Thursday, June 19, 2008

What in God's Name are We Doing to Our Children?

(If you read this and comment, please don't think I am ignoring you. I am headed to New Orleans for a week of disaster relief. I don't know how much internet access I will have.)

(I was reading Bart Barber's current post on biblical literacy, and it put me in mind of this, my very first blog ever. So, I pulled it out of the mothballs and edited it.)

Everyone is concerned about the effect that our culture is having on children. Violence, immorality and perversion fill the airwaves. The family is breaking down, our schools are a mess; the moral foundations of our nation are crumbling. What is going to happen to our children and grandchildren as they grow up in this moral cesspool?

But I have a more serious concern today. I am bothered by the effects of a pagan society on the next generation, but I am more concerned about what the church of Jesus Christ is doing to our children. A prominent church developed a children’s ministry center. The designer had worked for Disney and built a visual wonderland to amaze and attract. In the hopes that many children would come to Christ, the church put in a baptistery; one especially designed for children. It was shaped like a fire truck and equipped with a confetti canon that would fire every time a child was baptized. I need to clarify something here.

The preceding paragraph is NOT fiction. I have talked to people who have been there. The facts are verified and undenied. What that church did may be extreme, but it is indicative of what is going on in children’s ministries across America. Children’s ministries are competing with fast-paced children’s television programs and exciting video games. So, we compete. If Disney can entertain our children, we will do it better. We will out-Hollywood Hollywood and out-rock-and-roll the music industry.

This is all done with the most noble of motives. The bright lights of our culture attract children, so we use the bright lights to attract them to Christ. If the kids watch TV, let’s give them VeggieTales. If they are going to play games, they might as well have a Christian theme. Their music might as well have vaguely Christian words. Whatever we have to do to get them into the church and keep them there, we will do.

But there may be a problem with all this. I am afraid that in our noble desire to make the church more palatable and entertaining, we are in danger of raising a generation which has no concept of what Christianity really is. My generation is narcissistic and self-indulgent. What will this generation of entertainment-jaded youth be when it is all grown up?

Jesus described the very nature of Christianity. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Paul told the Philippians, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Jesus not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” Jesus promised his disciples that in this world, they would have tribulation.

We work very hard to make the church experience fun, exciting and entertaining. We cater to children. But following Jesus is self-denial, not entertainment. We are called to serve him; not just to enjoy him. How are kids going to learn this lesson if children spend their lives being catered to and entertained? When is the last time an American child was asked to sacrifice for cause of Christ?

For several years I led a ministry at my former church called Bible Drill. It is hard work. Every week I had a dozen or so wonderful Christian fourth through sixth graders in my office whining about Bible Drill. “This isn’t fun. Can we go outside?” Every week I gave them the same response. “Nothing of real value in life is fun. The things that really matter require hard work, sacrifice and faithfulness.” The message never seemed to get through. These kids were not juvenile delinquents. These were good kids – church kids. In fact, one of them went home with me at the end of the evening. But they had an idea ingrained into their pre-adolescent minds. Church is supposed to be fun. If it isn’t fun, they shouldn’t have to do it. Where would they have gotten such an idea?

I am raising an issue for which I do not have an answer. I do not want to make church dull. Howard Hendricks said that it is a sin to bore people with the Word of God. I agree. I see no real problem with using technology to create interest. But I do think that we have to be careful not to let kids grow up in the church enjoying the show without being challenged to sacrifice for the cause. Jesus did not say, “If anyone – except the children – would come after me...” We cannot give children a watered down gospel or ignore the call of Christ to sacrificial living.

In our effort to keep kids coming to church, have we compromised the reason why they should come? Is the goal to get them into the church or to see them passionately devoted to the Savior?

Anyone remember Pinocchio? Wasn’t it the carnival that led him into bondage?

13 comments:

Tim G said...

Great post - maybe your best of all time!

Dave, I think a balance is needed. Yet the searching out of that balance is the difficult part. We are trying to discern this balance in plans for a new facility. Getting attention is important. Yet making sure that once we have their attention, we are teaching and they are grasping the truths is more important. I am afraid that we have reached a point where all of our energy is focused on the "attention" part and little if any on the "discipleship" part.

Great stuff man!!!!!!!

James Hunt said...

A missionary seeks to understand both the culture, heart language, as well as the world view of those targeted.

If children are being targeted then should we not understand that God has wired them differently than He has adults? Children's ministry should look different than adult ministry because children think and process differently.

Having said that this doesn't mean that we should open it up for the excesses that actually distract from the simplicity and majesty of the beautiful gospel to which all the called are drawn - nor should we allow for anything that would diminish the development of theological understanding or spiritual disciplines. I'm with Tim G - balance is needed...and much wisdom.

Tim G said...

James,
I think finding that balance for us adults is difficult. Whether we want to admit it or not, we like the quick fix and seldome really seek to know how or what we are doing. We do and HOPE. Man do we need to wake up!

WatchingHISstory said...
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Dave Miller said...

Charles,

Take your hate elsewhere please. This site is for those who wish to glorify God, not men filled with vile fixations and hatred.

WatchingHISstory said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave Miller said...

Charles,

You have a problem. It is deep-seated and evidently you cannot give it up.

You need help. First, repent. Your anger and hatred do not accomplish the purposes of God.

Whatever your problem is, you cannot solve it by posting hate-filled comments on my site.

If you comment on something else, I might let it stay.

But I have had enough of your wickedness on my site. I have no patience for it.

Dave Miller said...

This will be my last comment to you, Charles.

You are a man with a problem. You do not seem interested in dealing with it.

I will not comment on your rants anymore. They will be deleted without comment (unless I choose to change my mind).

Just know that whatever time you spend trying to spread your hate on my site will have no effect. As soon as I get notice that you have posted, I will hit the delete button and poof - your comment will disappear.

I am committed to seeing that no one reads your nonsense on my site.

Get help.

WatchingHISstory said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave Miller said...

Charles,

Paul Williams did an evil thing. He repented and he suffered the consequences of his sin.

1) Is it not true that his sin was nearly 20 years ago now?

2) Is it not true that he admitted it and pled guilty to the crime?

3) If he repented, has he not received forgiveness for his sin?

That means that he, a repentant sinner, is in a right relationship with God.

You, who spread slander against brothers in Christ, sow discord and dishonor the body of Christ, where does that leave you?

From what I know, Paul Williams is a forgiven sinner. You are living in unrepentant sin.

He is the repentant publican, you are the self-righteous pharisee. Who did Jesus declare forgiven?

WatchingHISstory said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave Miller said...

Your "vision" of God being angry with Adrian Rogers is contrary to scripture and is therefore either a delusion, or Satanically inspired. I don't know.

You violate scriptures by constantly running down men of God.

You exhibit a spirit of anger and unforgiveness. Jesus said repeatedly that if you do not forgive your brother his sin, your sin cannot be forgiven.

Matthew 6, 18.

The measure you use to judge others will be measured back to you.

I don't know the heart of God, but I know this - I would rather stand in Adrian Rogers' place at the last day than in yours.

Stop posting here, until you deal with your obsession and your anger and unforgiveness.

I am interested in the glory of God and not in your petty, wicked accusations against Adrian or others.

In the name of JEsus Christ, I exhort you to find forgiveness in the blood of Christ and to find freedom from the bondage of the mind that hatred and bitterness has wrought in you.

In the name of Jesus I beg you not to continue in the course you have chosen.

If you are so sure that you are the agent of God to pronounce judgment on the world, then shake the dust off your feet. I am not buying it. I consider you a false prophet and an evildoer.

Now, I am serious. The delete button awaits. Nothing you say will stand on my site for more than a short time.

John Stickley said...

Dave,

Just came across your blog for the first time today.

I've been thinking quite a bit recently about a variety of things... the fact that we lose somewhere in the realm of 80-90% of teens (permanently!) once they leave their youth group for college or work... the way we do children's ministry... the lack of discipleship in the church, etc. Basically? Families and faith.

I wish I had all the answers to the questions you've asked and I've thought about, but I don't. I do have a sneaking suspicion that families are the key to these issues though.

I've been trying to foster a bit of dialogue on the matter on my site. I'd love to hear your thoughts on some of the questions I've been throwing around there.

Check it out at toward-the-goal.net.