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
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.
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.
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
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:
1. The family is to be a cohesive unit designed around marriage and procreation (Gen
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).
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
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
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).
1. The state is to administer civil laws and punish lawbreakers as explained by Paul in
2. The state is to protect our boundaries from invaders, also exemplified in Romans
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
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.