The Church Family
What is the Church all about?
People can be confused by the concept of the Church. Over the past few decades, we have seen more and more people leave the Church while proclaiming its irrelevance. What is it that makes Church useless to so many people? We would propose that in many cases the Church has lost its function.
In today’s society, we see two approaches to Church life. These include those who “do Church” and those who “do God’s business.” But what separates these two perspectives. We can learn much about the Church by examining the attitude and behavior of Israel in Isaiah 1.
The nation of Israel had become a sinful nation filled with iniquity. God called them “a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters” (Isa 1:4). They had consistently allowed the culture around them to infiltrate their worship of God. They presented futile sacrifices and offered incense that was an abomination to God. They mixed the traditions and rituals of the nations into their assemblies (Isa 1:13-14). They failed to do that which was important to God (Isa 1:17).
It seems the church of our day is guilty of much the same moving away from God.
What does it look like to “do Church?”
Many people see church as a social gathering. They tend to emphasize programs and various activities. The church is defined by the number of programs and activities for the congregation. The more programs, the more “draw” the church has for more people.
People who attend church for these reasons are often very interested in religious behavior and “spiritual things.” They present “a form of godliness but [deny] it power” (2 Tim 3:5).
Often, the church becomes more important that the relationships within the church. The very reason for the church becomes one of personal gratification instead of worshiping God; church becomes a place of impatience where people are often placed in groups sorted by personal interest or age—becoming intolerant of those in other “groups.”
This seems to be leading more and more toward the effort within the church to get more and more people into the church. To accomplish this, the church is allowing the culture of the world to infiltrate and take over the church.
In the end, the church is no longer and a family of families. Often, there is not encouragement within the church to teach children the importance of the Word of God and the necessity to worship God.
What does it look like to “be about God’s business?”
God expects those in the Church to be about His business. People in the church need to concerned with the activities God has prepared for us to do (Eph 2:10). We should see that God is a work and wants us to collaborate with Him in accomplishing His purpose. Our concern as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20) should be bring Christ to the world. An ambassador is an official envoy, in this case, of Jesus Christ. That means we are an authorized representative or messenger of God to the world.
We have the message for the world. It is our responsibility to present Christ to people. It is our responsibility to present Christ to all people including our children.
We must not settle for the status quo—we must not allow the culture of our nation to overrun the church. We must take a stand in the world and be about God’s business over and above our personal interests or some “politically correct” program.
This is what makes TFL different from so many churches. We are not about church growth for the purpose of church growth. If God allows us to grow and brings people into our fold, then we will praise God. But that is not our goal or our purpose.
Our purpose is to be about God’s business. We accomplish that by carefully teaching the Word of God and then by faithfully obeying God as He guides and directs us.
An example of being about God’s business
Our philosophy of ministry has direct impact on how we see children’s ministry and the role of parents in the life of their children. The remainder of this post was developed by Mark.
In my over three decades as a Christian, I have observed an interesting phenomena in the church which occurs over and over again. I’m thinking specifically about the model of Sunday school, and children’s church, that many, if not most, churches follow. Typically, ministry to the children in the family looks something like this. While their parents are in the adult Sunday school class, the infants go to the nursery. At some predetermined age, they will be moved into the preschool class and taught Bible stories. When they are old enough, they will move to the first grade class where they will hear some of the same Bible stories over again, with the addition of some new ones.
Some churches because of their smaller size, and maybe facility restrictions, will combine (school) grades together. The point is, as the child grows older they are constantly being advanced to the next Sunday school grade level. Combined with this model of Sunday school education many churches have gone to a children’s church format so that the child doesn’t ever experience the adult worship service, they stay with their peers and hear (maybe) a message reduced to their level of understanding. The churches that can afford to hire a children’s pastor do, the others make use of volunteer teachers to run children’s church.
When the child reaches the teen years, they go to youth group, led by a youth pastor, usually on a different night of the week. Of course, many youth groups offer Sunday school on Sunday morning.
The problem shows up when the kids that have grown up in church “age-out” of the youth program. They’ve been in the church their whole lives but have spent little to no time in the adult service with their parents. The young person knows who the Pastor is, but they view him as their parent’s pastor. These kids are not transitioning into the adult service. They feel dumped out by the church and have no desire to be a part of the adult service, so they stop coming to church all together.
The other very unfortunate aspect of this model of family church ministry is that it actually serves to separate the family into age related programs. It inadvertently works to divide, not unify the family. The family does not share a common worship experience from the time the family enters the building until they pile back into the car. Even in a good Bible believing church, the parents are completely unaware of what their children are being taught. But at least they have had a fun church experience; and the parents worshipped uninterrupted by their children.
I understand that reasonable accommodations must be made for families with small children. I still view the nursery as essential. I also will not pretend to have all the answers. But I do think we would be well served to prayerfully consider how God would have us minister to the whole family. I do believe families need a truly shared worship experience. This can only be accomplished if the family is worshipping together in the same room at the same time.
I also know that children, just like adults, will live-up to our expectations or live down to them.
We can train our young leaners to sit through an adult worship service. One method would be to give them a piece of paper, a clipboard, and a pencil. You can start them off by writing down words like “God,” “Jesus,” “Holy Spirit” (or other keywords that are likely to show up in the sermon). Then ask your child to put a tick mark next to each word they hear the Pastor say during the sermon. Don’t let the experience end in the sanctuary. Have family discussions on the sermon. Talk about their word tally. Engage your child by asking them what they remember about what they heard the Pastor say. Expect your child to listen to the sermon, and then help them learn how to do it. Get in the habit of holding family discussions on the family worship experience.
Whether we are comfortable with it or not our pastors and Sunday school teachers were not given the following charge from Proverbs 22:6, as parents we were. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
This is just one example of what we must do as we go about God’s business. The church of today is failing in so many areas. The reason is simple—we are not faithful in obeying God and we seem to be lax about how we train our children. Our desire at TFL is to become a family of families that a committed to be about God’s business.
How about you? Are you ready to get involved in accomplishing the business of God?