worship service is about God not about entertainment”? I have, and I’ve said it myself. This is a reaction to the well-established trend to enhance the meeting times of churches to be more appealing to the unchurched and even the churched that find traditional worship services uninspiring.

What do we see in the Bible about worship? The word “worship” in all its forms is found 250 times in the NIV. 75 times in the New Testament. You can get a listing at http://yeldell.org/robin/bible/ Worship_NIV_NT.pdf.
(These counts include a few instances where the worship is in the NIV Bible section titles.)

Two dimensions of these worship passages are useful for this consideration, the religion dimension (pagan, Jewish, Christian) and context dimension (individual vs. group). Here are some examples of passages along these dimensions…

Religion: Jewish/Samaritan Worship
Context: Group Worship
John 4:22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Religion: Unclassified
Context: Individual Worship
John 9:38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

Religion: Christian
Context: Individual Worship
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

What we find in this survey is that for Christian worship, it’s an individual activity. But we usually use the term worship to refer to a gathering of Christians to sing, pray, study, take the Lord’s Supper, etc. With the possible exception Acts 13:2, we don’t see the word worship associated with the meeting of saints. The word is absent in the key “meeting passages” of Acts 2:42ff, Acts 20:7ff, 1 Corinthians 11, 14,  1 Timothy 2, and Hebrews 10:24-25. The worship passage from Romans 12 is our most straightforward teaching about what true worship is. Christian worship is an individual act directed toward God.

Today, our Christian meetings are focused on either 1) worship/praise/edification optimized for church members, 2) worship/praise/feel-good/hope sessions optimized for the unchurched visitors, or 3) fellowship and edification of church members. Unfortunately the first two are the most common, the first approach being common in traditional, maintenance-focused churches, and the second approach used by churches bent on growth. The “meeting passages” clearly align with the third approach.

1 Corinthians 14:22-25 teaches that unbelievers are a secondary concern of the meeting times, but that we must maintain credibility. Nonetheless, unbelievers will be convicted by the prophesying of the group. They will benefit even though they are not the focus of the group.

So our meetings, unfortunately termed “worship service”, should be about one another, and only indirectly about God. Our 1, 2, or 4 hours a week together should be about one another, the other 164+ hours of the week should be about worship.

How will you be able to conduct an edifying corporate worship if you are in a relatively small space and there is no children’s church, cry room, or nursery?  

Simply put, you would use a family get-together model. The children are included or sent out depending on what the activity is. Mothers should not feel like they are constantly under the microscope when one of the babies or toddlers causes distraction. Grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, and cousin-types in the church family should help with the entertainment of the children so that the mothers can be involved (and aren’t worn out) and so the meeting time isn’t forced into a kid’s party.  It’s hard to put a value on children’s sense of involvement in our meetings. In these meetings they will see real world struggle among the adults and know what to expect as they grow up. They will have positive, adult, non-parent relationships that will build a strong foundation for a life of faith and balance.

Every group will have a difference situation, a different mix of ages, different behavior among the kids, different types of houses. This is an age-old challenge requiring common sense solutions.

One of the struggles I had in institutional church was the superficial or even non-existent relationship that I had with most of the people in the church. Most I did not speak to for months at a time. Many I don’t even know by name. Even those in my inner circle, I rarely saw outside of church service/class attendance and committee work. Often my only gauge of how they were doing was their attendance pattern at church meeting times.

So what’s the big deal? Well… If we are to be recognized as Jesus’ disciples, we will have to love one another as Jesus loved us. Simple concept… “Love one another.” Just one simple command seems to be the deafening refrain throughout the account of the first century church. Especially as it takes shape in the “one another” obligations. See the 48 passages in http://yeldell.org/robin/bible/ OneAnotherObligations.pdf for a compendium of one another passages.

Our only hope of achieving this ideal is to be in small groups, resembling families that are intimately familiar with each other, living life as a community, knowing what’s going on with each other, caring for each other, keeping watch. True, immature members of the family will be on the receiving end of much of the good will, but they will grow and mature and contribute with time and maturing.

In the same way that institutional church falls short of facilitating the “one anothers”, abandoning regular meetings of believers altogether misses the mark. We have to be in a family of believers to fulfill our “one another” obligations.

What about the children that do not have a father to train them or a father that is not willing or able to fulfill that responsibility? 

If we don’t have children’s Bible class how will the (spiritually) fatherless be instructed in the way of the Lord? Given that this is not God’s ideal situation, there is not a quick and easy answer to the problem. However, the scriptures and common sense provide an obvious conclusion… the mother is instrumental in bringing about faith.  

The two gold-standard passages on this would be Timothy, son of a Greek father, learning his faith from his mother and grandmother (1 Tim 1:5). And second is 1 Cor 7:12-14, where the wife of an unbelieving husband, by staying with her husband, maintains holiness for the children. The second passage is a bit mysterious, but I believe the context shows that the mother’s godly life will sanctify the husband and the children.

In all this, I think we see that life lived out in faith in front of our children is the key. Naturally, faithful friends and family members, fathers in faith, and other Christians can and should live among and with these children to demonstrate faith and provide instruction (Phil 2:22, 1 Tim 1:2, Titus 1:4, Titus 2:6-8).  

 

 

 

Children's Bible ClassThe #1 response to my change of direction for church has been around the impact on the children (Colton and Noah). From my reading, the #1 question among all people that first encounter or consider simple church is “What about the children?”

Usually that question is a bundle that can cover many dimensions depending on the persons stage in life and life experience. I’ll do a series of blog entries to cover some of the many dimensions to that question.

  1. How will the kids learn Bible if there is no organized children’s education program?

I think we all know the answer to this, but we have gotten very attached to our children’s education program and have seen amazing results.

Here are the two gold-standard passages about who is responsible for teaching the children. We all know them and tremble in their shadow.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Ephesians 6:4
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Much like secular education, you can pay to have someone train your children or you can do it yourself. We all have varying degrees of capability when it comes to training children, keeping their attention, keeping our patience, etc. So for the same reason that we send our kids to schools or tutors, we may send them to a bible school or a bible tutor. The fundamental difference is the gravity of the subject matter, the necessity of getting it into the heart (not just head) of the child, and the limited ways that that knowledge and experience can get driven into the heart.

God knew that only the spiritual leader of the household can create a learning environment that is up to the task of driving the knowledge deep into the heart and psyche of the children.

So as Caitlin says “you’ve said a lot of words without saying anything.” How will we proceed?

    1. Caitlin and the kids are still at BRCC, so we don’t feel the pressure to deliver the facts about the bible, just the life lessons that illustrate the meaning of the bible facts.
    2. I plan to look into some material to help with family Bible study
    3. I will put together several passage that will be useful to memorize and work on memorizing them with the kids
    4. I will work on a survey of the Bible to work through with the kids that will acquaint them with the content and purpose of the characters, stories, and teachings. Perhaps each week will be a new bible event, character, teaching that we will study and make application on throughout the week.
    5. I will keep in mind that other families in simple churches will need to provide the same training, so it’ll be important that I use and demonstrate methods that can be accomplished by even new believers

Questions to be covered in subsequent entries…

  1. What about the children that do not have a father to train them or a father that is not willing or able to train them?
  2. How will you be able to conduct an edifying corporate worship if you are in a relatively small space and there is no children’s church, cry room, or nursery?
  3. If you have poorly behaved children and/or parent’s that have no common sense on how to control their children, will anyone volunteer to host the church? And won’t that just kill your meeting times?
  4. If the kids are not in a church youth group as they get to be teenagers, will they be tempted to hang out with worldly kids, get involved with drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll?
  5. If the kids are not in a church youth group as they get to be teenagers, will they drop out of church because it is too dull and doesn’t connect with their youth subculture?

Want to learn more?
Here are a couple of useful and interesting links related to this topic. Please note that some writers appear to have a chip on their shoulder so you have to look past the impassioned (even hostile) rhetoric and find some real world experience and insight on how children work in simple or house churches.

House Church Basics Pt. 7: What About Children?

7 Practical Suggestions for Working With Children (about half way into the article)   

 

 

 

The description of what I’m doing in the Jan 8 BRCC bulletin (see Big Church Little Church entry) seems a little grand, engineered, self directed, and action-oriented, so I’m disliking it more every time I read it. The truth is that I don’t have a plan, but I’m wanting to be available for God’s plan. I’ve connected with some concepts around simple church and organic church planting, so in a sense, I have a clue, but this is hardly a clean, project plan driven effort. How you transition a family out of BRCC and into some yet-to-be planted church is starting to look messy.

One of the tasks that was missing on my non-existent project plan was to give Colton (age 9.8) and Noah (age 6.5) a 411 on what I was doing. All the sudden Dad is blowing off church!! They’ve never seen this before. Emily (19 yr old daughter) wonders how the boys will know my spiritual mettle if they don’t see me religiously going to church. Lord willing I will find a way to convey my spiritual values to the kids beyond attendance at services and classes.

Stay tuned as I document more missing tasks on my non-existent plan.

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