SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND FAMILY
Rethinking Youth Groups and Children's Programs

by Patrick Hurd

There is a growing debate within the church that focuses on the validity of organized youth groups sponsored by the church. Though most intensive at the youth group level, the controversy extends all the way down through children's church to church nurseries.

The surface question is simple: Should churches sponsor organized youth and children activities that are exclusive of and segregated from other members of the family? The response on both sides of the question is a simmering bed of emotions waiting to explode in our church fellowships.

The issue in question is the methodology used by many churches today to minister to our children and teenagers. Some parents are beginning to recognize negative influences on their children and families and attributing them to the children's programs of our churches. "Negative influences? How could that be? Perhaps there are some, but surely they don't outweigh all the positive good that comes with winning young souls to the Kingdom and discipling them into a strong walk with the Lord?" Some parents are beginning to think the negatives outweigh the good and they are taking action.

In examining this issue, we should be humble enough to know that 1) in most cases, the logic of man's ways is not the ways and thoughts of God, and 2) God's ways are always for the long-term solution; man's ways tend to be short-sighted, especially in view of God's eternal plan of redemption. It should be our goal to discover and follow the instructions and examples of Godly living provided to us by the Bible.

The purpose of this article is to attempt a biblical response to the overwhelming number of church members who do not understand why Mr. & Mrs. Smith took Johnny out of the youth group, why Susie quit coming to children's church, and why the whole Smith family stopped coming to Sunday School. I pray the article will put the issue in the proper context for all families of a fellowship. That instead of a simmering bed of emotions, we might encourage unity and support for all families as each one discerns the needs and goals of the individual family.

THE TREND WITHIN OUR CHURCHES

So, Mr. Smith decided that Johnny can't go to any more youth functions at church. Not only that, Johnny can't even sit with the youth during church. He has to sit with his family! At first glance, you may say to yourself something like, "That's OK if Mr. Smith doesn't want his kids in the youth group or Sunday School class. That's his business. He and his wife decide what is best for their family. Just don't expect me to do the same."

If only that were the true attitude, we would be in pretty good shape (not the best, but pretty good). In many cases this is the verbal response to the family as the leadership and other families realize what the Smiths are doing. However, in time, the true feelings within the church begin to reveal themselves in hurtful words and attitudes toward the Smith family. Sunday School teachers wonder if they said something wrong; other youth group members wonder why Johnny doesn't like them; the parents wonder what the Smiths think is wrong with their children; the leadership thinks Mr. Smith is unwilling to support the programs of the church; and a few may even suspect that the Smiths might be right.

I asked the surface question earlier: Should churches sponsor organized youth and children's activities that are exclusive of and segregated from the rest of the family? The real question has to be presented in two parts: 1) What, if any, are the distinctions between the church and the family when it comes to the issue of spiritual authority and responsibility, and 2) How do the church and family work together in fulfilling Christ's charge to make disciples of the nations and baptize them? I believe the Bible provides us with definitive guidelines that allow us to determine exactly who is responsible for what.

JURISDICTIONAL AUTHORITY

Jurisdiction is defined as a sphere of authority; the authority to govern or control within a sphere of influence. We understand jurisdiction more readily in the context of the judicial system: A court's jurisdiction, or lack thereof, to decide a legal case is usually determined by geographic boundaries and the nature of the case (criminal or civil law, felony or misdemeanor offense, etc.); a law enforcement agency's jurisdiction to arrest a criminal and detain him has geographic boundaries; state law has no jurisdictional authority over another state, but federal law supercedes all applicable state laws in its authority over all states. So you see that jurisdiction implies authority to govern or control, but the scope of authority is limited by a defined boundary.

Jurisdictional authority is a thread that runs throughout the Bible. Adam was given jurisdiction over all of creation (Gen 1:28). He was the administrator of God's covenant of creation. The scope of his authority was worldwide. Jesus' willingness to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" and pay the Roman tax is an example of submission to the jurisdictional authority of the Roman state to tax its citizens (Matt 22:21). The sons of Levi were specifically set apart from the other tribes of Israel and given jurisdictional authority as priests to the whole nation. Jurisdictional authority also carries with it jurisdictional responsibility.

JURISDICTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

It is not difficult to see the consequences of Adam's failure to observe jurisdictional responsibilities. Saul performing the sacrifice to calm the children of Israel when Samuel was late for his appointment is an example jurisdictional crossover. Saul did not have jurisdiction to perform the sacrifice unto God, regardless of whether Samuel was on time or not. Saul suffered the consequences of violating jurisdictional authority (I Samuel 13). Eli serves as example of one who neglected the jurisdictional responsibility of his family. His priestly calling was taken from him and his sons because he honored his sons above the Lord. Although he was faithful to the service in the temple, his neglect to train his sons was evidenced in their neglect of justice to the people and ultimately Eli's attitude in his service to the Lord. (I Samuel 2). These three examples illustrate the consequences of jurisdictional disobedience, crossover, and neglect. They also introduce the concept of jurisdictional scope.

JURISDICTIONAL SCOPE

In the story of the Jerusalem Council decision (Acts 15), we have an example of jurisdictional scope. After listening to all the arguments regarding what laws were proper for the gentile church to observe, the council was very careful in its instructions to the Gentiles so as not to extend their jurisdictional authority beyond the boundaries of the Gospel. Notice James' reasoning in verse 21: "For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day." James was acknowledging that though the church did have authority in particular areas, others are a matter of conscience.

As Jesus was interviewed by Pilate before the crucifixion, Pilate asked Jesus if he were the king of the Jews. The response by Jesus exhibited his understanding of jurisdictional scope: "...if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews:...". How different the redemptive work of God would have been had Jesus not honored jurisdictional scope and responsibility.

Notice that the scope of authority given to the sons of Levi as priests was limited to the nation of Israel. The jurisdictional authority, responsibility, and scope of each Christian must be understood in terms of God's governmental structure and our duties within the structure.

INSTITUTIONS ORDAINED BY GOD

There are three institutions within God's governmental structure ordained and empowered by Him. Each institution has specific jurisdictional authority, responsibility, and scope as outlined by scripture. The institutions ordained by God are 1) the family (Gen 2:21-24), 2) the church (Matt 16:18), and 3) the state (I Sam 8).

When operating within the boundaries of their individual jurisdictions each institution works in harmony with the others toward fulfilling God's purpose in each of our lives and the world. A Christian is likely to be a working member of each institution. Therefore, we have a dynamically simultaneous relationship with each institution and the members thereof. We have responsibilities of duty and accountability within each institution. There are boundaries of authority and scope within each institution also. The following definitions are not intended to be a comprehensive, prioritized exegesis from the Bible defining the four walls of each institution. I am suggesting that the proper scope of an issue can be defined by searching the Bible within the context of understanding the jurisdictional boundaries of each institution involved in the issue. I offer just a few of the obvious duties and responsibilities of each institution:

Family
1. The family is to be a cohesive unit designed around marriage and procreation (Gen 2:21-24).
2. The family is to be a center of training for children and wives in doctrine and holiness (Deut 6:5-7,20; 11:19; 32:36; Proverbs 31:1;I Cor 14:34-35; I Tim 2:11).
3. The family is to be salt and light in our world (Matt 5:13 and Psalms 127:3-5).
4. The family is to provide for the basic needs of the family members (I Tim 5:8).
5. The family is to provide an inheritance to future generations (Gen 48:6).

Church
1. The church is to expressively love and worship God alone. This is most evident in the indictments against the churches in Revelation 2:4,5 and 3:15,16.
2. The church is to provide welfare-type needs in the community (Acts 6; James 1:27; I Tim 5:16).
3. The church is to defend the Word of God from heresies as evidenced, again, in the indictments against the churches in Rev 2:2,14,15 and in the instructions of Paul to Timothy.
4. The church is to "equip the saints for the work of service" (Eph 4:11-16).
5. The church is to administer and guard the sacraments (I Cor 11:23ff).
6. The church is to maintain the successional provisions of God's covenant with His church as evidenced by the charge of the Great Commission (Matt 28:19,20).

State
1. The state is to administer civil laws and punish lawbreakers as explained by Paul in Romans 13.
2. The state is to protect our boundaries from invaders, also exemplified in Romans 13:1-7.

By setting some parameters around the boundaries of each institution, I hope that the duties and responsibilities of each institution become more clear. The concept of "separation of church and state" has been talked about enough that each of us has some idea of the jurisdictional boundary between the two (regardless of whether the idea is right or wrong). The concept of "separation of church and family" is not so well discussed and the practical applications of such a concept is relatively new to our thinking. Let us examine some examples.

As a husband, I am commanded to love my wife. I am to love her as a fellow heir to the kingdom (a prophet , priest, and king within the church) and as my wife, a "weaker vessel." This is well within the jurisdiction of my family duties. However, if she is unloved by me as her husband, no one else is to step in and love her as a wife; that is completely forbidden and outside the jurisdiction of anyone else. For someone to do so causes tension within my family, to say the least. I think this example is rather obvious.

As a teacher, I have responsibilities of duty within the church; the scope thereof relating to teaching the body. I don't mean this in an exclusive manner that prohibits me from being useful in other areas of the church. I do mean that God has gifted me in a particular manner for the benefit of His body and that I have a particular responsibility there. Simultaneously, I have training responsibilities within my family. That doesn't mean I have to do all the training myself. It does mean that I am jurisdictionally responsible and accountable.

Therefore, if I neglect my jurisdictional church duty for that of another church duty, say evangelism, I cause tension and resentment within the church. This happens first of all because I'm a terrible evangelist. Praise God He has anointed those who are truly evangelists; left with me, HE'D be frustrated. Likewise, if I neglect my jurisdictional duties as a father, tension and resentment will eventually result in my family.

How long would it take for the tension to become visible within the church? Perhaps a long time before the fruits of my neglect show itself. But once it becomes evident, should the church recruit the evangelists to begin teaching since I'm out winning the world? NO! I am to be held accountable for what God has called me to do and brought back into the jurisdictional scope of the job He called me to. If I neglect the duty as a father to train my children, should someone step into that spot to fill the void? NO! I am to be held accountable for what God has called me to do and brought back into the jurisdictional scope of the job He called me to.

But what if a father is not gifted as a teacher? What if he is inadequate or, worse, he just refuses to fulfill his jurisdictional responsibility at home? What if there is no father in the home at all? I believe the answers to questions like these reveal the root attitude of the church toward the family. This attitude will be addressed shortly.

The examples of how we function within each institution are endless. I have given what I think is a very obvious example first. The second example begins to slip somewhat into the gray. The gray examples go on forever and ever, grayer and grayer. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to recognize the jurisdictional authority, responsibility, and scope of the ministering challenges that are before us and to know that we are approaching those challenges from a sound, biblical perspective. Failure to do so only invites tension and frustration to those involved in the ministry.

Let's examine the second part of the question: How do the church and family work together in fulfilling Christ's charge to make disciples of the nations and baptize them? In a perfect world, the church evangelizes and trains parents. The parents in turn have lots of children who they train to be godly men and women, etc.... Our problem is that we live in a imperfect world. So what is the church to do?

First, the church must have the proper perspective regarding Christ's command: "Go ye therefore into all the Nations...". Second, the church must utilize its Resources properly to accomplish this command. Third, the church must resist the compromise of Christian Humanism.

GOSPEL PERSPECTIVE

It is within the jurisdictional scope of the church to preach the gospel to every man, woman, and child willing to hear it, baptizing them and teaching them all that Jesus has commanded. This duty is encompassed in the five-fold ministry as outlined by Paul in Eph 4:11-16, ". . . For the equipping of the saints for the work of service...." The duty of the church is to integrate new believers into the body of Christ who are then discipled to be salt and light in a dark world.

To accomplish this, the church must have a big picture perspective: DISCIPLING NATIONS. This cannot be accomplished from a bottom up perspective (i.e. one person at a time). The church must have a top down perspective. Paul exemplified this in his determination to preach the gospel to Caesar himself. It is indicative of the evangelistic thrust of the New Testament church, who won whole households to faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:14-15; Rom 16:10-11; I Cor 1:16). There are exceptions. We are to be faithful to give the gospel to each individual willing to hear. We are not to sacrifice personal evangelism on the altar of exclusively trying to win our nation. But the energies of the church are to be aimed at the most influential leaders within the context of its ministry. This big picture perspective can be very overwhelming until we understand how to maximize the resources available to us.

CHURCH RESOURCES

The number one resource of the church is the faithful Christian who, by the Holy Spirit, is dedicated to walking blamelessly according to the commandments of our Lord. It is assumed that two people working together on a project can accomplish more than two people working individually on the project. Accordingly, evangelizing from the top down is more palatable when the resources are properly utilized. I believe the church is most effective when it is an integrated body directed toward attainable goals in its community. The church maintains this strength when the individual parts of the body retain integration. The individual parts of the body are represented by families, and then individuals within the family. Widows, widowers, singles, and youth who are not a part of a family within the body should be integrated into a family to fully utilize their strength. To break the church up into discretionary groups based on age and/or martial status is disintegration. Disintegration dilutes the inherent strength of the church by segregating the family unit into unrelated parts of the whole.

COMPROMISE OF CHRISTIAN HUMANISM

Humanism places an emphasis on the importance of the individual over the whole of a group. Thus the "tail begins to wag the dog" as individual "needs" of a disintegrated whole rise to the top of priorities. Christian humanism is just the "christianization" of secular humanism; the basic premise is the same as secular humanism. It is the epitome of a bottom-up perspective for church ministry.

Humanism pits itself directly against the sovereignty of God. "God just can't do it without us!!" cries humanism. While none of us would deny His sovereignty in theory, the way the church approaches ministry often betrays its true understanding of His sovereignty. Let us not be deceived, when Jesus said the rocks would cry out before He was left without any praise, that is exactly what would have happened (Luke 19:39,40). The Creator of the heavens and earth is not dependent on us for His praise or anything else. When God says His word will not return to Him until it has accomplished all that He intends it to, there is no contingency here relating to mankind or anything else (Isa 55:10,11). And when Jesus said, "...and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail..." He meant just that regardless of the extent of man's participation or lack thereof in the plan (Matt 16:18). The difference between Man doing God's work and man being a part of GOD's work is subtle, yet the perspective greatly impacts the way we approach ministry in the Church. Humanism exalts mankind toward deity at the expense of the sovereignty of God.

The way the church answers the hard questions of absent parenting in an imperfect world betrays its true attitude toward family. Having established the concepts of a gospel perspective, available resources, and the sovereignty of God, let's focus on the number one resource of the church: The family.

CHURCH FAMILIES - RESOURCE OR TOOL?

Unfortunately, the methodology used by many churches today tend to reduce the function of the family from a resource of the church to a tool used by the church. A resource is defined as a source of support or aid; means that can be used profitably. A tool is defined as an implement or machine used to do work or perform a task.

The industrialization of our nation was a process of learning how to transform natural resources into consumer products. This was good. However, it is important to see that the process of transformation is a process of disintegration of the resource; the resource is not left in its original state. Tools (and many other products) used to accomplish tasks are the result of a disintegration of resources. The resource is no longer useful (except, perhaps, for by-products of the disintegration). This is good when speaking of consumer goods; it is bad when speaking of the family.

How many times has it been said to a parent, "But we need a strong person like your child to be an example to the other youth and to minister to kids that don't come from strong families like yours." This is an example of a resource viewed for disintegration; towards accomplishing a task. If the disintegration is accomplished, the family (resource) is no longer a resource, but a composition of by-products. This method of utilizing the church family has pervaded everything we do as a church. The family is disintegrated into by-products: husband, wife, teens, children, babies. The by-products then go about the tasks of ministering to the other by-products: wife to children's Sunday School class teaching a bunch of little by products; teens taught by the by-product of another disintegrated family, etc....

The idea of age-segregated programs sponsored by the church (i.e. Sunday School, youth groups, children's church, etc.) is very new in relation to all of church history. Though appearing to have success on the surface, the real fruit of this disintegration manifests itself in the church and community through families in several ways.

FRUITS OF DISINTEGRATION

Youth groups tend to undermine the authority of the family structure. The family unit is designed to provide an atmosphere of nurturing, training, learning, and recreation as well as accountability and discipline. The youth group take the good times with the young people away from the family (training and recreation), and leave the hard disciplines (accountability and discipline) with the family.

This provides a breeding ground in youth meetings for open discontent and complaining in front of their peers (often in the guise of "sharing prayer requests") as they "pool their ignorance" for solutions to deal with their parents. This discontentment and open lack of honor spreads quickly to other youths who previously were content with their family.

Youth groups provide an atmosphere for loyalties to switch from the family and siblings to peers and leaders within the groups. Loyalty requires conformity to the ethical standards of the group to which one is loyal. Peer group standards are most likely to be below the ethical standards of the majority of parents of the youth who are members of the group. This tendency will evidence itself in any peer group when the ethical standards begin to adjust to the lowest common denominator of the group in order to compete with secular groups and activities for attendance.

Granted, this is not always the case. There are situations in which the ethical standards of a group are high and are enforced. However, youth groups will eventually slip below the ethical standards of the church with which they are affiliated. The desire for increased numbers and the lack of biblical discipline in the church put pressure on any group of people to adjust their ethical standards so as to accommodate the lowest common denominator (i.e. to make as many as possible feel comfortable and welcome). Due, in part, to an over emphasis on growth, church discipline and biblical ethics are practically nonexistent today.

Youth groups tend to be short-sighted in their ministry efforts; jumping from one program or area to another rather than focusing on one project over a long period of time. Youth groups also tend to be more peer-oriented in the scope of their ministry. I believe that the family,properly trained by the church, provides an atmosphere that broadens the scope of ministry opportunities and provides a training center of young people for ministry.

Youth groups encourage activities that promote preoccupation with boy/girl affairs. There is nothing constructive about this. It is distracting to any real learning or ministry that could occur; it causes undue peer pressure on girls and boys causing them to compromise convictions they normally would not compromise (telling lies, gossiping, petting, etc); it is open ground for hurt feelings, bitterness, anger, jealousy, etc... within the group. Again, I see nothing redemptive or constructive about this.

Youth groups facilitate a prevailing attitude of our nation today, especially among men, that says, "I have the right to time for myself, doing what I want to do." Therefore, many men spend hours away from their families "being men": fishing, golf, sports, hunting, bars, etc.... Don't misunderstand, I believe people need time to enjoy the things they have fun doing. However, peer groups tend to teach young people that fun is a personal right that can best be accomplished away from the family and its responsibilities. Families should teach young people how to have fun within the responsibilities of the family.

Children's programs (children's church, Sunday School, etc.) serve to reinforce the notion that children have special needs that are best met in special environments of their own rather than expecting and encouraging them toward maturity. There is the belief that teaching must be simplified to their level and to their attention spans. It is also believed that adults are best served without the distractions of noisy, restless children, and that church needs to be "fun" so as to instill an enduring desire to continue coming to church as the children mature. This approach sets the foundation and reinforces peer orientation rather than family orientation not only in the children, but also in the parents. Both children and parents become conditioned to expect someone in the church to provide services that fulfill their personal needs rather than being trained to provide for their own needs as well as for the needs of other families not as fortunate as their own.

As young parents recognize the above symptoms in other families whose children are older, they begin to evaluate their own alternatives, wanting to avoid that same fruit in their own children. One alternative that is gaining momentum in the United States is the Home Church movement. Driven by the desire to worship and work as families, this movement is slowly siphoning off the best of the traditional church's future elder material. The best of the potential leaders of tomorrow's church are discovering that they have little in common with the traditional church's approach to ministering to them and their children.

So, the question still stands: How do the church and family work together in fulfilling Christ's charge to make disciples of the nations and baptize them? With an understanding of jurisdictional authority, responsibility, and scope plus a gospel perspective that is top down and empowered by the sovereignty of God, I believe we can now see a biblical approach to the family as a resource working together with the church.

REDISCOVERING THE VISION FOR OUR CHURCH & FAMILIES

Christians coming together as families and individuals in the name of Jesus Christ as His church must have before them the prime directive that our Lord has before His church: to make disciples among all the nations. Anything outside of this directive tends to become our own doing; it becomes iniquity. This is the essence of jurisdiction; knowing our responsibilities and the boundaries thereof.

Paul's letter to the church of Ephesus tells us that Jesus has provided His church with the means to accomplish this task and the results that should be realized: ". . . for the equipping of the saints for the Work of service . . ." (Eph 4:11-16). Everything that we do as a gathered body of believers is to be focused on the prime directive of making disciples; the outcome thereof to the benefit of those around us and His kingdom. We are called to be faithful to His command and to His alone, no one else's.

To this end, there are two ideas that pervade the thinking and philosophy of many main line churches today and distract us from the focus of His directive: 1) Church growth (quantity vs. quality) and 2) Church appeal (form vs. substance)(seeker sensitivity).

These two ideas are the fruit of our misapplication of the Great Commission. Instead of "Go make disciples" we have taken on a responsibility that is not ours: "Go make Christians." Don't misunderstand, I know the importance of evangelism and preaching the gospel of Christ to all who will hear, But that is the extent of our responsibility. It is God the Father who draws men to Him, not our preaching, persuasive apologetics, fancy music, or slick auditoriums. In a real sense, He has charged us only to find those whom He has called; to disciple them out of the ways of the world and to teach them to obey all that He has commanded.

Until we recognize that there are circumstances beyond our control and beyond our realm of responsibility, and learn to live within the jurisdictional boundaries assigned by God to us, we will tend to waste resources on those who God has yet to reveal Himself by trying to persuade them to give up their sins and come join us. Because we cannot be content with doing only what we are called to do, we inevitably compromise the gospel of Jesus, the call to holiness, the call to be a peculiar people, so that one more person can fit into the "kingdom." We sacrifice the God ordained antithesis (the distinction between God's kingdom and Satan's kingdom) on the alter of church growth, and we do it in the name of compassion; we can't bear the thought of leaving anybody behind. Therefore, "to make disciples, teaching them all that I have commanded you . . ." becomes obscured when the church is concerned with catering to the broadest audience and being politically correct so as to get as many to church (and hopefully, heaven) as possible.

Likewise, the tendency to make church appealing for the broadest audience again attacks the God ordained antithesis. We build our church buildings to the air of shopping malls, equipped with enough "shops" to appeal to everyone. Every kind of Sunday School class you can think of for every kind of person or couple. Our churches have become the stage for musical and theatrical productions that would compete with Broadway productions. If the secular world finds success with it, then surely the church can benefit from the same ideas. We work on our "church appeal" to the extent that we emphasize the ‘Form” over the “Substance” of worship. Form without substance leaves a lot of families and people empty and vulnerable to the storms of life and the schemes of the enemy.

It is no little fact that the First Church of Jerusalem was so unconcerned with form and so emphasized substance that the people of the city were actually afraid to hang around them. They too had people slain at their alter calls, but I think it was somewhat more literal than what we see at alter calls today! Can you imagine, a church today where covenant breakers could actually loose their lives!? Now that's Godly antithesis! Yet, scripture records that God was adding to their numbers daily.

FOCUSING ON AN ATTITUDE

Substance over form is the kind of attitude that is necessary to train husbands and fathers into mighty men of God who are equipped to "be in the world, but not of the world"; to bring relevant, Biblical solutions to the problems facing everyday life; to raise Godly generations, dedicated to the calling and convictions of their forefathers. The focus of the energies of the Elders is to be toward the fathers; the sphere of greatest influence; where whole households are won or lost. That is not to say that all other needs or ministries are to be dropped or neglected, only that the main focus of those capable of making disciples should be directed toward the people of the church who will influence the most people. That is most likely to be the fathers.

What kind of training should the fathers be receiving? Intimacy with God. Now that covers a lot of ground, but what I want to emphasize here is the need for training in family leadership. Training fathers to take their families into the presence of God during family worship times; to teach their wives and children scripture and how to apply it correctly in the circumstances of their calling as a family; to know how to effectively transfer the convictions of the fathers to their children and to their children's children that will enable them carry on the work of the family calling.

Perhaps all this sounds nice, maybe even "pie in the sky" naivete. Let me say that the reason we don't see too much of this happening is not all the fault of the church. The primary guilt is with us husbands and fathers and our fathers; the church has only been doing its best to adjust for our neglect. However, I see that there is a growing awakening of husbands and fathers across the nation and it is time for the church to recognize this and respond accordingly. What the church continues to respond to, however, is a continuing attitude among many men that hinders true discipleship and must be confronted: apathy and independence.

Apathy is so subtle, it is difficult to recognize and address in many people. A person struck with apathy may have a vision, but there is no practical game plan toward the workings out of the vision. There may be a lot of Bible knowledge but there is not a sense of true application in real life. Apathy accepts the lie that there are some issues in life that really are neutral, it doesn't matter one way or the other. Apathy rejects the truth that, for all ideas and actions, there are consequences now and in the future. This type of thinking cannot be found in the word of God, but is the product of a pluralistic society that has bought into the relativity of values. Ultimately, there is little worth fighting for, standing up for, dying for.

An attitude of independence, of personal rights and freedoms, is so ingrained in us as a people, as a nation, so much a part of our national heritage and identity, it is somewhat difficult to speak of in a negative way. Coupled with the mistakes and abuses that have happened in the Christian community over the past 30 to 40 years, such as the discipleship/shepherding movement of the 1960's, biblical submission is a concept some of us just don't want to hear again. The problem is, it won't go away. Jesus has commanded us to be mutually submissive among ourselves and to the leadership He has ordained for us. There can be no valid Biblical appeal to the so called "priesthood of the believer" when confronted with submission to God's ordained hierarchy of authority.

Husbands and fathers must come to grips with the specific calling of God in their life and the life of their family, and determine to be faithful to that calling regardless of the circumstances around them. To indiscriminately jump from one fellowship to another because of disagreements with the direction of leadership in a particular area is to deny the sovereignty of God at work, His superintendency of His church, and to magnify our own autonomy above that of submissiveness to God's ordained agents. We as men must learn to patiently work through the hard lessons God puts before us rather than telling God that "I don't have to take this!" and go somewhere else.

There must be shifts in thinking by both the church leadership and the family leadership for there to be an effective working together of the church and family. The church must put down the things it is not called to do and the fathers must pick up the things they are called to do. Recently, I was visiting with a pastor friend who is beginning a new church. He told me of a phone call he received by someone interested in the church. The inquirer, during the course of the interview, asked what my pastor friend was doing to catechize the children of the church. The shift in thinking will occur when pastors are asking fathers what the fathers are doing to catechize their own children.

CONCLUSION

Getting back to basics is right when it means examining where we have come from with a view of what we are suppose to be doing and where we are going in the future. The third millennium is going to provide new challenges and opportunities for the church. Humanism is falling apart before our very eyes. Is the church prepared to step up with the solutions that 20th century humanism couldn't deliver? Our children and grandchildren are the church leaders of the third millennium. Is the church "equipping the saints for the work of service" of the third millennium today? Or is the church just going to be swept along with the next wave of "enlightenment" as it has the last 100 years?

These are the questions many parents are asking themselves. They realize that the answers are being set in stone today and they are vigilant in their determination to make a difference for the future. They perceive that the requirements for godly living of their children have intensified since they themselves were children, yet, the programs of the traditional church were of little help to them growing up and has done less to address the issues facing their children today.

For the church to maximize its effectiveness, it must have in its sights on the same goal of the institution that makes up its composition: the transfer of convictions from generation to generation. The family must know what those convictions are; what is worth passing from generation to generation; what is worth dying for. In this sense, the church and the family have a very specific job to accomplish that cannot be done apart from each other. To get it done, each institution must recognize and honor the responsibilities of itself and the other, focus on those responsibilities and those alone, be faithful to their fulfillment, and be accountable to each other. Only then will the church begin birthing disciples who are equipped to take on the challenges of the 21st century with biblical solutions of far reaching magnitudes.


 

Fortifying
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Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas
PHurdWford@AOL.com

EST. 01/01/01