Thursday, February 17, 2011

A review of “A weed in the church” part 2

As I have already stated, the sufficiency of Scripture is a vital part in all areas of Christian life. There is no particular arena that can be untouched by the revelation of God if we are to call ourselves disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet this is the most common error made in the lives of many professing Christians. We think that the Bible applies in some areas but is either silent or trumped by culture in others. This is just as true when it comes to how we are to conduct our families.

The book delves deeply into this subject and offers a wealth of biblical guidance. But for the sake of this part of the review, I want to focus on a particular area in regards to how the family relates to the church: the congregational worship service. How should we conduct our families in relation to the church and, more specifically, the worship service? Scott Brown’s book helped to extract some, but certainly not all, of these teachings and exposite them in a clear and concise manner. He notes that the Bible “…contains hundreds of passages, made up of commands, principles, patterns and examples, that directly or indirectly address the substance, goals, and nature of youth discipleship” and that “…Proverbs alone contains 915 verses on the subject” (134). By youth discipleship he means the responsibility of the parents to “train up a child in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6).

In Ephesians 6, Paul is continuing his address to relational areas of the church. Colossians 4:16 tells us that the epistles, as well as the other canonical letters, were read aloud in the congregational worship services. When Paul addresses particular groups (husbands, wives, children, masters, servants) this means that they were expected to be in that gathering to hear the direct commands given to them. Thus, as Paul addresses children in the very first verse of chapter 6 (as well as in Colossians 3:20) this tells us that children were expected to be with their parents in the early worship service. This is an important point we cannot miss: children were in the early worship services. In fact, up until about the middle of the 20th century, children were expected to be in the worship service with their parents.

You may believe the Ephesian and Colossian passages are left up to interpretation but you cannot ignore the fact that the early church, up until the latter part of the last century, believed children should be in the worship service. What has changed this? I believe it is due in part to the seeker-sensitive movement. This movement desires to make every area of the church palatable to the lost and especially caters the worship service to be the most appealing aspect. The departure from the teaching of Scripture and the model of the early church is another symptom of the core problem Scott Brown has addressed.

But should we require children to be in the service even through the preaching, especially since they will likely not be able to comprehend most of it anyway? This assumes that all others fully comprehend the message as well. Imagine if there was someone in the service whose job was to ensure that everyone in attendance was able to comprehend the sermon. He would go around and randomly tap on people’s shoulders asking “Were you paying attention to that last part? Do you understand what the Pastor is sharing with us from the Word?” If they answered no at any point he would escort them to another room where they could hear teaching that was determined to be more comprehensible for their level of understanding. Sounds pretty ridiculous right? But that is in a sense how many advocate the idea of children’s church.

The preaching and teaching from the Elders in the early church was given with children in attendance as well. Fathers were expected to explain these sermons and teachings to their children. Should a child become overtly disobedient in the service, the parent is expected ensure proper and loving discipline is carried out (Proverbs 13:24). In fact Brown notes that “(a)n unruly family in a church presents and excellent opportunity to the church for evangelism and discipleship, whichever is necessary” (232). If a family is continually and overtly chaotic in the worship service, rather than escorting them off to a nursery or children’s church they should see this as an opportunity to reach out to the family. If the parents are unsaved, then share the Gospel with them. If they are saved, then offer loving counsel, guidance, and instruction in the Word to assist them in training up their children. One of the most encouraging things you can do is to have them over for dinner and discuss your own difficulties in helping your children to be respectful and attentive during the service.

A family that is separated during the worship service is found nowhere in Scripture and is a recipe for dysfunction in the home. I believe this to be the largest stumbling block for most concerning age-integration. The reason for wanting this age-segregation during the worship service is two-fold:

1) They desire a peaceful service without the interruption of fidgeting kids, the occasional loving correction from the parents, and/or the cries of infants.

2) They want to provide an opportunity for the lost to hear the message without their attention being divided by their children.

The biggest problem with both of these is that their starting point is based in pragmatism and not Scripture. It is based on what they desire rather than what Scripture models.

Before I conclude this portion of the book review I want to clarify something about me so that you do not think I am simply preaching from an ivory tower.

I currently serve as the Pastor for Evangelism and Education in a church that does have a children’s church. However, my wife and I keep our children with us during the service. We are the only ones who do so at this point and have been told that we “stick out” during the latter part of the service. Our children are well-behaved and we are complimented regularly on this. But we have honestly compromised in that our youngest, who is about 17 months old, is still in the nursery. We are struggling with this and praying for guidance but are certain that the biblical model is to keep the family together in corporate worship.

In a later blog I will address some of the other misconceptions and how we have a family have worked through some of these.

In the next blog I will conclude with an overall review of the book and give my current opinions and views on its primary statements.

As always, I welcome your comments and corrections. Thanks for stopping by!

Because He lives,
Pastor Adam (and family)

Monday, February 14, 2011

A review of “A weed in the church” part 1

As I started reading this book, I remembered the need for Scripture to always be the basis for any teaching (1 Timothy 3:16). All too often we can be swept away by right-minded methodology without any reference to Scripture (Ephesians 4:14). Such methods work to influence the mind through avenues such as statistics, pragmatism, and cultural relativity. Keeping this in mind I dove into the pages.

The book begins with the premise that something is apparently wrong in our churches. This is not a new assessment, as many have made this claim over the past few decades. But interestingly, most have attributed the problem to numerous symptoms rather than the root cause. What is quickly noted by the author is that family segregation itself is not the root of the problem, but it is one of the drastic results. “I began to believe that the problem could be traced primarily to one fundamental issue...: our abandonment of the sufficiency of Scripture as it pertains to our philosophy and practice of youth ministry” (28) (emphasis added). Scott Brown also notes that “(t)he most devastating problem the Church faces in any era is the perversion of the gospel…” (45).

So that no one thinks what Mr. Brown points out are given from an outside perspective, he readily admits to being an advocate of such in his early years of ministry. He even states that an age-segregated youth ministry “along with the ministry of my father and that of a faithful church pastor, played an important role in my conversion” (25). But he also acknowledges the biblical fact that “(i)n the everkind and overruling providence of God, He sometimes grants good things in spite of our weak man-centered methods”(55). This is very important to remember, especially if you are an advocate of youth ministry. Pointing out the few instances where godly results have come from age-segregated ministries in no way means they are biblically based. It instead is evidence that God's sovereign will tears through man's pitiful, yet sometimes well-intentioned, attempts. This is not a book bent on throwing stones at a lofty tower (age-segregated ministries). It is instead one that questions whether the tower itself is built on the correct foundation, whether its bricks are laid according to the teachings of Scripture, and whether the tower itself should even exist.

An important point he makes in the third chapter is the identification of the three God-ordained governments of family, church, and state. Each have a particular area of jurisdiction given in Scripture and when any subvert the other they are breaching the clearly defined boundaries which God has established. At first, this may be taken out of context to mean that the church has no authority over the family. However, it is noted later that “(i)n the past, fathers were put under church discipline for not training their children according to God’s Word” (221). The footnote to this statement references the Westminster Confession of Faith from 1646.

I found this point alone to be very telling of the current problem with age-segregated ministries. When the church takes over the place of the father in training up the children they are blatantly disregarding the commands of Scripture given directly to the father. What first came to mind was the way in which most of us cry out about our government overreaching its authority. We scream in rebellion when our taxes are being used without Constitutional authority. We rally against the government when they want to remove a homeschooled child from a home. Why? Because we believe they are overstepping the boundaries established for our Nation and intruding in areas where they do not belong.

But the same thing happens when well meaning children's ministry and youth workers insist that we release our children to be gathered with their peers under the teaching of another. They are sent off to youth groups and junior church while the parents have no idea of what they are being taught. Sure, some of the teachers and leaders encourage the parents to be involved but only to a certain extent. If you dare to tread on the sacred ground of children and youth ministries and you will face the wrath of nearly six decades of tradition.

God established the family in the Garden of Eden and has not given it any supremacy over or above the church. The family is to subject itself under the headship of the father who in turn submits himself and his family to the teaching of the church Elders. Dividing children off into age specific groups is found no where in Scripture.

So what are some examples in Scripture of how we are to conduct our families in relation to the church and biblical teaching? We’ll review this from the book in the next blog.

As always, I welcome your input. Please note that this is just a review and, while I will do my best to present the book in its entirety, reading it for yourself is the best way to understand this important issue.

Thanks for stopping by!

In Christ,
Pastor Adam (and family)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Preface to my review of "A weed in the church"

About 5 years ago, the Lord placed a book in my path that completely altered my understanding of evangelism. It made such an incredible impact on me that it drove me further to God's Word for guidance in that particular area. What I came to understand was that I too had been a part of the unbiblical presentations of the Gospel to the lost. I had based everything I was doing on pragmatism and the cunning methods of man. This book was "The Way of the Master" by Ray Comfort. I have had the opportunity to meet Ray and the other slaves of Christ at Living Waters and witnessed firsthand their love for God and compassion for the lost. Looking back, I can see the hand of God as he used this writing and those associated with it to correct my ways and am thankful for God's sovereign mercy for such.

Fast forward to about a eight months ago. My wife and I had been keeping our children with us in the worship for a little more than six months. We were now in a new church and thought nothing of changing this. What we soon came to discover was that keeping our children in the worship service was not readily accepted by others. This caused great strife and grief as we were seen as trouble-makers who came with an agenda. However, we felt this was just a personal conviction and in no way tried to convey anything more than this. Over the months that followed, God drove me deeper to His Word (again) and placed in my path people who would quickly show me that my conviction was not only biblically based but just the tip of a much larger problem.

I was continuing to preach on the streets and trying to gather a faithful evangelism group to share the Gospel 1-2-1 with the lost in our community. But during this time, I was still pleading with God for guidance concerning the situation with our children in the church. One day, I stumbled upon (but God placed before me) an audio clip of a documentary trailer on one of my podcasts. I searched the internet for the trailer and found it was for a documentary titled "Divided". After ordering it, l I found time to watch and gasped at the wealth of information contained within this short 50 minute time frame.

But I wanted to know more. The documentary was endorsed and assisted by a ministry named "The National Center for Family-Integrated Church". I found the site full of article and sermons; more than I could work through in a few months. Several prominent Christian leaders such as Paul Washer, Voddie Baucham, and Paige Patterson were among the supporters and contributors of this ministry. An important fact you should know about me is that I do not take anyone's endorsement at face value. Instead I searched through the site and even decided to pose a question to the founder, Scott T. Brown. Scott responded to my question rather quickly and invited me to travel to Wake Forest to meet with him briefly.

Within a week I was on the road for a 5 hour round trip for what would only be a 1 hour meeting. That morning I poured out my concerns to Scott for what the Lord had been showing me in His Word and through the ministry. He offered great counsel and handed me two copies of his book "A weed in the church". One was for my Senior Pastor to read and the other was for me. As Scott signed my copy he told me that it would address every presupposition and counter to the biblical presentation of a family-integrated church. He prayed for me and told me to contact him if I had any other questions. After leaving his office I couldn't help but feel ill-equipped to tackled those who would oppose this teaching. As I drove back home I kept looking over at the two copies of the book in my passenger seat and wondered just how much it would effect me. Little did I know that it would have the same drastic effect on my ministry, to my family and in my church, as did the "Way of the Master".

In two weeks I worked through this book and found myself in awe of what it was revealing concerning this "weed" that has grown in our midst. What I will attempt to do in the next few blogs is give a fair and accurate review of this ministry-altering book.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. If you are reading this from Facebook, please consider leaving a comment on the blog itself since some readers are either not friends on Facebook or do not subscribe to that network.

Thanks for stopping by!

For the glory of the risen Savior,
Pastor Adam (and family)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tweeting through "A Weed in the Church"

A few weeks ago I had a great meeting with Scott T. Brown from the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. During that meeting he offered me a copy of his book "A Weed in the Church". I was in the middle of finishing the previous book that I have already blogged about but picked up this new reading as soon as I finished.

I decided to "Tweet" my way through this new book since I had, in only the first 50 pages, found a wealth of vital information for Christians, their families, and the church today.

I will blog a book review once I have completely digested the writing itself. However, I highly encourage you to consider purchasing a copy for yourself. You can do so by following this link to their store: A Weed in the Church. I am only halfway through the book and it is an eye-opener.

Although my Tweets are also connected to my Facebook page you can follow along directly by looking me up on twitter:

Thanks for stopping by!

Pastor Adam (and family)