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Hiding Behind False Piety

Hiding Behind False Piety

It’s easy to hide behind devotional language: “God is all I need.” “Just give me Jesus.” This language was used in pietistic movements throughout the 18th-19th centuries and is employed abundantly today as a way of manipulating the Christian to internalize his faith.

The piety of such words betray a fundamental need in the human soul: we are made for one another. We are made to be in each other’s lives; so that, to desire God is to necessarily desire the people God created. To be the foot is to need the other parts.The Head leads when the other parts work together and see each others’ need and purpose in the body.

Pastoral Self-Care Lecture

Pastoral Self-Care Lecture

At the 2017 Biblical Horizons’ Conference, I delivered a lecture on pastoral self-care. You can listen to the lecture free here.

I Believe Children Should Be in Worship, Now What?

I Believe Children Should Be in Worship, Now What?

You attend a big/small evangelical church and you are now convinced that children should be in worship. “I believe this,” you say, “but my church doesn’t. Now what?” I want you to be faithful to your church and there is a way of doing that while disagreeing with the general ethos of the church regarding children.

First, I’d encourage you to talk to your pastor or an available church officer. Ask them if there would be any problem with bringing your little children to church. Though they may oppose it, kindly affirm that you would like to try it for some of the reasons mentioned in previous posts. With few exceptions, they have all been accommodating.

Secondly, begin to prepare your children to sit with you in worship during the week (I’ve written about this. Send me a note if you’d like suggestions).

Finally, persevere. Be prepared for some initial difficulties. Training children at home is a long-term labor of love and the same is true at church.

Shame, Guilt and Worship

Shame, Guilt and Worship

Sin affects us in several ways, but the two primary ways are through guilt and shame. Now both ideas may appear very similar, but there is a fundamental difference. Guilt comes when we become aware of particular sins. David says, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse from my sin.” These are two ways of saying the same thing. “God, I am guilty before you.” David could point to his adultery with Bathsheba and make a direct correlation with his guilt.

Shame, on the other hand, is not as easy to detect as guilt. With shame, we can’t always identify what the wrong was, or we can think of many wrongs, though struggle to find which wrong leads us to shame.

As we come to worship this morning, it is likely that we are under the effect of both concepts: guilt and shame. The good news is that the many faces of shame and guilt take a blow when together we come to confess our manifold sins and wickednesses. We come this morning to seek God’s face where there is abundant life. God in His mercy is ready to cleanse you and wash you and rewrite your narrative of guilt and shame with the narrative of His love. Come and worship before Him.

Children as Distraction

Children as Distraction

When I was a pastoral intern, I remember someone approaching me after a service and confessing that she simply couldn’t tolerate little children in worship because of their noises. “They were a distraction,” she said angrily. I often think this is the way many evangelicals view children: as distractions. They are distractions at home, so we find ways to entertain them rather than engage them. They are a distraction at church, so we do the same.

The disciples rebuked our Lord because they believed that the children were a distraction to Jesus’ “real” ministry (Mat. 19:13). But Jesus rebuked the disciples and said his ministry is to draw little children to him and to build a kingdom through the faith of those little disciples.

When we send our children to another gathering away from Jesus’ central gathering in worship, we are creating a separate class within Jesus’ earthly kingdom. Even though our intentions may be pure, we may be thinking as the disciples did and thereby missing the opportunity for Jesus to place his hands upon them and bless them with His love (Mat. 19:15).

Exhortation to Worship

Exhortation to Worship

The Bible has a way of ruining our way. The Bible marks God’s territory in places we think belong to us. God marks his territory in worship today because His ways are higher than man’s attempts to worship him. So, this morning, I am urging you to believe.

What would happen if we worshiped like we believed it? How would our view of worship change if we believed we are mystically and mysteriously seated in heavenly places, or in some way judging angels and the world, or if we believed we were God’s treasured possession? Or what if we believed that the Spirit of God is hovering over us as He did in creation preparing to form us into something new today? What if we believed that these next 60 minutes will transform us in a miraculous way? What if we believed that as we begin to worship shortly, God is going to shape your humanity into His glorious image? What if we believed that by the end of the Supper you will gain heaven? What if we believed that Jesus is going to take your words and make them into something beautiful before the Father in heaven? Brothers and sisters, believe this and rejoice.

The Comedy of Worship and Crying Children

The Comedy of Worship and Crying Children

When Paul says we are “fools for Christ,” he is saying that the Christian faith is comedic. An unbeliever should find Christian worship humorous at some level. In fact, to be a Christian is to live in the comedy of God’s work in history. Think about it: God is using the cries of infants to frighten his foes (Ps. 8:2), and our Lord says that the kingdom belongs to little children (Mat. 19:14). What could be weaker and funnier than a kingdom/army of infants?

In short, worship is a humorous clash of old and young, crying and singing, male and female all together worshipping one true God. I have often said that worship is not a classroom. The ideas we have of people quietly sitting receiving information needs to be dismantled. Little children need to be with adults in Church because without them the kingdom gathered is an incomplete kingdom. While cry rooms and nurseries are good and right, institutionalizing children’s church while the big people meet elsewhere is unwise and unhealthy for the proper flow of the kingdom of God on earth.

When we participate in worship together–nursing infants, little children, teenagers, adults–we are participating in history’s great comedy where God joyfully defeats evil (Ps. 2) through the cries of the weak and strong.

Worship as Dialogue

Worship as Dialogue

I begin by simply noting that keeping children in worship is hard work. In fact, virtually all fruit that comes from worship stems from hard work. The word “liturgy” itself means the work of the people. Therefore, a meaningful service will demand much from parents.

There is a principle that we as evangelicals must all understand before we even contemplate the question of children in worship. The principle is that worship is to be a dialogue rather than a monologue. You can apply this principle even to the least liturgical congregation. Once a parent sees that worship is to be engaged, he/she will begin to see the purpose of children in it. Worship is not merely an intellectual exercise, it is an act of communication and communion between God and man. God speaks and we respond. If a parent does not see worship as dialogical, but merely a transmission of ideas from the clergy to the people, then he/she will not see the need to keep children in worship.

The Arguments Against Children in Worship

The Arguments Against Children in Worship

I want to appeal to evangelicals who do not accept the premise that children belong in worship with adults. Now, the majority of those who read me find the above concept strange. Many of us have seen the fruit of seeing our little ones grow up worshiping next to us and singing our songs and confessing sins. Yet for many, the idea of children in worship seems foreign.

These parents will make at least four arguments against bringing children to worship with them on Sunday. First, some will argue, “I can’t keep my children quiet during worship, therefore I don’t see the need to keep them with me.” I am especially aware of this argument with families that have lots of kids. Second, some will argue, “I am not going to get anything out of the service if I have to keep an eye on my kids.” Third, a few will argue that keeping kids in worship with parents is a waste of time since they will get nothing out of it. They are, after all, children and lack the capacity to grasp the language of a worship service. Finally, aware of evangelical parents who view Sunday morning as a day to relax from parental duties and catch up with church friends, so putting kids in children’s worship provides the needed rest for weary parents.

I am certain there are additional reasons, but these are a few that I hope to tackle in upcoming posts in the hope of beginning a conversation on why I and so many others have faithfully kept our children in worship Sunday after Sunday.

The Braying of Asses

The Braying of Asses

“…we marvel when we hear music in which one voice sings a simple melody, while three, four, or five other voices play and trip lustily around the voice that sings its simple melody and adorn this simple melody wonderfully with artistic musical effects, thus reminding us of a heavenly dance, where all meet in a spirit of friendliness, caress and embrace. A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.” -Dr. Martin Luther