Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Church of Many Tongues

I recently came upon a blog from "The Gospel Coalition" website written by David Wright.  In this article, Wright points out the disjointed nature of Christian education in many churches across North America.  For the most part Wright sticks to the segregation of age groups in churches as a primary cause that leads to throngs of young people leaving our churches.

Being a 2nd generation pastor I totally hear what Wright is saying.  For sure, this is one of the main issues of American Evangelical Christendom.  Covenant worship (AKA "Family worship") is not practiced as regularly today as it used to be (I would argue, the way God meant it to be).  We have become a religious segment which specializes in meeting needs.  Though meeting needs is a good thing, the question is whether or not we're doing a good job and if this is how God desires us worship.

Deuteronomy 6: 4ff seems to tell us the role of parents and the church is to bring up our children in the faith.

Ephesians 6: 1-4 rests the role of being discipled and discipling in parenting.  But, the greater context of Ephesians does point us to the church is unified in its efforts.  We are not alone, but rather one body in Christ.

Matthew 19: 13-15 supports the attitude we are to have with children.  They are not to be denied Christ.

Yet, interestingly enough the attitudes of adults and church leadership today are very much reflected here.  We often know how to say that Christian education is important to the little ones of our church.  We confess we fall short and that we want our children to be believers.  But, at the same time we do little to nothing about this truth.  Instead we focus on growing adult ministries and people because those are "our people" while perhaps some of us may also be thinking, "That's where the money comes from."

In the book "Already Gone" by Ken Ham, Brit Breemer, and Todd Hillard, we are told that as churches we are failing our children.  They already decide by the time they are in 6th grade whether or not they would return to church when they have become adults.  Mostly with no's.  And why not?  On average, every year churched children get less than 5% of Biblical teaching time than they would instruction in their schools.  That's not even counting homework time, sports, music, or any other extracurricular activities.

In many Asian and other bilingual churches it's more of the same.  Our kids are too busied with the things of the world to ponder the spiritual reality they are part of.  What's worse is that in bilingual churches we are left with a great cultural and linguistic divide.

On both sides there is a lingering tension which snaps by the time the kids enter college.  Many young people do not return to their home churches because that is their "parent's" church.  Yet, often efforts to address this flight lead to much discussion and argument.  Parents don't want to be embarrassed and uncomfortable in a cultural setting that they're unfamiliar with just as much as their children.

So where is the hope for these churches?  That's where Wright doesn't go far enough in his blog.  Quite simply it comes from the top down.

When we read the book of Acts 2: 5-13 it describes how the Holy Spirit leads men to speak in the native tongues of those around them.  Peter subsequently preaches the gospel and there are masses moved by the Spirit to come and believe in Christ.

For church leaders today we must see this as an inspiration for us.  There is no task too hard, no divide too wide which the gospel of Christ cannot bridge.  That means that for people like me, 2nd generation pastors, our job is to reach across the isle and tell others to follow suit.  That also means that the 1st generation also be pliable to reach across that divide as well.

It also means that church leadership always seeks to promote the peace, purity, and unity of the church.  That is a call for all pastors.  For it is not their church, but the head of the church is Christ.  Sometimes that means that we give up things in order to bring people together.  Certainly, I have had my share of disagreements with leadership, but at the end of the day I submit to what the majority desires... because I can.  Submission and love are two key hallmarks to a healthy relationship because they promote unity.

Granted, it is not an easy path, but it is a path worth taking... because it's the call of God to serve Christ's church.  Leaders must always think like parents.  For when the kids see their parents they learn.  In the same way, we as pastors and lay leaders are seen as examples to our people.  We must stay united and rejoice in our points of agreement and encourage others to do the same.

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