Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Should parents rejoice like this?

Surfing through news stories I came across this video yesterday:

While some may laugh at this mothers dance moves or the knee-slapping way the commentators of the show react, I was honestly appalled.  Here is a woman blessed by God with two children who relishes and celebrates in forcibly sending them back to public school after spending an entire summer with them.  In the interview she stated that this was something she started four years ago and has made it a regular occurrence. When asked why she started doing so, her reply was simply "I'm going to do something fun" thus inferring that her summer with her children was anything but enjoyable.  Laughing along, one of the show hosts reminds her that "You've got about nine more months before the dirge plays."

Before you think this is an isolated incident let me say that I have first hand heard parents shout with joy at the thought of sending their kids back to public school after their summer vacation.  Worse still, such a shout was made during the worship service in a local Baptist Church.  My wife and I both looked at each other in dismay as the mother belted out an "AMEN".  Yet not a single such praise was heard as the sermon was preached.  What does this say about the current state of parenting in our local churches?

Simply stated, it reveals how such parents feel about their children and how our churches feel in like manner.  I do not believe I am being harsh in saying that parents who rejoices at the idea of sending their children off to be indoctrinated so they could have some "mommy" or "daddy" time don't understand what it means to be a mommy or a daddy.  Parents do of course need time to recharge and spend together but this video is not an example of such.

While this woman claims that her children are not embarrassed by her dancing, they are impacted by her actions.  Imagine looking out of the bus windows to see your mom laughing, waving, and jumping around at your departure.  As a child, what kind of influence would this have on how you view your parents and how you desire to honor them (Ephesians 6:1-3)?  What does this action say of this mother's understanding of her God-ordained role?  What does it say of a father who says nothing about this?  What does it say of a church where a member rejoices in similar fashion at the same prospect of freeing herself after a "tortuous summer" of spending time with her children?

If there ever were a time when Malachi 4:6 was needed it would be in our day:

"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, that I not come and strike the earth with utter destruction."

Until the whole world hears,
Adam (and family)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Do we need to attend the same church?

A fellow brother and I try to keep a regular appointment to go to the local park and preach the Gospel on either a Friday or Saturday night.  Last Saturday in between our preaching an older gentleman approached us.  He professed to be a Christian and thanked us for sharing the Gospel.  After inquiring where we attended church he motioned to his car where his wife was sitting.

"My wife attends ______ Baptist Church...has been for nearly 50 years".

My first thought was one of faithfulness and, supposing she was truly converted, of how wonderful of a testimony they were to the younger generations.  What I didn't catch in his statement was emphasized as he spoke further.

"I attend _______ of Life Church myself."

I was taken aback for a moment.  Here was an older man in Christ to whom I should look for wisdom and guidance and yet he and his wife attended separate churches.  I was unsure if or even how to speak to him about this.  I decided that it was not the place or time to lovingly discuss this further.  One thing that should never spill over into evangelistic outreaches are disagreements and admonishings among the brethren.  Even after he left I still could not shake how disturbing this was to me.

How did that man reconcile the notion of him and his wife spending one of the most important times during the week in separate locations under separate preaching at separate churches which are affiliated with separate denominations?  Truthfully, it is probably nothing he or she has ever considered.  At some point their personal desires of where to attend services overruled the testimony that should come from such a generation and the evident union displayed in seeing a couple sitting together in corporate worship.  But this led me to another conclusion which has greater implications.

If this is an accepted idea, how would it affect others within the church?  What kind of impact would it have if a husband and wife no longer believed they needed to be members of the same church?  Pondering on this it suddenly dawned on me that I have already seen the results of this thinking and how it affects the local church.

Every Sunday families walk in the door of their church.  Dad and mom go to their room, 16 year old Johnny goes to the Youth room, 11 year old Suzy goes to her pre-teen room, 5 year old Billy goes to his Children's  room, and little baby Sara is placed in the nursery.  The family divides off immediately upon entering the building and may spend a few minutes together in the worship service before some split off again for Children's church and sometimes Youth church.  This is not only accepted but expected in most churches today.

If this is accepted why should we question what the older gentleman and his wife have decided to do?  If we split up the family into separate rooms within one building why not allow the family to be separated into other buildings as well?  Such a notion would never pass the approval of most believers today....right?

Many churches have constructed buildings separate from the main building where the body of believers meet.  Such buildings are in answer to the cry of many to give the youth their "own space".  Thus they have been reassigned to another location under another roof.  Sure it may be on the same property, sometimes, but the fact remains that the wedge that is driven between the family by dividing them up gets plunged even further when the family no longer resides together in the corporate gathering of believers.

Where will such thinking lead?  When should be expect to see the first hand results of dividing families during the corporate gatherings?  I can now personally attest to witnessing both the fruit of such and the branch from which that fruit sprung thanks to my encounter last Saturday evening.  My prayer is that this generation of fathers and mothers will diligently search the Scriptures before it is too late.  The message the older gentleman and his wife are sending should serve as warning beacon to us.  Divide the family within the church and they shall be divided even further.

For His glory,
Adam (and family)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Can we reform VBS?

The idea of Vacation Bible School often conjures up images of a fun-filled summer week.  Games, crafts, and snacks, with a touch of Bible teaching draw children into various churches during the lapse in between the public school years.  The church publishers produce a variety of options for churches to select.  Once the material is chosen, church volunteers spend countless hours the months preceding VBS in preparation for the event.  Then the week arrives.  With the church all abuzz, volunteers eagerly wait at the door for the first few children to arrive.  

If you are like me, you never really stopped to ask the hard questions about VBS.  While such questions may be numerous, I would simply pose for you two:  Is it biblical?  If not, can it be reformed?

The history of VBS is a rather recent one, in comparison to the expanse of Christian history.  In 1894 a Sunday School teacher by the name of Mrs. D.T. Miles instituted a summer school for biblical instruction.  This school initially lasted four weeks with forty young pupils in attendance.  Four years later, Eliza Hawes took a similar approach for six weeks and included Bible stories, games crafts, drawing, music, and cooking.  Dr. Robert Boville took note of this summer Bible school and recommended it to various Baptist churches.  Boville was soon instrumental in establishing five other summer schools.  Students at the Union Theological Seminary were recruited to teach these schools which enrolled a total of one thousand students in one summer.  The World Association of Vacation Bible Schools was established in 1923 as Standard Publishing popularized VBS among other churches.  As it grew other concepts and newly devised inventions became integrated.  In 1948 VBS was divided by grade levels to accommodate the model of the public school.  In 1952 the concept of a single theme emerged and by 1987 more than 120 tools were available for churches to have their own VBS.  Growing in popularity, by 1998 an estimated 5 million children attended VBS.  

Among the dizzying numerical aspects of VBS one can lose sight of necessary discernment.  Can we say that VBS is biblical?  While the intentions of Mrs. Miles, Dr. Bovile would likely be characterized as good, this does not address whether VBS's inception is based in Scripture.  As with all things, one must take the time to examine this.

Doing so is easier said than done since VBS is a staple in many churches.  Because of this we are cautious and somewhat hesitant to even the issue.  Countless children now stream into churches with workers finishing the week joyful at how many of them had "asked Jesus into their hearts".  Such children are then seen as the perfect "missionaries" to send back to their homes.  For some, these children are their church's proverbial foot in the door to get into the homes.  Thus, the children essentially become tools in getting to the parents.  In post-production, pragmatism often takes precedence over Scripture in the justification for planning a bigger, better VBS for the year.

Is the current approach to VBS truly biblical in its inception and application?  I do not believe so.  Knowing this of the current popular model of VBS, can it be reformed?  To answer this we must understand what it means to reform something.  Regarding the definition of reformation within the church, Voddie Baucham states that "To reform something means to take it back to its original biblically intended purpose."

No where in its inception does one read of the creators of VBS ever starting with Scripture.  While they may certainly have had Scripture in mind, the question still must be explored.  This does not mean that an example of something like VBS is required to be found in Scirpture, but for it to be biblical it must fall within the carefully examined confines of the Word and must not violate the principles God has already ordained.  Children are the initial and the current target audience for VBS.  In bringing in these children the churches are in some way teaching doctrine to these children.  If Scripture is to be taught to children, who then does this fall to?  Simply stated, God ordained this responsibility to the parents (Deuteronomy 6).  Regardless of whether the doctrinal teaching is orthodox, if it is not being taught by those whom God ordained to teach such then it does not pass the first hurdle of Sola Scriptura.

Although I have already addressed this biblical position in blog postsbook reviews, and in my NCFIC guest blog post, I would primarily implore you to examine this issue in light of Scripture first.  Is anyone other than parents given the commission to teach their children the commands of the Lord?  If so, we should be able to find the verses in Scripture to support such.

Can VBS be reformed?  The inevitable answer I can reach based on the definition Voddie gives and VBS's origins is an unfortunate NO!  It cannot be reformed because it disregards God's ordained role for parents, God's ordained role for the church in relation to the family, and the man-based starting point of VBS (man came up with the idea rather than searching Scripture for the principles of a solution).

Instead of reforming that which cannot be reformed, I believe that we must step back and start with Scripture.  We cannot take VBS back to its roots because such roots are found firmly rooted in Scripture.  What we know of VBS must be essentially torn down and rebuilt upon the first foundation of the Bible.  Can we have an outreach similar to VBS?  Yes, but it must be based principally in Scripture.  We do this by starting with the issue of how to reach out to individuals and families with the Gospel.  From there we take the time to build teaching from Scripture and develop the deployment of such teaching in an environment where the entire family would be present.

Imagine a week filled with doctrinal teaching where families are walked through Scripture together using various methods involving family interaction.  What a wonderful sight to behold as fathers and mothers interact with their children in such a setting.  The parents would be found not dropping their kids off for the evening but sitting alongside their children as the hear the Gospel of Christ proclaimed.  What a blessing it would be to see God redeem those lost parents and turn their hearts back to their children (Malachi 4:6).  How beautiful it would be as broken sinners are brought to the foot of the cross.

We know that God redeems individuals for His glory so what is proposed here is not a way to redeem the lost family but a way to present Scripture and salvation as it lines up with Scripture.  We should not seek to divide the families and capture the hearts of the children for ourselves but bring the entire family together under the teaching of the Word and proclamation of Christ.

VBS cannot be reformed but it can be constructed according to the principles of Scripture.  We must tear up its current roots which feed off the philosophical nutrients of pragmatism as we plant the new VBS in the soil of Scripture.  Let us look to the Scriptures and not to our own man-centered ideas for guidance as we seek to build a biblical VBS.

That He might be glorified,

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Are children a financial burden too great to bare?

The fact that there is a monetary expense in rearing a child is not a new notion.  However, according to an article from Yahoo! news the cost is now close to a quarter of a million dollars.  This government report says that it has measured the total cost of raising a child in today’s economy until the age of 17 to be  $234.900, not including college expenses. 

As I read this article I immediately thought of the young men and women looking at the prospects of marriage and wondered how this supposed research would affect their family planning.  If they believe that the expense of simply raising one child would cost them a little more than $13,800 a year it is likely that they would wish to put off having children as long as possible.  Rather than looking to the blessing of children with the first year or two of marriage, they would likely look to ungodly methods to prevent childbirth.  To ensure they were not “surprised” with a child in addition to other contraceptives abortifacents, such a birth control pills, would likely play a factor in the lives of these uninformed couples.  Thus, if the Lord sovereignly superseded their attempts at preventing childbirth they would put the life of the child in danger by taking birth control and may themselves become the parents of a child who is forcibly miscarried by this horrific pill.

In addition, when they finally decided they wanted to have children the size of their family would be affected by this false research.  Looking at their household income they would factor in the $13K amount with the mountain of debt they most likely incurred during their first few years of wedded bliss.  They would think of all the plans they had, the trips they wanted to take, and the other desires in life and would likely come to the conclusion that the fewer children they had the more they could afford.

Truly our country has lost its bearings in regards to the family.  When we look at the teachings of Scripture in comparison to the world we see a contrast that is impossible to ignore.  The world touts the materialism of possession pulling many into mountains of debt while using mis-informed research such as this to pressure many into smaller families and some even decided to live lives devoid of children completely. 

But Scripture paints these issues in reverse order.  God says children are a blessing and a reward (Psalm 127:3) and debt is curse or blight upon the home (Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-44).  If they were any doubt as to how the world’s values line up with the Lord’s, this is enough evidence for the believer to know that we are called to a life of stark contrast to how the unregenerate live. 

When the importance of children is weighed against this proposed and apparently inflated cost we have begun to equate their lives as nothing more than a liability.  In the eyes of the world children are to be measured on the same level as any other economic venture.  I can personally attest to the ridiculous nature of this research.  As a father of six children on a military income, which is salary based, I can assure you that it does not cost the amount which these researchers propose to raise our children.

The problem with the research
How could such numbers be so grossly inflated?  The answer is much simpler than you may think and can be broken into two categories:  1) The entitlement mentality and 2) Confusing wants with needs.

The entitlement mentality is more pervasive with this existing generation than many are willing to admit.  I have personally witnessed young men and women entering the military, my branch in particular, who have been raised to believe that the world is in some way indebted to them.  Our government has been the primary fuel for this consuming fire.  With welfare numbers skyrocketing and new government “assistance” programs sliding through Congress on a regular basis, it is no wonder why the up and coming generation believes the way they do.  The entitlement mentality though stems from the second category of confusing wants and needs.

Spend even a little time with most people over the age of 50 and you will be blessed with stories of how they and their family were able to accomplish so much with so little.  In fact, a good friend of ours recently showed us the picture of the home where his parents raised him and his brother…in the wilds of Alaska.  He told me stories of how little they had to get by with but how satisfied they were.  Their home was simple, their needs were basic, but their hearts were warmed by the love their parents shared.  Now step into any local mall and watch as many of today’s parents buy the latest attractive trinket that catches their child’s eye.  Could it be that these are the parents who are responsible for such false research believing that they must provide their children with the most advanced tech and latest fashionable attire?

Had those who performed this research come to my home I would have gladly assisted them in their endeavors.  I would have also been willing to point them to other Christ-centered families of similar mindset.  But this type of data does not bring the readers and the government funding that they are accustomed to.  No this information would show that children are not a blight but a blessing.  Blessings which are to be treasured and raised to fear and admonition of the Lord.

There is a cost in raising children but it is the expense of time, love, and sincere study of the Word of God.  Such a cost should not be seen as burdensome but as a blessing sought after by the people of God.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Doing what us right in our own eyes

Over a year ago in our previous church I teamed up with one of the other Pastors to preach through the book of Judges.  In our newly planted church, Reformed Baptist Fellowship of the Albemarle, we are nearing the conclusion of our preaching through the book of James and I have thought of picking back up in Judges from the first verse.  This has brought to memory several lessons I learned in my initial studies of the wonderful book of the Old Testament.

One verse is repeated several times in this book that continues to haunt my thoughts: "...Every man did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25b).  The three other verses where this phrase occurs in Judges (17:6; 18:1; 19:1) are all preceded with the phrase "...there was no King in Israel".  The demise of the Jews during this time in their history is equated to the refusal to acknowledge God and turn to their own clever devices to live as they pleased.  Without a godly leader to guide the people they placed themselves as the only authority for how they should live their lives.

Warnings of this practice of self-instruction and vain philosophical pragmatism are repeated in specifics in Psalms and Proverbs:

"For he flatters himself in his own eyes in order to find his iniquity, to hate it." (Psalm 36:2)
"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who listens to advice is wise." (Proverbs 12:15)
"All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but Jehovah weighs the spirits." (Proverbs 16:2)
"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Jehovah ponders the hearts." (Proverbs 21:2)

The people believed they had a better way of functioning and living other than that which God had specifically prescribed to them, they continued to falter with each generation suffering from sin effects of their parents.  When they repented, God would hear their cries and rescue His people but the following generation would themselves turn from God and spiral even further into sin than their predecessors.  Although God had revealed His will for the people in His Word, they turned from His guidance to seek what they believed to be a justifiable alternative.

In today's church culture we see such approaches to ministry.  People with noble intentions devise numerous approaches and methods of ministry citing statistics and research to justify their ideas.  Christian publishing companies abound with material created as a result of these approaches.  While you will find Scripture peppered throughout their pages, most are inserted after the method is devised and not as the basis for said method.

Among these exist age-segregating ministries such as Youth ministry, children's church, nursery, and age-graded Sunday School.  These are a regular staple in our churches today and it would in fact be uncommon to actually walk into a church and not find them.  Such a church not having these types of ministry would seem archaic and would eventually be encouraged by others to update their view of ministry and functionality of the church.  But this approach is a relatively new invention.

Rewind to the previous church generation and while you would still find such ministries they would exist with much less regularity.  Rewind a few more generations and we would see an even more sparse occupation and placement of age-graded ministries comparative to today.  Continue going back a little further into church history and you quickly arrive to the point where such ministry approaches were completely absent.  In such churches families were not only expected to gather together in the corporate meetings of the local church but if they did not the fathers of such families were lovingly held accountable for not leading their homes in a biblical manner.

How have we arrived at the point where it is expected that children are ushered out of the corporate gathering of the church and the youth are corralled together under the supervision of someone who, although unknowingly at times, subverts the authority of their parents?  Because many have sought to do what is right in their own eyes and created methodologies starting with desired results as the foundation and not Scripture.  I am of course not equating the deliberate, sinful intentions of the people in the book of Judges to those involved in age-segregated ministries, but the underlying principle remains the same.  When Scripture is abandoned, we have no foundation on which to stand other than our own ideas.  Pragmatism prevails and biblical sufficiency slides through our fingers.

Another element is crucial in understanding how we could arrive at this point as well.  As the book of Judges reveals, the absence of a leader seeking after God's face (Proverbs 27:8) resulted in a people who were self-led and did what each saw to be valid based on their own ideals.  Such a leader would have been there to remind them of the Scriptures and the God who so graciously saved their forefathers from slavery in Egypt bringing them into the Promised Land.  Such a leader would have sought to curtail the self-interest teaching that robbed the people of God's guiding words.  Such a leader would have forsaken the surrounding culture and world's methods in order to pursue God's design for His people.

Where are those leaders today?  Where are the men of God who will cast off cultural relevance and vain philosophies and proclaim what God has ordained?  Where are the leaders of our churches who will stand in the pulpits and say "No more...let God's Word be our authority and nothing else"?

Can we stop this trend and return our people back to the sufficiency of Scripture?  Yes, but only if we humble ourselves and willingly admit our failure to seek God's guidance in this area.  Let us rise up men and proclaim the Word as sufficient.  Let us not devise methods which are merely "christianized" copies of secular ideas.  Let us desire the Word of guide as our guide in life.  May we seek to return our churches, our families, and ourselves back to the Word.  May seek to do what is right in the sight of the Lord and not in our own eyes.

Thanks for stopping by!

To God be the glory,
Adam (and family)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Is the Gospel Coalition Right on Youth Minstry?

I was asked by Scott Brown, director of the NCFIC, to write an article in response to a recent blog from the Gospel Coalition regarding youth ministry.  You can read my article in its entirety by following this link:  "Is the Gospel Coalition Right on Youth Ministry".

Thanks for stopping by!

Soli Deo gloria,
Adam (and family)