Children’s Ministry – A Litmus Test Of Biblical Faithfulness In The Church…

kidsFor many years now my husband has had the pleasure of leading in Children’s Ministry. We have found ourselves at two different church’s and we are now on the verge of transitioning into a new church at the end of March.

We have a heart for young souls experiencing the power of God’s Word. And my husband works hard to bring children into the presence of Jesus through the Scriptures every weekend. He is dedicated to not just be another moral teacher and he is uninterested in being purely values-based in his teaching. Kids get that stuff at school all the time, so his joy is to open the Word of God with children and show them who Jesus is and what the full counsel of God means for them personally.

We have a high view of Scripture. Even with Kids.

Little ones have a capacity to understand the things of God in a way that we do not give enough credit. They are willing vessels, and we have seen them grasp theological concepts that would put some adults to shame.

Values alone don’t change little hearts, only the gospel can do that. Sure values have their place, but in order to know and experience the gospel you must crack open and go deep into Scripture.

Our experience in Children’s Ministry has taught us a lot about church life and I truly believe that you can get a sense about how your church feels about the Bible by looking no further than the children’s wing of the church. In a way, Sunday School is a great litmus test to see how important the Word of God is to the larger church.

Is your Children’s Ministry predominantly teaching the kids about Christian principles and values? What kind of lessons are being taught? Is it mostly about being more kind, honest or obedient? Do they teach the full counsel of God? Are they telling kids about who God is? Is Christ and His grace at the center of the teaching? Do children have Bibles in their hands at church? Do they open those Bibles when they are in Sunday School?

From my experience if a church is not really dedicated to having a Word-based or Gospel-Centered (sorry I know that term has been over-used) Children’s Ministry, it is likely that the adult preaching is of a similar variety.

I am not saying that Sunday School should be boring and stale and dusty. Kids need visuals and activities and even some fun to drive a message home. So those things should be very present in ministry to kids. But we must not sacrifice Scripture on the altar of entertainment and palatable ditties in order to bring children to Christ.

One of my favorite ministry quotes is, “What you win them with, is what you win them to”, because in my experience it is absolutely true!

If you make your Children’s Ministry all about fun and entertainment, like a mini (but worse) Disneyland. And all you feed them is the same values-based stuff they get from Sesame Street (only with a dash of God in it), then they will be won to the understanding that Christianity is about being good and having an experience. And eventually they will discard it when it no longer makes them “happy”.

In values-based (alone) church’s, kids never hear hard truths about denying yourself and following Christ. They never understand the weight of their own sin. They don’t get prepared for the suffering that comes when you follow Jesus. And there is no solid foundation of knowing Scripture to carry them through the bumpiness of adolescence.

Listen, I am not suggesting we scare our little ones half to death or guilt them into making a “decision” or weigh them down with concepts they are too young to process. But I am boldly proposing that kids should know what the Christian walk truly is.

And it is highly likely that if the Children’s Ministry isn’t talking about the truth of the Bible and the faith it encourages, the adults are getting a similar message. And all it does is breed a kind of me-focused, immature and comfortable faith.

These kinds of congregations are often not hearing Biblical, gospel-centered, expositional preaching. And you can bet the full-counsel of God is not being represented. Just the stuff that is deemed relevant by the pastor.

The adults are probably getting a heavy dose of anti-intellectualism, obedience-driven messages based on “doing-better” without much being taught about who God is and what our call as Christians is.  The church will likely be very seeker-sensitive and spend a lot of time and money on esthetics. There may be a large focus on numbers and growing bigger and bigger. Pragmatism will run rampant and there will likely be less focus on shepherding the flock or equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (evangelism).

And most severely, the gospel is usually assumed more than taught.

You see, no church promotes itself by saying things like “We have a low view of the Bible” or ” Our main goal is to become a mega-church” Or “We don’t think Scripture is useful for our Children’s growth“. In fact most church’s will say the opposite. But we all know that talk is cheap or as the ever-charming South would say, the proof is in the puddin’. Just because a man gets on stage and makes grandiose proclamations about the importance of Scripture, the truth is proven in how he handles it when he preach’s and how he believes it should be used with children and every other area of ministry.

Make sure to peer behind the aesthetics of children’s ministry. Take an interest in what is being taught and don’t let visual appearance fool you. Shallow ministries tend to hide behind a veneer of pretty. I truly believe that if you want to get an idea of how a church views Scripture, look at how they teach it to the little ones.

Most importantly we should always be adamant in teaching the Scriptures to children because the Bible tells us to!

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. ~ 2 Timothy 3:14-15

You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. ~ 6:7

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. ~ Matthew 19:13-15

So church, I implore you to rise up and teach the next generation about the power of the Word, the truth about our call and the joy that comes from truly knowing the risen Saviour!

Posted in Christian Living, Ministry | 2 Comments

Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

letmedirect

Things I Would Do Differently If I Were Raising My Children Again: This is goooood!  As parents it is so easy to major on the minors and minor on the majors. I was really helped by this. It is short and worth the read.

Dear Gay Community: Your Children Are Hurting: If you are offended by this title, just click and read. This daughter of a lesbian couple needs to be heard. Kids of divorced parents are allowed to say, “Hey, mom and dad, I love you, but the divorce crushed me and has been so hard… But children of same-sex parents haven’t been given the same voice. It’s not just me. There are so many of us… If we say we are hurting because we were raised by same-sex parents, we are either ignored or labeled a hater.

A Millennial “Adulthood” Delusion: I have always been interested in this topic, being a Millennial myself – feeling the “entitlement” that is so often used to describe us, but also trying to understand how we got this way. Take a read. It’s hard to grow up and be an adult when you can’t get out from in front of the mirror.

Easter Story – What’s In The Bible: In preparation of Easter, show your kids this great video from the kids series “What’s In The Bible”. As an adult I’m even helped by it!

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Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

letmedirect

44 Pics Of Kids & Parents Looking Exactly Alike: This is cute!

Capture The Chaos Of Being A Parent: Family portraits are usually meant to be idealized representation of families, with nice clothes, pleasant smiles, and beautiful backdrops. But this is a far better idea!

From Lesbianism To Complementarianism: What an interesting story! Do yourself a favor and read this woman’s journey. It only gives us more compassion for those outside the faith.

A Taste Of Austria: Austria was one of my favorite countries to visit when my husband and I backpacked around Europe. And this time-lapse video shows you why. I would move to Innsbruck in a heartbeat!

CityAlight – Jerusalem: This is a good song to listen to in anticipation of Easter.

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Just One Smile…

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I’m about to tell you a story about something that happened to me last week. And it all started with just one smile…

I had about an hour to go out for a walk before my husband needed to head back to work for the evening. So off I went across the street to do a couple of laps around a football field.

With my headphones plugged-in and my music playing I got into a nice rhythm of fast-walking. Many faces passed me by in the opposite direction. All of us smiling and saying hi as we went. It was a beautiful day. Spring has truly sprung in my little corner of the world and all of us were clearly enjoying this welcome blessing.

Another lady walking in the opposite direction passed me by, I smiled, while walking fast in pace. I noticed the buds on the tree’s ahead of me and the breeze making the branch’s sway, when I heard some talking directly behind me. I quickly pulled out my ear buds and turned around to see the woman I had just passed moments before. She assured me she wasn’t crazy, but had one question for me, “Did you just smile at me?” she said.

“Uhhh, yes.” I said, wondering if this was offensive to her. She was stunned. And her next words floored me. “I am a refugee from Syria and I’ve been living here for a year and half and you are the first person to smile at me.”

What? How could this be?

She went on to tell me that sadly she has experienced some real prejudice since moving here. And as she told me story after terrible story of people judging her for reasons we can only assume to be her accent and head covering, I was embarrassed for my city. But I also felt the sting of my own sin, knowing that I too have judged people based purely on their outer appearance before.

She looked at me dead in the face and with all seriousness said, “But not you. You are different. What makes you different?”

The boldness of her question made me realise that I needed to be bold in my response and tell her the truth. I quickly called on the Holy Spirit to come help me and as she and I began walking together I let her know that I’m a Christian who believes in a God who created all races and has no cultural bounds to His love.

She stopped abruptly in her tracks and told me how amazing our encounter was. She had never spoken to a Protestant before. This made her jubilant. As an astute woman who identifies as being Muslim and is currently working on her Masters in phycology, she told me she has always been fascinated by human behaviour and this was now another opportunity for her to learn.

She went on to praise me for being so remarkably different and she told me she sensed our meeting was meant-to-be, then unloaded beautifully worded compliments on me.

And that is where I needed to stop her. I told her that there really was nothing special about me. And whatever great thing she saw in me was purely Christ. I assured her of my own sin and need for a Savior. Which intrigued her further, so she needed to know more about my beliefs. We walked and talked about the gospel, eternity, and the difference between Catholicism and Christianity. She asked questions and I tried to answer to the best of my ability. I explained to her about grace and judgement. And the whole conversation excited her.

At the end of it all we exchanged phone numbers and spoke about doing dinner together. She said she felt God was with us and that our meeting was all part of His plan. I couldn’t have agreed more.

It was an absolute pleasure talking to her. She is delightful.

And when I got home and was able to think through this divine encounter, I was struck by four important things.

First: The Holy Spirit will come if you ask Him to come – especially in matters of evangelism (Acts 8:26-40). Even though I know this and have felt it before, this experience served as a needed reminder. Normally I am extremely nervous talking to new people and even more so (regrettably) when I am sharing my faith. But this time I was completely calm and cool-headed. It was just lots of fun. And that is only because the Holy Spirit showed up.

Second: My preconceived ideas on evangelism were challenged when I was confronted with a Muslim woman who isn’t as jazzed about grace as you would expect. In fact it was the grace part of our faith that seemed to confuse her most. Judgement was not a problem for her. She absolutely had no trouble accepting the idea of Hell, which could not be more different from the Western culture I live in. But this gave me a better understanding about where she is coming from in her walk of life.

Third: Simply giving her my testimony would not have satisfied her. I did still share with her a bit of my own story which she enjoyed. But what she wanted to know most and with great detail was what I believe. The full gospel. And in order for me to give her satisfying answers I had to know things about other religions also. Which made me realize how important it is for us as Christians to be able to communicate the fullness of our faith and have an answer to the hard questions of Christianity. Simplistic answers would not have sufficed. And really, they shouldn’t.

Fourth: Conversion is not in my hands. When I came home, I was inundated with feelings of failure. I should have said this. Why didn’t I mention that. I am convinced this was Satan’s pathetic attempt at discouraging me. But I quickly remembered 1 Corinthians 3:7, So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. God is in control of what happens next, not me.

I can’t wait to see my new friend again. I sure hope we continue our chats about Jesus. I can’t wait to try her homemade Mediterranean food! But mostly, I desire for her to find true satisfaction in Christ one day, by whatever means the Lord wills.

I sure am grateful that I pulled those ear buds out of my ears and turned around…

…because all of this began with just one simple smile.

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Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

letmedirect

The Worst Honeymoon Ever: If you need a bit of a chuckle, this is a good story. And it makes me so grateful for my very lovely honeymoon!

When You Are No Longer A Pastors Wife: This was a sobering article for me (a pastor’s wife) to read. But it is always good to learn from other people’s ministry experiences. It also reminds me of just how little I know of our future.

Are We missing Something Important About Prayer?: Yes!! Especially in public prayer, lament, is not the norm, but it should be! Lament is bringing our grief and our protest before the Almighty when life doesn’t make sense.

39 Stunning Photos Of Women At Work Across The World: I love this. So beautiful.

Russell Brand – Pornography: I know we’ve all seen this now, but for those who may not have, here you go. He’s got some good things to say about the subject.

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Glorifying God With Terrible Singing…

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Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! ~ Psalm 95:1-2

This weekend at church I had a very unusual experience.

I actually heard the voice of a fellow congregant singing behind me. His voice was loud enough to rise above the booming band and he was a perfectly terrible singer. He was off-key and rigid in tone and the sheer volume of his voice sent shivers down my spine. He even valiantly attempted to harmonise at one point but didn’t quit accomplish the brave task.

Yes, it was all a little humorous at first. I would be lying if I said I didn’t giggle to myself a bit. But eventually I got use to him. And then, surprisingly, I thanked God for him.

Hearing the congregation sing is uncommon for me because my church has a concert-style of worship that is accompanied with pumping speakers which echo into our acoustically challenged warehouse church. This is common in church’s today, but it doesn’t lend itself well to hearing the voices around you.

Don’t get me wrong there is nothing unfaithful with this style of worship. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is sinful.

However there is something fantastical about actually hearing the voices of the saints lifting up the name of Christ. Even poor-sounding voices. Even grandma Mary two rows back with her methodical and wiggly singing that harkens back to the hymnal era. Even Lonny the retired worship leader who sings like he’s on stage because at one time he was and so his praises are comparable to a lounge singer. And even the man behind me who couldn’t hit a correct note no matter how hard he tried.

Some might say that it was harmful for me to hear the man behind me because it clearly distracted me. And that’s true. But his off-key melodies were distracting for all of two minutes and then he helped me worship better. Because after that humorous two minutes passed, I recognized the unity we had. I remembered I’m not alone. And then I was inclined to belt out my praises with more vigor and thankfulness.

Truth be told, I get distracted in worship for far sillier reasons. This one may have been the best short-lived distraction yet.

When our worship is sincere we all sound like Andrea Bocelli to Jesus. No matter how feeble our voices are, God receives the offering. Sometimes (if not, always) we need to hear each other sing. Sometimes it infuses our worship. Even when we sound terrible.

I thank God for gifted musicians who get on stage and lead us fickle folks into worship. And I also thank God for the many voices…many souls…who sing whole-heartedly, despite their musical weakness’.

Because it truly is a joyful noise.

 

Posted in Christian Living, Ministry, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Dear Sister’s, Humility Is Calling And Its More Important Then A Green Smoothie…

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This post was originally written in January 2013, and has been edited.

Sister’s, I know this topic has been discussed to death. It is the dead horse, and everyone just keep’s kicking. I get it. I’m tired of it too. And yet, here comes the “but”.

It has to be kicked. Because although we think the horse is dead, it’s still very much alive. January has come and gone and whether or not that diet of yours has stuck with the passing days is irrelevant.

Here’s the thing, I am not about to tell you not to bother with your current fitness regiment or diet or all-avocado and lemon juice detox cleanser you are trying. I don’t think doing any of the above is immodest and in fact, I encourage you to go for it! Steward the bodies the Lord has entrusted you with, and do it joyfully if at all possible. At the very least be thankful you have legs you can run with! Being well is important, so go do it.

But…    (yes there’s another but)

End all of it, if your being motivated by the cultures view of beauty or your doing it to impress those around you. And, please oh please, do not make it priority number one on your life list.

You will likely stop reading now, because you think you don’t struggle with any of these idea’s. And if that’s the case then you’re literally the only one. So let’s take a quick look at these danger’s before we eliminate ourselves out of the equation. At the very least, just humor me and keep reading.

Isaiah 3:16-26 talk’s of the Lord’s judgement on Israel in great detail. There are plenty of reasons for His wrath, but there is one scenario I find fascinating. It reads in verse’s 16-17,

The Lord said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts.”

In those days, some women would wear headbands, bracelets, scarves, handbags and anklets around their feet. This was the culture’s standard of beauty. Sound familiar? They did this with their neck’s stretched out to impress those around them and show off their outward appearance. Sure they were polished and put together, all things we as women desire to be, but God looked at them and saw arrogance, conceit and self-indulgence. And His judgement is fierce.

Being preoccupied with yourself in this vein and egotistical way is ugly in the eyes of God. We have to be very honest with ourselves and question what our motivation is to buy the latest trends and maintain a certain body weight. Are we overly preoccupied with it? Do we think about it more than we think about our neighbor in need? Do we look at other women and judge them secretly for how they look? Are we trying to impress our co-workers, friends, our husbands friends or our hard-to-please family members?

Answer truthfully because this kind of self-indulgence is hideous and God hates it.

God’s judgement for Israel’s vain ladies continues in verse 24, “Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.”

Ladies, it is clear all through-out scripture that our main goal as women is to live sacrificially. We are called to be humble. And in being humble we will think less of ourselves and our need to be pretty and more about those around us.

Women who are preoccupied with doing good works and godliness will not be idle and lazy, they will spend their time on the things of God. The way they look outwardly will not be priority number one. Humble women spend little time thinking about what they want for themselves and lots of time thinking about service to others.

It is a tall order that I fail continuously. But sisters, we are called to be humble.

Our son’s and daughters need to see us caring for others and seeking Christ. Not watching us stand in the mirror, pulling at our faces and complaining about baby weight. I’m willing to bet our kids over-hear us talking to our friends about big hips, diets and make-up techniques exceedingly more then our deep need and love for Christ.

Try with me, will you? Try to stop talking about it. All of it. The diets. The self-loathing. The judging others. And humble yourself. Return to the cross. Receive His grace again. And let it spur you on in good works. For His glory alone.

I will let Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 4:8 conclude my point. Let these words seep into your thoughts as you continue on in faith this year.

“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

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