Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kids Leave Home and Leave Church

Bewildered parents are sitting in darkness wondering what happened. They go over and over in their minds the things they went through raising their children. They took them to church every time the door was opened. They made sure their kids were involved in every single church activity. They tried to make sure their kids were popular even at church. Of course they wanted them to be popular at school also, but especially at church. After all, church was the place where their kids would be most likely to find good kids to hang around with. They did the best they could, but it just wasn’t good enough. These parents are broken hearted, terrified for their children’s eternal future, and have no idea of what went wrong.

The truth is they did everything they could to set their kids up in a social circle that would keep them from turning to the really bad things of the world. They never thought their kid would be the one to give up the church. ‘What happened?’, they wonder. ‘What happened?’

Well, the parents bought into a scam.
They were fooled into believing that a social circle was church.
They were fooled into believing that teaching their children to be good was good enough.
They were fooled into believing that the sin nature, the inborn trait to break the commandments was not really important.
They were fooled into believing that the way to win their children to the Lord was to forget fear of God, fear of hell, and teach the kids that ‘Jesus wants them to be happy’.

The parents looked at things from the view of this world. They wanted their kids to have:
wealth – to have all the things the rich kids had,
position – probably called ‘popularity’,
and a mild version of all the sinful pleasures offered by this world for their children,

The parents of these wayward children would have done well to have considered Moses, who refused:
The high position he had as the son of pharaoh’s daughter,
The wealth of Egypt (he was filthy rich)
The pleasures of sin (for a season).

If they had wanted the things of God for their children more than anything else the outcome would have likely been better. The sad truth is that very often, the parents have not rejected the things of the world themselves. They still want position, wealth, and the pleasures of ‘little sins’ that won’t really mess up their lives. They still haven’t admitted that ‘Sin take you farther than you want to go, cost you more than you want to pay, and keeps you longer than you want to stay’. (quote source unknown)
So, how are they going to teach such things to their children?

Kids are able to see when something is not really working.
The kids go to church;
They have a ‘salvation experience’;
They believe Jesus wants them to be happy.

Then, they begin to notice that Jesus has no power to make them ‘happy’.
Ultimately, they see Jesus as having no power to do much of anything.
After all:
Did Jesus make them part of the in crowd at church or school?
Or did He leave them as the dork or nerd that nobody really liked?
Jesus didn’t make their skin clear up,
or help them lose weight,
or cause them to grow taller,
or get their parents to dress them in the designer clothing of the month,
or any other thing necessary to ‘be happy’.

Kids are also able to see that the most religious people in the church face trials and disappointments.
Some of them go bankrupt.
Some of their marriages fail.
Some face illness personally or a close family member gets sick and dies.
Some suffer chronic illness.

Where is Jesus when all that happens?
If He can’t stop all that from happening, and He can’t make them popular and well liked, then what is the point?
Of course they are going to leave!

The truth is they are leaving the church because they have never really been to church. They have been to a social gathering, and they really didn’t like the circle of people there. Something was fake about it, and they picked right up on it. It is right to leave a way of life that is based on shifting sand.

Society is full of people who have given up on Jesus Christ, His church, and Christianity altogether. As my granddad’s third wife used to day, ‘The woods is full of them.’ At least mentally, they have given up on Jesus.
The truth is they really don’t know anything about the real Jesus or what He taught.
They have just given up on a manmade institution filled with rituals and ‘seat of the pants’ theology.
They have walked away from a failed institution filled with failed dreams and goals.

So, what can be done now? Is a ‘Great Awakening’ possible? Will the churches wake up and start preaching the truth? Some of them might, but most of them won’t.

One thing necessary is for Christians in general to come to an understanding that Jesus is NOT the author of the health and wealth gospel. Neither is He the author of the ‘Jesus wants me to be happy’ gospel.

Jesus wants His children to be obedient! Obedience leads to joy in the Lord, and it may/probably will lead to some true happiness in this world. But that happiness is not going to come from making you rich, beautiful/handsome, popular, and very successful. You may actually be all those things, but don’t count on it. Don’t count on being poor, ugly, and a failure either. Take the life Christ gives you, whatever it may be. Ask for help in changing things and circumstances that are bothering you. God is not the ‘god of ineffectiveness’. Ask and see what good does for you. Jesus does change circumstances and He is a help to all His children. However, Jesus is not a genie in a bottle who grants every wish.

Jesus wants His children to be thankful. Thankfulness starts with the individual believer. Unthankful parents have a hard time instilling a thankful attitude in their children.

Jesus wants His children to study so they won’t be taken in by silly theology like ‘give some preacher more money than you can afford so Jesus will give you a ton of money so you can join the super rich’.

Jesus wants His children to take up their cross and follow Him.
Ouch! Oh my goodness! I have got to be kidding…right?
Umm, no. I am not kidding. To tell the truth, that was not really what I personally wanted to hear either.

Jesus wants His children to tell the truth. And, above all else, tell the truth about Salvation. The truth is that there are two eternal destinations. One is heaven, which we all know about. The other is hell, a place we don’t hear a lot about. Unrepentant sinners go to hell. That is an unalterable fact. How cruel to avoid such an important truth when teaching children!

When I was small, I knew without a doubt that I was a sinner. Obviously, I wasn’t as big or bad a sinner as my brothers. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have been even that big a sinner if I hadn’t had those three brothers getting me into trouble all the time. Nevertheless, I definitely was a sinner. I heard the preacher say that sinners go to hell. Well, I was terrified! I positively did not want to go to hell. But, as a sinner, there was no doubt that was where I was going. So you can understand how thankful I was to hear there was a way to escape hell. I didn’t bother to question why there was only one way. I was just glad there was one way. Still, I managed to make myself miserable for quite a while before my little feet walked down that aisle and I made a public profession of my faith in Jesus Christ. It was definitely fear of hell that set me to thinking of a way to escape it. While I was worried about escaping hell, I really was not worried too much about how popular I was at church or school. I wasn’t even worried too much about getting better grades at school than at least one of my brothers. (The kid with the lowest grades got the most attention from my parents for the next quarter, and no kid in their right mind wanted more ‘help’ from parents with school work.) I had my priorities straight. Find out how to escape hell, and get that settled as soon as possible. (I think I was saved before my ‘aisle walking experience’, but that was what made it public and fully relieved my anxiety about hell.)

There are some today who think the concept of hell is too much for a child to handle. They are wrong. To learn about hell as a child is a wonderful blessing. It is the beginning of the fear of the Lord. It is the beginning of wisdom. It sets little feet on the road to salvation.

To learn of hell is the grace of God! The second verse of the song ‘Amazing Grace’ says,
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.’

It is the grace of God that teaches us to be afraid of hell! When we come to realize that we are headed for a place of torment, we are terrified. At least we should be.

It is the grace of God that gives our terrified hearts relief. There are no words to describe the ‘relief’ from knowing you are not going to hell. God ‘relieves our fears’ through salvation in Jesus Christ.

Then, after salvation as a small child, I was thrown into doubt about my salvation, which did plague me off and on until I was 30 years old. Doubts about salvation make for ineffective Christians. I would have probably had some doubts anyway, but my doubts began in Sunday School. Sunday School is another word for ‘lion’s den. It is a nice place to socialize and meet people in your own age group. It is at the very best, a place where you might hear something correct about Bible theology and doctrine. Or, you may get someone going over a printed Sunday School booklet that provides a mild lesson. On occasion, you may have a teacher who knows enough Christian theology to be an effective teacher. On other occasions you may have a teacher who intentionally teaches false doctrine. They have an agenda, and they are not bashful about carrying it out. The main point about Sunday School is that there are practically no controls on what is actually taught. I personally think that larger classes are better than smaller classes. Classes for families instead of classes segregated by age are another possibility. Children can understand far more than most people realize.

Christians – with or without children – need to understand that the job of the church is not to make kids or new converts happy and comfortable. Their job is to focus on the truth. And the truth is that the human race is in the middle of a war zone! The devil wants our children, and he is going to use any weapon possible to get them! Ultimately, the greatest help anyone can have is the truth. The truth is the greatest asset possible for building a life of satisfaction and contentment. It gives a solid foundation on which to base decisions.

It is the duty of EVERY Christian to know enough Bible theology/doctrine to recognize blatant error when they hear it, or see it. You may be thinking, ‘How can you ‘see’ theological error?’ An example would be seeing dancing on the stage at church.
The kids dancing may be having fun putting on a performance, but what on earth does that have to do with growing a strong Christian?

How about yoga in church? If someone wants to do yoga they should know it does have links to eastern philosophies/religion. Stretching and breathing exercises are not bad; they are healthy. But, mixing Christianity with eastern mysticism is sin! And what place does exercise have in church anyway?

Teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the job of the church. For the church to take a break from teaching and preaching for a yoga session or dance program is like a heart surgeon stopping in the middle of a heart transplant to dance around the operating room to an uplifting rendition of ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’.

Jesus Christ is the bridge between God and man. That is the message of the church. You cannot go to God the father except through Jesus Christ the Son. You learn about salvation through the Bible, Christian witnesses, and the church. All the garbage in the church today is like all the garbage on your television set. Let’s say you are watching a program that is totally appropriate and family friendly. But, the program is interrupted by ten commercials for every ten minutes of the program. The commercials are, for the most part, totally inappropriate. Many are even R-rated commercials, even though they are in a family friendly time slot. By the end of the program, 95% of the ‘good’ program is totally overshadowed by the trash that was thrown in with it. That is the way church is in many instances. The preacher may do a pretty good sermon, but it does not get top billing. It is not the focus of the ministry. The main focus of the church is ‘outreach’ through various programs.

The true measure of a church is the number of people who actually are committed to Jesus Christ, and continue in well doing. If 90% of children who grow up in church are leaving church, then something is not going well. .

Bringing worldly things into the church only brings in worldly people.
The church cannot really compete with the world.
Why go to church for yoga? You can get that lots of other places.
Why go to church for New Age philosophies watered down to fit into Christianity when you can get pure New Age theology outside the church?
Why go to church for dance? You can get that lots of other places, too.
Why go to church to socialize? You can socialize a lot of other places, and you won’t have the restrictions that apply to church socializing.
Why go to church to be happy? You can find worldly happiness much better in the world than in a church.
Why go to church to meet the right people? It appears that the ‘right people’ are much more common outside the church anyway.

Not only are children brought up in the church leaving the church, but new converts are leaving the church as fast as they come in. Why? It is for the same reason. Most of the time, they come into the church for the same reasons parents take their kids to church. They want a happier life. They have problems. They are looking for help in succeeding. They are looking for healing for a broken heart. They decide to give Jesus a try.
They NEVER let ‘grace teach their hearts to fear’. They do not understand they are in danger of hells torment! They think they are in torment right now! And maybe they are really in a sad state. But nothing is comparable to eternal torment.

Lost people need to understand the dire predicament they are in BEFORE they can understand what salvation means.

It is the job of Christians to be telling the world the truth. We might not get a net full of fish, but we might catch one now and then. It will change the eternal destination of each one that actually hears the truth and acts on it according to the instructions of Jesus. We don’t know what reform could come through our individual efforts.

To do this successfully, we must know the truth, and convey that truth in a way that is understandable.
To be effective, the truth must be presented without watering it down to make it more palatable to the individual. The natural man can’t understand the Gospel anyway. The Holy Spirit has to give understanding. ( 1 Corinthians 2:14, ‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’)

The Gospel must be presented when the opportunity arises whether it is easy or hard. It must be presented with the same charitable love with which Christ Himself presented it to us. Christ did not compromise the truth. He was not distracted by trying to reach a position in society or the work force. He didn’t seek wealth as a prize or means to getting social or political position. He just continued in well doing.

Today parents are facing some churches that are totally counterfeit. They are also facing churches that have some sound teaching and theology; but it is mixed with worldly things, ignorant teachers, and even out and out heresy creeping in

Honestly, true converts are not leaving their Christian faith. We are told in 1 John 2:19 that, ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.’ It is just so heartbreaking to think of all the time they spent in church, or at least thinking they were in church, and they never truly converted.

It is important not to set a goal of finding a perfect church. That isn’t possible. What you want in a church is a preacher who is committed to preaching the truth with compassion. I personally want the KJV Bible, and a traditional hymnal as the basis for the church music. Do your very best to avoid getting caught up in the dynamics of different personalities in the church. 1 Corinthians 2:2 tells us, ‘For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ,, and him crucified.’ Sadly, there is a lot of pettiness in most churches.

It is important to be committed to church attendance. Hebrews 10:25 tells us, ‘Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much more, as ye see the day approaching.’ Remember that one of the reasons for church attendance is simple obedience.

Jude 1:3 tells us, ‘Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.’

Whether the individual Christian is a parent, a grandparent, a new convert, or even a child like Samuel was when he served Eli, he or she is duty bound to earnestly contend for the faith. Do your best to be sure your church is not teaching a social gospel to anyone, much less the little ones. I know there will always be some who leave the church, but it could be a smaller number if they consistently heard the truth while they were in church. And, kids who grow up in a church that preaches a social gospel will do better to leave that type of church than to stay in it.

BUT, even kids growing up in a church that preaches sound Bible theology will gain nothing from it if they are NEVER IN 'BIG CHURCH'.  From the time your kids are three years old they should be sitting in church with YOU!  I do not care in the slightest if they interrupt the service, make noise, or do whatever kids do.  Preachers have microphones - let them turn up the volume if there is a problem.  With time and patience you will have a kid who sits through a church service without causing a disruption.  Do not be fooled into thinking 'there is time' because you don't have a clue about how much time there is for your precious gift from God to hear the truth with a heart that is willing to listen.  If your church frowns on you taking your child into church - then take your child into church anyway.  If it causes a big problem in the church then find another church.  The job of the church is to seize the opportunity to win the hearts of the children first and foremost.  The idea that 'the disruption might cause someone to be distracted' is pure garbage.  Your child is the one God is going to ask you about personally.  'Where is the flock that I gave to you?' is a question you will answer to God Almighty.  It is going to sound pretty lame to say, 'Well, Lord, I didn't want to disrupt the service so I let my kids play in the nursery and children's church until they were five years old; but then I moved them to children's church where they had a lot of good social opportunities; and then they had a youth service with youth minister who had no training but was very charismatic.'  

And, give your child credit for being intelligent!  The Bible says to understand and be saved we have to become as little children.  Guess what?  Little children are already little children.  Their conscience is not seared over.  They have an ability to hear the truth.  Personally, my kids NEVER went to the nursery - as in never even when they were tiny babies.  I kept them in the service with me, and if they cried I took them out personally.  I do not care in the slightest who might have been offended by me doing what was the very best for my own children.  There is a book called 'The dumbing down of America' or something like that.  What is far more evil is the dumbing down of the church.  It is lethal to keep children in 'sing a song feel good' classes when they should be in church listening to a real sermon and learning songs that praise God. 

Barbara Henderson

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