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Posts Tagged ‘Family ministry’

I remember several months ago talking to one of the wonderful ladies at my church who helps with our children’s ministry about what curriculum we would use for our Vacation Bible School.  I talked about how we would probably need to tweak whatever we use because in my limited experience with children’s curriculum, its rarely as gospel-centered as I would like it to be–she agreed and made a comment that I think is so true.  She said “whatever curriculum we choose, we need to make sure that God is the hero and not man.”  How true.  And how sad that so often children’s ministry curriculum champions the feats of man over the faithfulness and power of almighty God!

God is and always will be THE hero.  Everything we do in church should be a championing of Him–His righteousness, His power, His perfect love and justice.  There are no men in the Bible or in the universe worthy of worship.  The first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” means worship only God.  The greatest commandment is to love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deut. 6:4; Matthew 22:36-39).

How sad that so much of what goes on in churches has been reduced to moralism and praise of man for his faithfulness rather than praise of God for using such faithless people to accomplish such amazing things for His glory.

Take Moses for example. Moses is probably the most important and recognizable man in the Old Testament and before God called him, he was a rather worthless guy.  What we know about Moses before God called him is that he had a very privileged upbringing, he was aware that he was a Hebrew and he never stood up to Pharaoh for the injustice being committed against the Israelites, he murdered an Egyptian, and he fled Egypt to save his own skin instead of staying to stand up for his Israelite brothers who were suffering.

Furthermore, when God speaks to Moses from the burning bush and calls him to lead Israel out of Egypt, Moses isn’t excited and ready to do great things for God!  Even when God miraculously shows up in his life Moses is still a coward.  He makes up excuses–“people won’t follow me” and “I am not a good public speaker!”  And finally, after God continues to pursue Moses in the face of his excuses, Moses brashly tells God to “find someone else!”

This is the character of the man who God would use to lead Israel out of Egypt and establish Israel as a great nation and he is pretty much a bum.

Why does God choose such a man?  Because no one is worthy.  No one is good.  No one is in peak condition to be used by God.  God calls the weak, the feeble, and the sinful and begins to use them to do extraordinary things to prove that He is the Hero and no one else.  When we are weak He is strong.  You will never earn the right to be used mightily of God, but if you believe, if you trust Him, He will use you to display His glory and show that He alone is the hero!

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I am not nearly the fastidious blog reader I once was–I catch up on posts about a month after they hit cyberspace!  That is the case with this wonderful little gem of a post by Dr. Jim Hamilton who is a professor at SBTS. This post on family worship is actually a guest blog post on Dr. Russel Moore’s blog.  It was posted over a month ago but I just now read it, however, I was so encouraged by this post, I had to pass it on to the thousands of faithful Elect Exiles readers (that last bit was a joke!).

During the Sunday school hour at my church, I have been teaching a series on the Spiritual Disciples, utilizing Donald Whitney’s helpful book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.  Two weeks ago I taught on the Spiritual Discipline of Family Devotions (otherwise known as Family Worship–that particular discipline is not in Dr. Whitney’s book, but as a former student of his, I think he would be proud that I added it to mix).  As the family pastor of my church and a newly married man, family devotions are something near and dear to my heart.  So when I read Dr. Hamilton’s post on what he does with his children in family worship, I thought I better pass it on to you!

I don’t know Dr. Hamilton well, but interestingly enough, I met him on my last Sunday at my former church in Louisville.  I remember meeting him because I did a short overview of the book of Jude and had no idea that a Seminary professor was sitting in on my Sunday School class as Dr. Hamilton had just moved to Louisville to teach at SBTS and had come to visit my church!  I guess I didn’t teach heresey or anything as Dr. Hamilton was very complimentary afterward.  Anyway it was a chance encounter because one of the elders in my church, who knew I was going to be serving as a family pastor, had told me several times that I should contact Dr. Hamilton as he is someone who is passionate about family ministry and has sought to redirect Children’s ministry to incorporate the whole family–something which I think is crucial to the health and vitality of the local church.  Anyway, Dr. Hamilton is someone I intend to contact as I think through how to build family ministry at New Covenant Baptist Church and his post on family worship is simple and hopefully will encourage you to take some simple measures to worship the Lord with your family at home!  Here is the link one last time!

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I case you haven’t been following my recent posts, I have been blogging about how youth ministry has been failing at its stated goal of making committed, fruitful, passionate disciples of Jesus Christ. I see this failure stemming from a number of factors many of which reside in the fact that most youth ministries to not adequately promote the family as the primary avenue of discipleship (see my previous post: What is Wrong with Youth Ministry? Some Stats and a Proposal). Youth ministry must begin to not only equip parents for ministry in the home, but also to value, promote, and encourage discipleship in the family at church. This means the effectiveness of youth ministry in the church is tied directly to the faithfulness of individual families to disciple their children in the home.

Scripture clearly teaches that it is the parents who are to be the primary disciplers of their children (Deut. 6:7, Eph. 6:4), but what about those youth in our midst whose parents are not supportive of the student ministry? What about those parents who do not want to be spiritually involved in their child’s life?

Here is briefly what we need to do:

First we need to seek out such parents. We as a church (parents, youth leaders, other adults and students) ought to visit them in their home and explain to them what we are doing in the youth ministry as well as see if they might be open to hearing the gospel. If this young person’s parents are lost, then we need to share the gospel with them. If this young person’s parents are members of the church then they need to be held accountable for both their membership in the local church as well as their responsibility to diligently teach their children to seek the Lord. Having students whose parents are disengaged doesn’t throw a wrench in the family-driven model of student ministry–the fact that parents are disengaged simply raises the stakes for the church in reaching out to such parents and their students who are involved.

There will likely be students whose parents refuse to support what we are doing at the church despite our efforts to reach out to them. In such cases, the church must attempt to (the church cannot replace the family altogether) make up for the spiritual void of godly adults that the students has due to unbelieving parents. James 1:27 says, “this is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” Students who do not have godly parents are spiritual orphans in our midst and it is the church’s responsibility to help fill the void of spiritual upbringing that is missing. The church cannot raise such children, but the church can invest time into such children. We need to plug as many godly adults into the lives of such students as possible. Families in the church with students need to invite such students into their homes and seek to model what a godly home looks like. We need to be active in investing in such students lives as well as in plugging other adults into their lives.

We need to do all these things with a mind to respect the student’s parents but also to diligently help and invest in them. There is always hope that the student’s growth will result in the parents taking an interest in our churches-for God “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27).

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I believe that a biblical student ministry understands that it is the call of both the church and the family to disciple students and thus present all people complete in Christ. Some would argue that biblical student ministry is an oxymoron. That may shock you–but you may also be unaware of the current state of student (or youth) ministry in American evangelical churches. I don’t think the answer is to get rid of student ministry altogether as some have suggested. However it is clear, as the statistics that follow are quite alarming, that student ministry must change if it is to honor the Lord and succeed in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

The current youth ministry statistics reveal that there is something wrong with youth ministry today:

  1. According to recent research somewhere between 70 and 88 percent of Christian teenagers are leaving the church by their second year in college (Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 10).
  2. Over 80% of teens who claim to be “born-again” do not believe in the existence of absolute truth (Baucham, 11).
  3. A recent Barna survey focused on finding out how teens beliefs differ from their parents found that:
    • 63% don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God
    • 58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths.
    • 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead.
    • 65% don’t believe Satan is a real entity.
    • 68% don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real entity (Steve Wright, Rethink: Is Student Ministry Working?, 34). The vast majority of those polled claimed that they and their parents were Christians. It is clear that these statistics do not square up with John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the way the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” The sad reality today is that most of the people in our churches, especially our youth, do not possess a biblical worldview, so that when they get to college they are not prepared to defend the faith as they may or may not even believe defending they faith is necessary. It is clear that youth ministry needs to change!
  4. In a recent survey of parents by the Barna Group, it was found that the number one goal parents have for their children is that their children would get a good education (Baucham, 19). Only half as many parents considered their children’s having a relationship with Jesus Christ as important as their child’s education.
  5. Another recent study focused on college freshman found that:
  • Parents play an extremely important role in developing the religious attitudes and practices of their offspring.
  • Parents of students who did not leave the church emphasized religion twice as much as those who students who left the church.
  • Students who stayed in church through college said that the first thing they do when they have doubts or questions was to talk to their parents and then read their Bibles (Wright, 48-49).

These statistics may seem shocking, but they shouldn’t given the direction that most youth ministries are headed today. Most youth ministries pull students away from the family rather than equipping and encouraging families to raise up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. God created the family and intended for the family to be the avenue in which faith is passed on from generation to generation (Deut. 6:7-9; Eph. 6:4). Parent’s must teach their children “diligently” to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and might (Deut.6:4-7). There are some stunning correlations here-the majority of students who graduate from our youth ministries are abandoning the faith by their second year of college and most parents see their child’s faith as less important than their education. Perhaps even more profound is the fact that God created the family and commands for it to be the primary avenue of discipleship and the students who are sticking with the faith through college are those whose parents are spiritually engaged in their lives. In other words put the Biblical data together with the current youth ministry statistics and we find that youth ministry is failing at its stated purpose to build up and equip students to be passionate disciples of Jesus Christ.

So here is briefly what I propose:

Parents are essential to effective student ministry. It is the parents who are called upon in Scripture to oversee the spiritual upbringing of their children (Deut. 6:6-7; Ps. 78:1-8, Eph. 6:4). In fact the Scriptures have much more to say about parents meeting the spiritual needs of their children than it does about pastors. I believe that if student ministry is to be biblical, parents must be the primary disciplers of their children. If we are to be faithful to God’s call to disciple the young people in our churches, we must begin to restructure our student ministries so that they encourage, build up, and partner with parents to disciple their children in the home.

In posts to follow I will give a more detailed plan of action and address the inevitable question–“What about student’s whose parents are unbelievers or unchurched?”

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What Does your Building Say About Your Church?We talk a lot about the church here at Elect Exiles but the church isn’t a building, it is an assembly. More specifically it is an assembly of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and gathers to worship the triune God. So if our church buildings do not constitute the church, do our buildings really matter?

If the local church is truly the body of Christ gathered, then I think our buildings matter because as the body of Christ gathered, we represent Christ himself. We gather for his glory and we gather to hear the preaching of his gospel. So what do our churches communicate about Christ? What do they communicate about the gospel?

Does your building communicate that your church is wealthy or poor? Does it communicate your church’s interest in the arts? Is it modern, medieval, or puritan in its architecture? Is it neatly divided into sections for the various age demographics of the church?

In view of that last question, I’ll give you an example of how church buildings often fail to adequately honor the gospel. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the vast majority of churches (at least medium to large-size churches) have wings of the church for the various age groups in the church. Sometimes moving from wing to wing, in the larger churches, feels like changing area codes. Furthermore when you traverse from the ‘senior adult area’ to the ‘youth area’ its almost as if you have traveled through time as well!

There is much more that could be said about this, but I just want to pose a couple questions. First, if Scripture sets forth parents as the primary disciplers of their children (Deut. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:4), then why do we send children and parents to opposite wings when they arrive at church? Secondly, if every member of the body is called to minister to every other member of the body (12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-27), then why do we send people to whole other buildings when they arrive?

I know there are many well meaning churches with divvied up wings for differing age groups, but in this post I merely want to put the issue on the table. Is your church divided by age-group or united around every member building up every other member in the faith?

What does your building say about your church? What does it say about the gospel?

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