Essential Church? and Children’s Ministry/Discipleship part 2

By Wanda Parker,

Last week I began blogging (click here) in regard to the book “Essential Church?”  This book is a must read for anyone working with children and/or youth.

“Certain absolutes found within Scripture are so crucial that a Christian should be willing to sacrifice his or her life for them.”  Page16

Wow!  Powerful and so true.  These truths and this type of commitment should be taught from the time the child enters the nursery.  It isn’t taught with words at that stage but through the commitment of the adults.

Do adults in your church give up their wants so that the children of your church have adults committed to walk through life with them?

Where do parents spend the most time with their kids?  On the soccer field or in the church?  From where parents spend their time what are the kids learning is important to mom and dad?  Why are kids leaving the church in droves?  Probably one important reason is because moms and dads have taught them through their actions that everything but church is important.

Below is an excerpt from the White Paper on Competition and Emotional Development click here to read entire paper

From the time my own children were infants, I have prayed asking the Lord to teach me how to raise my children up to be godly adults.  I felt totally inadequate but the Lord found varying means to teach me.

Joe, my husband, was on staff with Open Doors with Brother Andrew when our children were in early elementary school.  As part of Joe’s ministry, we were part of a team sent to take Bibles into China.  While in Hong Kong, we met a family who had only recently escaped from China.

The mother of the family told us the story of her family while her eldest surviving son translated for her.  In the mid-1960’s during the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guard had come to their home and wrenched their four children from the home.  The Red Guard had set up a bench in front of their home and made the four children, ages 11, 10, 6 and 3, sit on the bench.  They called all the neighbors to come watch what was about to take place.

Then the soldiers went from child to child asking if he loved Jesus.  When the child responded, “Yes, I love Jesus,” the soldier would hit the child in the face, knocking him to the ground.  The soldiers went to each child several times, but the oldest, Steven, got beaten over and over because he refused to renounce Jesus.

Finally the soldiers turned from the children to attack the parents.  Stephen crawled into their home and lay down on his mat.  Daniel, the 10-year-old followed him in and knelt beside him.

“Don’t tell mama but I’m dying Daniel I’m dying.” The 11–year-old declared.

Just then Mama came and knelt beside her son her head had been shaved.    “Mama, mama, I’m dying. Mama, I’m dying.  Mama, you have to forgive them. Mama, you have to forgive them.”  Then lifting his hand toward heaven, he cried out, “I see Jesus, Mama. I see Jesus.” And he was gone.

I looked at this woman who had just told me the story of her eleven year old son whom she had watched be beaten to death and there was a peace on her face.  “Mama, how do you raise a child so that at the age of 11, he will not renounce Jesus, though he be beaten to death?” I quietly asked.

She looked me in the eye and she said, “There are three things you must do.”

“From the time your child is born, you must teach him that he must never renounce Jesus nor another Christian.  Your life might be dependent on that other believer.”

“Secondly, you must pray sacrificially for your children.  That means you are praying so much for your children that you are giving up things you want to do for yourself because you are praying for your children.”

I will never forget the little chuckle she gave before she continued, “Thirdly, and this is hardest for you in the West.  You must let your children suffer. They will never grow strong if they don’t suffer.  If there is nothing natural that causes suffering in their life, then create a reason for them to suffer.”

I was so excited when I got home.  These sounded like such good sound principles to follow.  I could hardly wait to share these principles with my friends.  The first person with whom I shared was a close friend and she wept as I shared Mama’s story.

When I was finished, my friend looked at me and said, “But Wanda, if my children suffer, then I will suffer and I don’t want to suffer.

It was one of those “ah-ha” moments of life.  How much of our parenting, how much of our nurturing of children is about what makes me feel good rather than what the child really needs?

This made me realize that as adults we must constantly look at what each child’s real need is.  We must be careful to not do what makes us feel good, nor what makes him feel good today, but is harmful for his future.

Healthy nurturing of children will often cause adults to feel uncomfortable, cause adults to suffer.  (For a tragic story of adults’ faulty-reasoning in providing comfort today but long term pain in a child’s life, go to the KidTrek White Paper on Secondary Nurturers.  http://kidtrek.org/white/

God’s command to us in Deuteronomy 6:7 & 8 tells us how to raise up children.

“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.”

In verse 4 we read, “O Israel,” this wasn’t a command to just the parents but to the entire nation.  The entire church is responsible to live out Deuteronomy 6 with the children in the church.

Is your church intentionally doing this?  Check out the curriculum here that gives you the tools to not only disciple the children in your church but also their parents. CLICK HERE

I am now blogging on Children’s Ministry at Kidtrek: Sunday Plus.  I will continue blogging on Christian After School Ministries here.

What kind of Children’s Ministry does your church have?  Click here

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29 responses to “Essential Church? and Children’s Ministry/Discipleship part 2

  1. Hi Wanda. Allow me to take issue with some of what you say.

    “These truths and this type of commitment should be taught from the time the child enters the nursery. It isn’t taught with words at that stage but through the commitment of the adults.”

    We recently (and ill-advisedly) had a mission rep preach a few weeks ago. Most of his illustrations were of the Jim Elliott sort. Moving, but not particularly helpful to the issue of daily discipleship. Kids and teens do not need to be told (time and again) that certain truths are powerful enough to die for. They need to hear and to see that certain truths are powerful enough to live for. As someone (whose name I have forgotten) once said, “It may well be much easier to die for Jesus than to live for him.”

    “Where do parents spend the most time with their kids? On the soccer field or in the church?” Why do we need to draw such a needless comparison as if it’s either/or? Frankly, in today’s secularized culture, where are the folks we want to lead to Christ? Where are the folks we want our children to see us engaging with for the sake of the gospel? They certainly not in the church. Admittedly, our Christian parents who spend a lot of time on the soccer field no little or nothing about being missional and incarnational. But, then again, whose fault is that? Given the choice, I’d rather have my kids see me engaging in God’s mission “out there” than huddled in some program “in here.” How else will they learn that the unchurched are not scary people to be avoided at all costs?

    “Why are kids leaving the church in droves? Probably one important reason is because moms and dads have taught them through their actions that everything but church is important.”

    Funny you should ask as this is the question are fellowship is engaged with right now. And it’s not just the kids leaving in droves (though many of the Sunday School alumnae are also leaving). There are countless numbers of Christians leaving church, not because they’re losing their faith or because they spent too much time on the soccer field. They’re leaving to preserve their faith and to find ways that are actually effective in reaching the lost…who won’t be found in church, by the way.

    I just spoke this last week with a woman who helped found our church 25 years ago and finds herself bored to tears with “church.” Here’s what she said, “I guess in that last 6 months or so I have been realizing a desire/calling to get involved in the bigger picture…
    a connection to the church world-wide, 24/7, across cultures, backgrounds, etc.
    I am less and less interested in hearing about how a Christian should/should not live (ie. rules and “how to” seminars) and much more inspired to live big, by God’s power to do crazy things.
    I too was struck at Easter-time with the thought that Jesus/God expended a phenomenal amount of energy/love/risk…in coming and dying…and for what…so what?….shouldn’t there be more to me than my living a good, safe/saved, clean, controlled life? Because frankly, it’s boring and our young people think so too!”

    The teens and 20-somethings in this congregation are as committed and engaged in the work of the gospel as any I’ve seen, and it isn’t because they or their parents spent a lot of time in church. it’s because they, following their parent’s examples, have followed their passions and their gut sense of what the Kingdom is all about into all the world. And it’s these same engaged kids who are bored to death with church…not just ours, but “church” as the evangelical culture has created and preserved it.

    “…church is important….” I find it interesting that your focus in the early paragraphs is on “church.” I am reminded of a life-changing statement I heard a few years ago that turned my life and ministry on its ear.

    “The issue is not that the church of God has a mission in the world; it’s that the God of mission has a church in the world.” The church is not the goal, the end result. The church serves as the agents, first fruits and examples of God’s mission to reconcile all the world to himself in Christ. I’m far less concerned to get kids/people into the “church” than I am to get them into God’s mission wherever it takes them.

    “In verse 4 we read, “O Israel,” this wasn’t a command to just the parents but to the entire nation. The entire church is responsible to live out Deuteronomy 6 with the children in the church.

    Is your church intentionally doing this?”

    It was a command to the entire nation which, in fact, was lived out in the context of the extended family. I agree that we need to provide a community of like-minded people, but all I see are parents who’ve sub-contracted the spiritual instruction of their children to the church and its programs, dynamics that further communicate to the parent that their kids’ spiritual well-being is better left to the professionals or the “whole church.”

    How does a child learn to eat with a fork? A seminar? PowerPoint presentation? Special fork lessons in SS?

    Pardon my rant. I’m sure you and I agree on more than we might disagree on. Yet, I feel that some elements of what you write are Christian “urban myths” and misdirection, things that will keep Christians “in here” until the cows come home.

  2. Rick,

    I do believe we probably agree more than we disagree – but it is good to challenge and think through this things.

    I so totally agree with your first paragraph.

    Several years ago I had a young mom, wife of a Christian leader all woud know, tell me the following story. As they were sitting down for dinner one night their seven year old son announced, “Dad I have something to tell you that is going to destroy our family.” Dad calmly said, “We will talk about it after dinner but I can assure you that there is nothing you can tell me that will destroy our family.”

    After dnner the father and son sat down on the couch and the son announced, “Dad I don’t believe there is a God. Maybe He lived a long time ago but I don’t see that He is alive and doing anything today.”

    When the husband and wife talked they realized that they saw God at work every day in their ministry but they evidently weren’t involving the kids, or talking about it in front of the kids. So they decided they would be sure to tell at least one story every night, in normal conversatin fashion, at dinner time about how they had seen God work that day. They did not preach, they did not send their child to the Bible, they did not try to convince.

    After a month or more the child said, “You know, I believe there is a God. He sure is doing a lot of stuff around here.”

    Kids need to not just learn about God they must experience Him – but too often parents aren’t experiencing God either. Church leadership isn’t challenging people to live on the edge.

    Your second paragraph – I’m not saying be at the church 24/7, but do be at the church and engage with the kids at the church.

    Third paragraph. I question that if you leave the church that you will retain your faith. God created The Church for a purpose – it wasn’t the whim of man. Now I will agree that one may lose his faith if he stays in a lot of the churches of today. Joe and I are leaving our present church because we aren’t being challenged.

    I agree with “being a fool for Jesus” that is largely how we have lived our lives. Every moment of our lives should be tuned into what God has for me to do for Him in this moment – even if it means I will look foolish to others, even if it means pain will be brought into my life, even if it means having to give up something I want.

    But The Church is still needed because God created it and He says we must not neglect our gathering together. The problem isn’t The Church – the problem is the weak knee leadership of churches who refuse to call The Church to repentance, submission, willingness to pay a price and service.

    If one walks in total submission to Jesus life will never be boring – it may be painful, it may feel like hell on earth, it may be full of joy, it may be rewardless today, – but it will be filled with hope and the knowledge that one is loved beyond human understanding.

    Oh wow how I agree with you that in most churches “parents have sub-contracted the spiritual instruction of their children to the church and its programs.” For me as a Children’s Pastor I have an expectation that parents are involved in the Ministry (not program) with the children at church. I view that time as a tool to train the parents how to disciple their children at home. They are also pouring into the lives of the other children. Part of that discipleship is modeling a radical walk with Jesus in the world.

    I was raised that the Church is where the army comes for reenergizing to go back out into the world to serve. It is not a hospital which so many like to think today. The church shouldn’t be a place of evangelism, it is boot camp where the hard truth and challenge is given so the army can go out and bring God’s truth – which is brought in love and an understanding that at times it will feel tough to those who don’t want to receive.

    We must teach our children that submitting their lives to Jesus does not mean that life will suddenly become a fairytale – it almost always means life will be more difficult.

    No powerpoint lessons in my SS classes. Actually no SS classes where I serve – kids come to more of a clubhouse setting – they experience Biblical concepts in real life which brings up a whole lot of emotions. In the process of the lessons I have seen, anger, sadness, rebellion, joy, wonder etc.. Then we sit down and we discuss the truth being taught that day while the kids are in the midst of the emotions. When do we learn the most about God? Isn’t it when God has engaged our emotions? This is a very simplified description of Reality Learning which I developed based on teaching from Dr. Larry Richards years ago. We have seen amazing ah-has with kids due to this type of learning. Kids don’t get bored because they never know what to expect. Adults have to be prayed up because they never know what direction the Holy Spirit is going to take the “lesson.”

    I greatly dislike the term Sunday School – it gives us the idea that it is all about knowledge when in reality it is about relationship. Knowledge is important so we build a relationship with the one true God – but too many children’s ministries forget the relationship bit.

    I love your rant – it stimulates me. I just wrote off the top of my head so please ignore grammar 🙂

  3. I’m not able to respond to your various points right now, but I want to throw something into the mix. I’m sitting here with two books at hand: “Life After Church” and “Death By Church.” These go hand in hand with two others on my shelf: “Churchless Faith” and “When Bad Christians Happen to Good People.” It’s all well and good to tell folks they need to go to church (though, when I hear people lament over their children and say, “If they’d just go back to church again,” I often want to scream.). They’re so missing the point, though I’ll have to come back to this. I will point out that you mention “church” quite often, clearly referring to buildings and programs. I see little or no mention of Jesus, God’s mission or the Kingdom.

    Back to my point: The prophets in the OT railed against those who took inanimate objects, shaped them and then bowed before them, calling them “god.” As Howard Hendricks says, “You can put a label on an empty bottle, but that doesn’t fill it.” Haven’t we taken bricks and mortar, carpet and wood, shaped into our conception of something meaningful, people it with people and prorammed it with programs and called it “church.” Perhaps it’s time to take a bit more cosmic and global look at what we in the West have labeled church. Perhaps we have to look hard and long at the idol we’ve created.

    Just because our generation has embraced this monstrosity and called it church, maybe we’re wrong. Yes, church IS. But it’s not the end, it’s the means.

    All for now. More later.

  4. Didn’t you note that most of my comments in regard to The Church were capitalized which in my vocabulary does not refer to brick and mortar but to people – God’s people.

    Amen I agree with you. All too often man has made church into a means to make man feel good about himself. I do not see a large church as a blessing from God, often it is a curse (I believe) because it isn’t really about God at all.

    If I neglected to speak about Jesus, Christ, God woe is me – it certainly is meant to be implied in everything. If you had ever gotten to know me well you would certainly know that :). I pray continually that the Lord will bring me up short if ever my main focus is not about bringing people to Jesus.

    I would think that usually people, when they say if only their kids would go back to church, have a broader meaning in what they are saying. They are grieving and it is an opportunity to challenge them and question what they are truly meaning in that statement.

    What I’m hearing you imply is that we should just do away with church – is that what you are meaning? Lets not throw out the baby with the bath water though. Lets look honestly – each pastor should – at the true purpose for their church. Is it the purpose for which God created The Church? If not then some changes need to be made. And yes I believe God set up an organization with elders, decons etc – doesn’t the Bible lay such out?

    The problem is that the heart is deceitful above all else – we lie more to ourselves than we do to anyone.

    As Jeremiah 17:10 challenges us we must look at what the results of our ministry is – that is what we will be judged on, not the programs, buildings, numbers, popularity, etc. What results is God looking for? That whole chapter is about trusting God. It comes down to the fact that the reason we get caught up in programming, buildings and numbers is that we don’t really trust Jesus Christ.

    I love this that I came across last week, “To be a Christian means one distrusts self and places total trust in Jesus Christ.” He loves to test us in this too. As He has been doing over the past many months with Joe and I personally and also with KidTrek. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

    Why is it so difficult to distrust self? Why do we so want control? I thought at 65 I would have gotten this part of the walk with Christ down – NOT! Still learning and hopefully growing.

    Which reminds me of a mentally challenged gentleman some 38 years ago in a prayer meeting who rose one evening and said, “I know you all feel sorry for me because my brain doesn’t work like your brains do. But please don’t ever feel sorry for me again because my brain doesn’t get between me and my Jesus like your brains do.”

  5. I’m into a weekend wedding and Sunday gathering mode, so I’ll need to get back to you later with further thoughts.

    Interested to have you read these. They reflect some of our thinking.

    http://zoodad.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/06/healthy-gatherings.html

    Later

    http://zoodad.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/06/demo-and-reno-not-nevada.html

  6. Pingback: “Essential Church?” and Children’s Ministry #3 « Why Missionaries to America?

  7. Rick,

    If I may jump in here for a moment. I am a bit confused by your “taking issue” with Wanda’s post. While I cannot completley disagree with your points, I really think you have missed the whole point of this post, and the book, for that matter.

    1. Regardless of the “missional” focus (inward or outward), the focus of this book is regarding the some 70% leaving the church in droves as a result of their not receiving intentioal discipleship within the church, thereby finding the church to not be essential to their lives…ironically, I think this is kind of what you were trying to say, but then also giving a very strong appeal (it sounds like) to give up on the church altogether and try something, anything, else that might work…which leads to my second point…
    2. Second, and possibly most important of all…the CHURCH is a God ordained “institution,” not man-made. Regardless what the evangelical church may have done to it (we are all sinners after all)…it is a God-ordained, God-created plan that we cannot just throw out and give up on simply because it has hurt us or those we love…or rather, the people in the church have hurt us and/or the ones we love.

    I find your arguments to be largely reactionary…it doesn’t work, so lets throw it out and do something else, rather than fixing it, as Thom and Sam Rainer are strongly suggesting in Essential Church…if you have not read it, I strongly encourage you to do so, then come back and let us know what you think…

    Please forgive me if I am coming across harsh, that is not my intent (hard to have these kind of discussions by blog posts)…but I do get frustrated with so many Christians I hear today ready to blame the church and give up on the church as though it was something man has created…granted, we as sinful humans have often made a mess of God’s church, but it is still HIS church…let’s work together to fix the mess we have made by ignoring what God has set up for our protection, growth and well being…which will, in turn, be very inviting to all those “lost” in the world, who quite frankly I don’t blame, do not want to be a part of our mess…not sure I would want to be…but what I also see as being so beautiful, these same “people” are all the more intrigued by our “institutional church” when they see the Gospel work in and through the mess we make, telling them God is more powerful than the mess, and He can therefore have an impact on their lives as well…

    In the context of a Sunday morning, institutional structure I am seeing so many young people responding, as the Rainers suggest, because of intentional discipleship in the context of God’s ordained church structure. And yes…we need to be “missional” and go to the soccer fields and the pubs and the dance halls, etc, etc, etc…but that is a whole other topic…we are talking about us, God’s people, His Church, and our rebellion to do things our way (fun/games, entertainment, watering His word down, etc), not His.

    Ok, let me have it, I would love to know your thoughts on this. Especially knowing I most likely miscommunicated something; so I am curious how you read what I just wrote.

    Joseph

  8. I’ve spent the last 20 minutes writing a response to your comments. However, I haven’t read the book and probably won’t (so many books, so little time and money), so it’s probably not helpful to further this particular discussion since you’d be discussing the book and I’d be speaking from my own experience, understanding, and background: sort of like apples and oranges.

    I do find your observation that I am being “reactionary,” your assumption that I’m suggesting we “throw out the baby with the bath water,” and lumping me in with those who frustrate you, the ones who”blame the church and give up on the church as though it was something man has created” what might be termed as “conversation stoppers.” (Though I realize some of my own in the original comment might be termed the same.)

    The bottom line for me is that the church is God’s idea and that not everything we refer to as church is, in fact, church. We also need to be careful and not simply absolve the “evangelical church” of some truly horrendous things “it’s” done to people in the name of “church.”

    Glad to know you’ve found that book helpful. There are many good ones out there and no one will speak to all the issues we face.

  9. But Rick it was such a fun discussion – love your input and challenges.

    I agree we must keep challenging the church to become what God intended it to be.

    I read your Blog and liked the changes you are going to attempt at your church. Let me know how it goes. I sat in church on Sunday and thought about it. But then I realized that perhaps this new church is doing some of that. Though a liturgical church they are more informal and personal than the “Seeker Sensitive” church we are leaving. They have four services on a Sunday morning so it isn’t a tiny church. But they did something Sunday that was touching – they announced that someone wants to go on a trip and is looking for someone to go with her.

    The Sunday before at the end of the service the pastor’s two year old son was allowed to run up to daddy and be picked up as daddy in his robes etc. walked out.

    Could it be that in wanting to get away from the liturgical too many churches also got away from the personal, family dimension. Church became a business rather than a family.

    God bless Rick.

  10. When I begin to try to balance all the views and perspectives and possibilities, I begin to feel like Paul was accused of being: “…you are out of your mind; your learning is driving you mad” (Ac 26:24). Not that I’m Paul or that I have great learning. But, I do feel sometimes that I am going mad. Thus, am looking for simplicity in myself and for the church. I told the elders that we need to provide people with the LEAST of what’s needed to learn to walk with God rather than the MOST. Paul must have done that. He spent some time with folks, brought some to faith, told them a few things and left, assuming they could muddle their way through.

  11. I hear you! I get overwhelmed with all the “knowledge.” Even more than the knowledge I think the challenge from the Pastor is vital. Paul wasn’t shy about challenging people to live on the edge.

    Another thing I like about this new church is that as you leave the parking lot there are signs that read, “You are now entering the mission field.” A great continual reminder and for me a challenge.

    I would be interested in knowing what you think the least is. I do believe that all too often evangelicals tend to worship knowledge of the Bible rather than worship Jesus.

  12. For Joseph and Wanda:
    In light of our mention of “institutional,” check out this blog from a UK friend: http://deepchurch.org.uk/2009/06/30/institutional-naivety-%E2%80%93-awaf-no-1/

  13. Rick, that is very well said. That institution “we imagine” will be different for every church. However, hopefully each will be preparing The Church to be all God intended it t be.

    The struggle is that we each come from our own narrow perspective and it is hard to admit we may not have all the answers. We try to convince others that we have found THE answer for the institution.

    In our KidTrek training we try to present what we have learned from years of experience and study – but then we give each ministry the opportunity, during training, to take what we have given them and tweak it to their specific ministry. We believe that God has created each local church, para-church, school to be unique for the unique needs of their people. There is no one fits all.

    I am constantly learning from these ministries that have gone through our training then taken it to fit their people’s needs. It isn’t always comfortable but it is good to let go and let God direct them.

    Thanks for that link Rick.

  14. Yes, I hear you…but I’m also getting a bit nervous. And, I share these thoughts with the fearful expectation that what I say will be classified as reactionary, throwing the baby out…, etc, etc. But they need to be said and they need to be heard by folks whose default position always seems to respond to criticisms of the church with reasons why those criticisms somehow don’t really matter and don’t really count and are no excuse for any kind of temporary re-orientation to the organized church.

    First, not every place out there with a building, sign (with cutesy saying), pastor, congregation and program is CHURCH. And the rest of the world is not like Southern California where you can leave one congregation (for some identified reason) and find another (which addresses that identified reason). Much of the world just ain’t that way. And to swap one wretched experience for another of the same flavour simply doesn’t cut it.

    Second, I believe there are times when God calls (and perhaps drives) people into the wilderness to be alone for a time circumscribed by him: times to be formed, times to be healed, times to be separate and just simply quiet.

    Third, when someone has been deeply wounded by church(iness) and churchy people, I don’t believe jumping back into the same context (even in a different place) always aids healing. Sometimes the sameness simply keeps peeling off and picking at the wounds caused by so-called “friendly fire.”

    Fourth, and I’ve seen this up close and personal, people get burned out (not on God but) on churchy people who play at Christianity and speak “Christian as a second language.” Too much God-speak can destroy the soul, and our churches are filled with it, starting with the ubiquitous: “God blessed me…”. At times like that, a quiet hiatus, where God ministers in the quiet, may be the only option for keeping and restoring sanity.

    Fifth, because there are few, very few and far between, churches who publicly allow for and encourage substantial questions, substantial doubts, substantial challenges to the status quo. (Again, So Cal people have little idea what the rest of world is like when it comes to “church choice.”) In his book, Churchless Faith, the author (whose name escapes me right now) reflects on stages of spiritual development. One of the stages is occurs as someone begins to ask questions that make the leadership of the church uncomfortable (challenging inerrancy, challenging creationism, challenging whatever). At this point, people are often encouraged to “just believe” what the Bible says (as though it’s crystal clear in all ways for all things), “just believe” what the pastor says. Yet, that sort of “simplicity” does not satisfy the depths of some people’s journeys. They can’t live with what Daniel Webster called “simplicity on the NEAR side of complexity,” a simplicity that deals with hard questions by avoiding them.

    These folks often have to leave their organized church context (though often end up in informal connections with others) to find the space and the quiet to hear. Most of them, by God’s grace, end up embracing a “simplicity ON THE OTHER SIDE of complexity.” This is a simplicity that more easily acknowledges mystery, that can believe without so-called “clear-cut answers” demanded by and provided by many churches/pastors. In most cases, the journeys of these folks leads them back in to an organized form of Church. But, without the freedom to leave, they never discover the joy of returning and embracing.

  15. Point One – totally agree

    Point Two – can you give me a Biblical reference for this? I don’t necessarily disagree – but I think this is rare. I just keep hearing in my head “don’t neglect the gathering together.”

    Point Three – I agree , but that type of deep woundedness is not as common as those who are crying that they are “bored” like children do when they don’t get their way.

    Point Four – I don’t know that I agree on this one. Here I think is where one needs to recognize we are all sinners and learning to live together is perhaps God’s greatest test. How can I love He who I can’t see if I can’t love those I can see – imperfect though they be. Is not this kind of thinking why the divorce rate is so high even amongst Christians? I do not deny that there are a lot of “churchy” people out there. Someone may think I am such a person – though from my perspective I don’t.

    I possibly couldn’t help someone asking those difficult questions. But i would certainly try to lead them to books or people who could. I did this this past year with a young man God put in my life. Wow – his mind was so far from mine – his deep thinking my simplicity. But I sought out the books that I thought might be helpful. And I prayed and prayed and prayed. I also talked with him for hours about my simple faith and the life I have lived and how I have seen God in midst of good times but most definitely in the midst of the really hard times (of which there has been a lot) when I have prayed for Jesus to take me home.

    I hadn’t talked to this young man for about six months and a few weeks ago he called me to tell me he had given his life to Jesus. He is being discipled by someone in a church he has begun to attend.

    I think your point is good – we can’t be afraid of the questions. If we are it probably tells us something of our own faith – our own relationship with Jesus.

    I like this, “simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

    I’m going to have to ponder “freedom to leave” I’m not sure what that means. Isn’t being a Christian about freedom in Christ? So there is a freedom to leave – but we are also warned about our freedoms.

    Your comments about So Cal is true – but this will be the first time Joe and I have ever walked away from a church. We do so now because we only have a few years left to serve and we want to be where we can do that fully. If I was where there wasn’t more choice I probably would be a voice in the wilderness challenging the leadership and getting myself into a lot of trouble :).

    I did that once when I was in my 20ties and Joe and I were in the Catholic church. I called the arch diocisian office on a priest and the cardinal came and disciplined him. The priest called me into his office and told me he had never hated anyone so much in his life and told me he wanted us to leave his church. (I belive he was drunk at the time.)

    That week we got a call from a priest in the next parish over inviting us to work with him in his children’s ministry. I said, “Do you know we’ve” He didn’t let me finish my question, “I know all about you and I’m not afraid of you.” We had an awesome time in that parish and was the real beginning of my being involved in children’s ministry at that level. We have kept in contact with that priest.

  16. Well, for a conversation that was drawing to a close, this has certainly reignited.

    Mark Roberts, former pastor at Irvine Pres, wrote just today in his blog that, for Jesus, formation preceded mission. In Jesus’ case, the Spirit drove him into the wilderness for forty days, time to get his head and soul around his appointment/anointing as “Son of God.” Paul spent a long time in the Arabian desert. Moses had 40 years to deal with his issues. The early church is filled with examples of men and women who sought a solitary existence, not all of them weirdos. I agree that the normal existence of the believer is in community, but aloneness is not forbidden by the Scripture. And, in referring to freedom in Christ, if it’s not forbidden, it’s permitted. (Unless we want to say unless it’s clearly permitted, it’s forbidden.)

    Yes, “Forsake not…,” but let’s not drop our definition of “the gathering” on the passage. When it was written, “the gathering” was more often than not a household, an extended family.

    Debbie has done a lot of work with grieving people. One thing comes through loud and clear: you cannot impose expectations, demands and program on people dealing with grief, loss, etc. It sounds like saying to them: “It doesn’t matter how you feel, this is THE prescribed method.” Perhaps when one is bucked off a horse, the correct remedy is to get back on…unless of course you’ve broken your back, or your soul.

    I know you have years of good experience with all kinds of people, but my first thought to your comment regarding Point Three was “Wanda, you need to get out more.” We’re a small church here in a small town, and I could name a dozen, easily, who are not just bored, but are wounded. Interestingly, they don’t forsake the gathering, but they also have no grasp on the whole reason for the gathering…to stir up to love and good deeds, to come alongside. In fact, I’d say if the gathering doesn’t lead to “provocation” (the root meaning of the term “stimulate”), it’s not a gathering. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, putting a label on an empty bottle doesn’t change the contents.

    And, since I’m on a roll, I think it’s perhaps a bit narrow and judgmental to paint every “bored” person with the same brush. Some are bored, not because they can’t get their own way but because church hinders their faith, tires them out, wears them down and actually hinders God’s mission (which is, at times, much different than the church’s).

    On the fourth point, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. If I’m sick and my immune system is really wiped out, sometimes it’s better to avoid people who are themselves still “carriers” of what caused my illness. A woman I know was visited last summer by her sister-in-law, a dear AoG woman, former missionary, lover of God, who was unable to carry on a conversation for very long without filling it with a good deal of “Christian speak,” where the word “blessing” filled the airways. My friend, another lover of God, is discovering simplicity on the other side of complexity. She understands that most Christians use the word “blessing” to refer to those times when God’s answer was “yes,” when the car stopped before crashing, when the doctor had the answer, etc. My friend has had twenty years of dealing with all kinds of people, also lovers of God, for whom the answer has almost always been “no,” for whom the car didn’t stop in time (in fact, a husband and two children were crushed), for whom the doctor had no answers. My friend asked her relative, please, not to use the word “blessing” because the typical North American usage of it created for her all sorts of emotional and spiritual torque. Sadly, the sister-in-law insisted that “blessing” for her was a good term and she could not NOT use it. It caused a breech that is still looking for healing. Multiply that out to whole congregations of people who insist on using churchy words (even legitimate words) among people for whom they have little or no meaning or value. Not sure if you understand where I’m going with this. My point is simply that just because a person is a Christian or a group is a church, doesn’t mean they can’t be toxic or detrimental to one’s health. To simply write over the top of it all, “We’re all sinners” does a grave injustice to some and gives license others who have no business being on the road. (oops, I’m starting to rant.)

    The divorce rate is high among Christians because, among other things, they’ve confused comfortable, middle class, consumer-driven “churchianity” with authentic faith.

    One final thought on churchy language. Those whose vocabulary is filled with big, churchy words find it very difficult to converse their faith in intelligible ways when they are with people who don’t speak “Christian.” Next time someone mentions the importance of bringing glory to God, ask them precisely what they mean in terms that someone with no background at all could understand. Usually they can’t. For example, it’s really hard for most Christians to define “glorify God” without using the word “glory.” It’s called being a missionary to your own culture. Speak their language. Don’t insist that they speak yours.

    I appreciate that they young man with the deep mind came to Christ, but I’m speaking of people who really already know Jesus. Regardless of one’s view on creation and Genesis, when a person of faith is also a world-class scientist and is told that to be a Christian you MUST believe that the world was created 6,000 years ago in 6 24-hour periods, not much communication takes place.

    If you didn’t have the option to find another church, and if your questions were creating turmoil for folks caught in the middle, I think you might consider other alternatives. And, when you push against leadership, there comes a time when they say it’s time for you to go.

    Whew, I’ve probably outstayed my welcome. Hope you had a very lovely Canada Day!

  17. Rick,

    Good passages.

    Shouldn’t that be what a church is today – a family? Perhaps why spiritual growth all too often doesn’t work in the mega churches. Thus the meaculpa of Bill Hybels.

    I have to laugh at your comment to get out more – maybe I do. You only knew me in Irvine. The greater part of my life has been spent in ghettos, barrios, etc. serving the poor and downtrodden. Do I still have much to learn? Yes.

    When God took us to Orange Cty. I was really angry with Him, I was so uncomfortable. He told me, “Until you learn to love the wealthy you will never truly be able to serve the poor.” It took me into such a different world and place. I learned the wealthy hurt as much if not more than the poor due to broken relationships and expectations.

    I think you mistook what I was saying. I said the hurting aren’t AS common as those who are bored. Are there many? Yes! I would treat the two very differently. In my world I try to treat each person individually because each is coming from a different place, different needs, different coping skills. I haven’t understood the broad discusssion on the church overall to be from/about hurting people.

    Your statement that the gathering is “to stir up to love and good deeds, to come alongside. In fact, I’d say if the gathering doesn’t lead to “provocation” (the root meaning of the term “stimulate”), it’s not a gathering.” I totally agree with that statement. That is why I don’t think the local church should be used as an evangelistic service on Sunday morning. The hurting Christian maybe isn’t at a place to be in church but they certainly need The Church.

    I agree and disagree with the churcheese paragraph. I would need to know more about both women. Actually from where I sit right now I would have to say they are both in the wrong if they are both surrendered to Jesus. They both needed to be willing to bend. It sounds like they are both hurting people, or stiff necked.

    God’s blessings come in many different kinds of packages. If we truly believe that God is good – then He has to be good all the time and what He allows to come my way is a blessing even if it is full of pain. I think it is one of the challenges to help Christians see that what we commonly think of blessing isn’t always a blessing and what we commonly think of being bad may actually be the best thing that has happened to us. Though we may not see the good in that “bad” thing until we get to heaven. It comes down to trusting God.

    This is a problem in Children’s ministry when we lie to the children and tell them if they accept Jesus as their Savior He will save them from all the pain of life. We need to share with children the pain in our own lives (see my story at the end of post 4 on Essential church) . Then how Jesus helps us walk through that pain. But we can’t share that with children if we haven’t experienced it.

    I agree totally with your comment on divorce. Overall that is why the church is so ineffective – it is putting too much effort into beng comfortable.

    The science questions are way out of my league. I may ask questions of such a person. I wouldn’t offer much if anything.

    If there wasn’t another option and things were so totally intolerable I would begin a home bible study – which then would be a church.

    Happy Canada day. Our youngest, Dana, is married to a Canadian. They live three hours north of Toronto. I think she was too young for you to have gotten to know, she was still in elementary school I think.

  18. Read this on Twitter this morning: so often the way [we] do church effectively stops [us] being church. I just re-read your comments on “Stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” The fact that Sunday mornings, once there are more than 20 or so folks gathered, make obedience to this verse nearly impossible (except before and after). This begs the question: if we need the church and if we are to not forsake the gathering together of ourselves and if the gatherings we call church do not allow us to obey the word of God, what do we have?

    Mark Roberts had more good stuff this morning on formation: http://markdroberts.com/?p=885

  19. I totally agree with him. Everyone needs that alone time with the Lord. There is no substitute for that time.

    Parents need to model that for their children. I remember when my kids were in Jr High or High School and I was encouraging them to have their time with the Lord. One of them said, “I don’t see you doing it, why should I?” I was doing it but in my bedroom. So I started having my “time alone” in the family room.

    As parents and leaders in the church we must continually be asking how what we do or don’t do will affect the children 40 years from now. So much of what we do in children’s ministry may please children today – but does it make a lasting difference?

    For instance in secular studies they are showing that many after school programs may be a waste. Kids grades go up today but when they are in in their 20s or 30s they are no different than the kids who never were in an after school program. Why? Because those working with the kids weren’t looking out into the future and what the kids needed for the long haul.

    I believe we can apply this to church kids too. Actually can’t we also apply it to ministry to adults too?

    I believe the church can be larger than 20 but the pastor and other leaders must be very intentional in finding a way to minister to every individual uniquely. No matter how large the local church grows to be we must think of the individual and how to minister to the individual. I think it is possible if leadership isn’t just interested in big numbers. If we want to see spiritual growth we will pray for wisdom of how to minister to the individual.

    Didn’t you attend Bakersfield First Baptist way back when? When we were there it was a time of amazing spiritual growth. I think they were attempting to do that with very intentional small groups. I know Joe and I grew immensely during our two years there. It was a unique small group system I haven’t seen since.

  20. When we were out in the Valley, I was youth pastor and interim in a church in Wasco. Had no contact with the Baptist Church

    For all our interaction, I believe (in broad strokes) we’re much on the same page. I just want to hear more sounds of breaking glass in the background!

  21. I agree!

    Define for me the breaking glass.

  22. Oh, a little shake here, a tweak there, stirring here and there. You know, paroxysms.

    One of my first Sundays here, I spoke on Jesus’ challenge at the end of Mt 7 to build on the sand. At an appropriate moment, I pulled out a lego house and tossed it into the aisle. Did the same at the end of the morning, but the second one was all glued together. Folks still jumped!

  23. Fun!

    When in the Catholic church we did Children’s Masses every other Sunday. We did some crazy things – it was during 9 a.m. Mass and people came from all over for them. The priest suggested to a group of elderly women that on those Sundays they may want to attend another Mass. “Oh NO!” they said. “We’ve never learned as much as we’ve been learning from these masses.”

    We did some pretty off the wall things.

  24. Pingback: Essential Church – Children’s Discipleship and Summer Ministry « Why Missionaries to America?

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  26. Pingback: Essential Church – Discipleship of Children – Super Summer Sundays « Why Missionaries to America?

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