Thursday, December 2, 2010

What Should We Teach Our Children?

Recently an individual approached me with the following question?

In your opinion what is the greatest challenge that the church faces?
In my opinion the greatest challenge of the church today is the passing down of biblical truths to the next generations. We are seeing an eroding of our biblical mandate to be distinct as the people of God from the our present day society. This is being happening in all area's from actions, words, thoughts, and appearance. This is happening because of the failure of parents to assume the responsibility to teach their children the Word of God. Today's parents are trying to place this on the church when in reality it is their calling (Deuteronomy 6:1-7). When we look at the biblical mandate of Deuteronomy 6:1-7 we see that the parents are to teach. What are they to teach: First they are to teach Doctrine (Vs 4), especially of One God which is the theological mark of the people of God. Secondly they are to teach a passion for the things of God (vs 5). This passion is represented by the thought of "love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might! This is to be done "diligently" (vs 7) that is, when ever there is an opportunity (vs 8) when you are interacting with your children!
The importance of these verses can be understood by the response that Jesus gives to a scribe when He is asked the question of "Which commandment is the first?"(Mark 12:28) He responded with the scriptures we have quoted above in Deuteronomy 6:4-5! It is interesting that He does quote one of the "Ten Commandments" of Exodus 20! In fact He will state that all of the Law the hangs on two principals: The first is that " God, who is one, is to be loved with the total being" and "to love your neighbor as yourself"! (12:32) There are no commandments greater! (12:31).

It is not the first generation child of God who is coming out of a life that was influenced by a world of Godless values, by fleshly desires and sin who are struggling with understanding the importance of being a distinct individual from this societies values. But those who have been never been involved in a life of sin, who have been raised in the church are turning away! This was the same problem of Israel when they desired to be like other nations and have a king (1 Samuel 8:5, 20). They are replacing the leader of their nation from the King of the Universe who has unlimited wisdom and power to an earthly human king who very limited in wisdom and power. Thus the battle has not changed!

What is a nation? They are groups formed on the basis of political or social interests or on kinship /Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (1527). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House./. The people of God wanted to be defined as a nation by their political ruler! They wanted a ruler who would be visual! The people of God desire to be like other nations not understanding they are to be not like a nation (people) but like God (1 Peter 1:15-16; Lev 11:44-45)! When we are like others we feel that we will be accepted by them! We do not understand to be accepted by God not people is what we should strive for!

What should we being our children? Parents should be teaching their children the doctrine of the church and what passion for God looks like!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Key to Building the Kingdom: Working Together

One of my passions is the development of leaders. I have realized that more can be accomplished when others are involved. Though I have understood this I have had to fight against the call of the urgent! The "urgent" is a seductive siren and tries to keep me from the "important"! The urgent is the daily phone calls and duties that steal my time and energy. They stream for attention. The "important" is the items that make the greatest impact. They are the praying, reading, dreaming or planning which silently wait for my attention.

Throughout my Pastorate I have tried to take the time to develop leaders. I have used numerous methods always trying to improve. For years we have had a leadership night in which we prayed together, ate together and then I would teach a leadership lesson. This past year I have realized that the need of our leaders was more communication. Because of that I have changed the agenda from being heavy in teaching to a time of communication with a minor in teaching. This has led to better team work between ministries along with getting all the leaders
on the same page.

This journey stated with teaching on the subject of "Silo's" in the fall of 2009.

What are silo's?

As of 2010 the phrase "silo effect", popular in the business and organizational communities, refers to a lack of communication and common goals between departments in an organization. It is the opposite of systems thinking in an organization. The silo effect gets its name from the farm storage silo; each silo is designated for one specific grain.

A notable example of a silo's can be seen in the attack of soldiers at Fort Hood in November of 2009 when Maj. Nidal Hasan, a Army psychiatrist and U.S.-born Muslim killed thirteen individuals and wounded many other soldiers.

After the shootings there were numerous reports of Hasan's outspoken opposition to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to Muslims killing Muslims. Hasan was days away from shipping out to Afghanistan at the time of the shootings.

Also, Hasan reportedly had communicated by e-mail with radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, something U.S. government agencies apparently knew about but did not tell the military / This failure of communication led to the death of American soldiers on their home soil.

A lack of communication causes departmental thinking to lack ideas and information from other departments. This creates feelings of self importance and keeps the power of synergy from working. Synergy can be understood by the following scripture:

One can put a thousand to flight, but two can put ten thousand to flight (Deuteronomy 32:30).

Synergy is not addition of 1,000 plus 1,000 in which the sum is 2,000 but the multiplication of resources such as information, talent, intelligent and prayer for a common goal. This working together has a greater result than working alone.

When you apply this principle, we could say that every time you add one person to the group who is in agreement with what you're working for and toward the effectiveness of the group increases 10 times. So . . .

1 can put 1,000 to flight.
2 can put 10,000 to flight.
3 can put 100,000 to flight.
4 can put 1,000,000 to flight.
5 can put 10,000,000 to flight.
6 can put 100,000,000 to flight.
7 can put 1,000,000,000 to flight.

We can see what could happen when every ministry is pulling together for a common goal and understand that each ministry and leader is valuable to the Kingdom of God! Remember that working together demands communication!

The Means for Salvation for Children, Teens and Young Adults

As I've continued to read the article by George Barna "Evangelism Is Most Effective Among Kids" it has led me to the following question:

Since the greatest opportunity for salvation happens in most individuals life before the age of 21, who or what is the means for salvation for this age group?

Barna addresses this question as he continued his research. The following graph gives his answer for those who are ages 4-12:

The means of salvation for children under 13 are:
  • Parents 50%,
  • Friend or other relative 20%,
  • Minister prompting 7%,
  • Special event (kids revival, youth camp, etc) 12%
  • Media evangelism 1%.

This informs us that the family unit, home and individuals parents must take the responsibility of teaching their children the values of the Word of God, prayer, giving, faithfulness to the house of God and participation in service to others and not to hand off religious training to the church and especially to the children's ministry! The church as the means to salvation is only 19% (Ministers prompting 7% plus special events 12 %). The church and in specific, the children ministry, do not have the influence that the home has! The church can support but is limited in its influence!

Here the results of Barna's study for those 13-21:

The means of salvation for children who are 13- 21 are as follows:
  • Friend 20%,
  • Parents 20%,
  • Special event 20%
  • Other Relative 16%
  • Minister prompting 10%,
  • Media evangelism 1%.
The influence of the parents drops as to the means of salvation from 50% under the age of 13 to 20% when the child reaches the age of 13-21! Yet friends and other relatives (brothers and sisters etc) gain more importance from 20% to 36% (Friends 20% plus other relatives 16%)! The special event gains in importance from 12 % before 13 to 20% after 13. Minister's prompting has a slight improve of 3% while media evangelism stays the same.

What do these figures speak to me?

As a parent they speak the following:

You have a window of opporutunity that is huge to influence your child to salvation! (Barna says that after the age 21 that the percentage for parents being the means to salvation for their children drops to 8%!!) You might think they are young and do not totally understand but they are watching your life and hearing your comments about God and the church! When they are under 13 you must give yourself to leading your family in prayer and having a family devotion. You must give rewards not just for good grades but the memorization of key scriptures! Even though you are tired you must be at every church service and prayer meeting teaching them the importance of House of God! At this age they will not fight you but will follow you in your walk with God because of your great influence! This is not the job of the church but your highest calling as a parent!

Your influnance will drop as your child approaches their teenage years and the influnce of friends will increase! You must know who your childs friends are! Are they Godly? What is their home like? The chances that their friends will be Godly will be better if you are making sure that they are going to the special events of the church! Sacrifice for them to go to the Youth Camps and Conventions! Limit their involvement in events at their public school! You don't know the spiritual lives neither the homelife of the students your children rub shoulders with at public school! It will influence their salvation!

Look at the spiritual lives of your own family, that is, your parents, brothers and sisters. Are they Godly? If so allow your teen to spend time with their cousins etc but if your family does not live for God then you are going to have to limit and control their time with your family. If your family is Godly it will be a great support for the salvation of your child.

Understand that media is not the answer for the spiritual teaching of your children. They need the interaction with their parents. The reading of the bible books and answering of questions not the babysitting of the television or computer. They need to hear and learn the songs you sang when you were a child in the church. The media is limited in influnancing for salvation!

How do I look at this as a Pastor?

I understand that I must do all I can to teach and provide resources for family to have family nights and family altars. What do they do during a family night? What lessons should be taught? How do you make it enjoyable?

I've got to make sure there is a night during the week that there are no events at the church neither ministry responsibilities so that family can have a night at home for a spiritual training.

Our youth program must have spiritual events yet they must be exciting! As a church we must have youth revivals, camps, retreats and youth mission trips! I've got to make sure our youth are particapting in events where they are mixing with other like trained young people. These events will influence the teens more than when they were children. At these events they will be mixing with friends by faith who are Godly!

I've got to understand that my influence grows during these years of an individuals life. I can not be a specator of the youth ministry but need to rub shoulders with them attending their events and understanding that they have something to give today! I've got to provide opportunity for ministry even as teenagers!

Settle the fact that media is not the means to salvation for this group! They will be attracted to it but as a means of salvation it is limited. I must continue to preach against the dangers of it because the dangers outweigh the benefits!

As a pondering pastor I come to these conclusions:

  • I must pray and ask God to help me to develop family ministries in the church by providing resources and protecting a week night for spiritual training in the home.
  • I must do all I can to make our children's and youth ministry the best they can be with leadership, funds, buildings and program never letting the leadership think that they and their ministry are unimportant.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thinking about our Focus!

Recently I read an article that was very thought provoking. It has impacted me greatly! The title is Evangelism Is Most Effective Among Kids by George Barna. The insight that Barna states comes from a research study from The Barna Group, based on interviews with 992 born again Christians nationwide. Of this research Barna found the following information concerning the age of conversion for Christians:

77% of Christians became followers of Christ before turning 21! 67% were converted before the age of 18 while 43 % before the age of 13! Only 23% were converted after 21!

As I absorbed this information it made me realize that children and youth ministries are two of the most important ministries of the church! They should not be thought of as babysitting neither as entertainment! These two ministries must receive funds, man power, and the support of the Senior Pastor!

These figures demand that these ministries be actively pursuing those that they minister to!They must be evangelistic!

Next we will examine the means by which these two groups were influenced to conversion.