I heard your message today, and I truly appreciate your heart for our country. I heard your plea to Christians to rise up, to speak out loud against the tyranny of the post-modern tolerance. And I agree with you.
You told us that Christians comprised a full 65% of the “Builders” generation, 45% of your own Boomers, 14% of my Generation X, and only 4% of Milllenials. This is a wretched, heartbreaking state of affairs, and I applaud your addressing it boldly from the pulpit.
But I think you left an elephant or two lumbering around the room in the form of the answer to why we are in this predicament. Why are we losing ground, generation after generation? Could it be that the church is following the larger culture, rather than being a light to hold up in the darkness of that culture?
You encourage us to speak up against the cultural tide. You tell us that “nowhere in the Scriptures are we told to raise our theological finger in the air to determine which way the cultural wind is blowing so that we can adapt to it.”
Preach it, Sir!
Is this not exactly what the church has done?
Mothers have left home to enter the workforce, and the culture has made it easier for them to do this by providing free daycare in the form of earlier and earlier kindergarten programs.
And where is the church in this? Why, providing more daycare programs and more childcare during church, of course.
As mothers have taken over the bread-earning role, fathers have been deemed unimportant. We all made fun of Dan Quayle for his insult to Murphy Brown, but the guy kind of had a point. Murphy Brown made fathers irrelevant. And many men have acquiesced, abdicating their roles as spiritual leaders of their homes.
And where is the church in this? Why, absolving fathers from their duty in Deuteronomy 6 by having youth ministers do it for them.
We have more deadbeat dads, more single mothers struggling to be everything to their children, than ever before.
And where is the church? Is it providing financial support to these widows and orphans of our age? Sure, there are definitely some churches supporting charity efforts that focus on the single mothers. But there are also a lot of singles and divorced fellowship ministries that focus more on fun activities and fellowship than on truly helping where it is most needed.
Why are we not encouraging mothers to be busy at home as in Titus 2?
I am not coming down on any individual woman who is working. Each person’s situation is different, and our culture certainly makes it difficult for a woman to make the choice to stay home and raise her children. I cannot judge an individual woman’s response to her own family’s needs. But on a societal level, there is something wrong with a culture that tells women that their work is more valuable in the office than in the home.
But the biggest, boldest, most boisterous elephant in the room is that of children’s ministry. My children stay beside my husband and me in service, for many reasons. While visiting your church in that one service, I was approached by no less than five people encouraging me to put my children in the kids’ program.
Now these were all lovely, well-intentioned people, with no other purpose than to be sure that I was informed of my choices. After all, why wouldn’t I want to sit in peace and quiet unencumbered by cute and noisy little inconveniences throughout the service? These lovely, thoughtful, kindhearted Christian sisters were just doing me a favour by letting me know about the children’s ministry, and there was no pressure applied on me to utilize it. No intentional pressure, that is. But the invisible pressure builds with every separate approach. One begins to wonder if my children were considered a disturbance to the other congregants.
On the other hand, there were just as many people who approached me after the service to tell me how well-behaved my children were, and how special it was to see the children in the service. There were people who were blessed to see my clean-faced, bright and shiny Sunday-dressed-in-their-Sunday-best youngsters struggling not to fidget in the pew. Because this is a reminder of how things used to be, in the past. In the days when the Builder Generation grew up, perhaps? The generation that is still 65% Christian?
When exactly did children’s ministries begin, Sir? Do you think that it could possibly be tied in to the decline in the numbers of the faithful?
90% of those raised in children’s ministries leave the church before college! Why is that? Could it be that they are not raised hearing the Word of God preached? They do not witness the example of their parents, Sunday in and Sunday out, a whole childhood of watching their parents worship, their parents modeling attentive listening to the sermon, checking their Bibles, quietly underlining and studying, gleaning truth from the passage. This is probably the only opportunity all week that most children have to witness an entire community of believers all silently listening to and reading the Word of God. And what do we do? We send them away!
It is not enough to send them to godless public schools five days a week. Now we send them away during the church hour, the most blessed hour of the week. We send them to yet another child-focused activity, to sing happy but theologically simplistic songs, to colour and cut and glue cardboard children onto cardboard scenes of cardboard Jesus captioned “Let the little children come to me.”
And instead of letting our children come to Jesus — for we know He is surely there in the midst of the adult congregation (where two or more are gathered in His name) — instead of allowing our children to meet Him there, we dismiss them to yet another daycare.
Oh, the cultural winds are blowing and we have adapted mightily, Sir!
Nowhere in Scripture does it tell us to relegate children away from church and into daycare, as the school system does. Nowhere in Scripture does it tell us to age-segregate these children away even from their siblings, as the school system does.
And when these children grow up, accustomed to fun and colourful children’s ministries and cool and relevant youth ministries, what happens? They have not been trained up in the way they should go. They have not attended weekly services. How boring and dry these services must seem in comparison to what they have been trained up to expect!
And so the church struggles to accomodate them. More segregated ministries! Women’s groups, men’s groups, singles groups, knitting groups and breakfasts and craft groups. Less Bible studies and more craft groups. The people need fun!
But the Church will surely lose against the culture in the battleground of fun.
The Church can only win against the culture in the battleground of Truth. So teach them Truth!
We are losing them, Sir.
There weren’t a lot of GenXers at your church today. There aren’t a lot of GenXers at any church today. And as my eight-year-old noted, “Old people don’t last very long.”
I pray that your church, Jesus’ Church, can stem the tide. Stop making church into entertainment. Bring the children back into the service so that we can train them up. Forget the youth minister. It is the father’s job to educate his family in the faith. There is a place for ministries within the church, but I believe that they should be based on ministering to OTHERS, not to its own members. Bible studies, yes, but the energy put on some of these other ministries could be better spent. Why not a children’s ministry where the children reach out into the community? Rather than have a child care worker minister to the children, why not have the children perform the ministry? They could pack food boxes for the poor, they could learn a song to sing at an old folks’ home, they could be a children’s ministry in the community.
But don’t dismiss them from being a part of the Body of Christ.
Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast.