Yeah, OK: eventually we'll get back to the question of whether the church is necessary for the sake of the Gospel, but the comments from previous posts keep derailing my nice outline.
Somebody who calls himself "dogpreacher" said this in the meta of the last post:
I agree with Cent about "staying" or "leaving", EXCEPT one thing that I don't think was addressed. If you are "staying" (in the manner prescribed)...you still have the responsibility of your children, and DO NOT think your children are spiritually mature enough to sift through the worldliness that is calling itself their youth group. THEY ARE NOT. Nobody elses are either. WHY would you subject them to such?I have a friend who I have known since college, and he and I have a set of filters we run everything through when people say things. It's a sort of Rube Goldberg hermeneutics machine, used to see if someone is trying to hide bad reasoning under conventional wisdom.
Hey, your pastor may have to answer to God for allowing that "on his watch", but as far as your children he will be in line behind you.
Oh yeah...FAMILY WORSHIP!
Now, before I explain how it works, let me say something explicitly: there's no question that you personally are responsible for your kids – morally, legally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. You. They are your kids, and God gave them to you – whatever the circumstances – for His glory and your personal holiness and sanctification. Your kids: your responsibility.
Got it? OK – because I don't want anyone reading this post and then hypothesizing that cent thinks that people should be careless or cavalier about their kids.
There are a series of phrases that me and my college buddy look for in someone's very serious moral pronouncements, among them being "safety", "freedom" and "prosperity" or "opportunity". But the one which is probably the most amazing detector of fallacious moral reasoning is the phrase "for the sake of the children".
Because almost anyone will do almost anything if they think their kids' health, welfare, freedom, prosperity, playstation, comic books, or whatever is in jeopardy – we tend to lose our perspective on things when we think our kids are involved. And let me say that we are actually responsible for our kids in a way that most of us are not at all responsible for anything else, so I give everyone a gold star for at least understanding that there's something serious at stake when our kids are involved.
But let's be serious about something else, too: doing something "for the sake of the kids" is not hardly a trump-card moral precept. You shouldn’t break up your marriage "for the sake of the kids". You shouldn’t rob a bank "for the sake of the kids". You shouldn't run up your credit card debt "for the sake of the kids".
But should you leave your church "for the sake of the kids"?
Listen: I want us to start answering this question by understanding something first. At some point, we have to grapple with the statement "I joined a church". To "join" a church doesn't mean I started coming on Sunday morning, and occasionally I drop by for the second-shift service on Sunday night, and I have my name on a roll in a Sunday school class. "Joining" a church doesn't mean "you can find me there from time to time". It means that you are part of the life of that church.
Here's what it says in Acts 2:
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.And before anyone takes this post off-topic, I haven't highlighted all the things this passage says, but I have highlighted the ones relevant for this topic.
And let's also make sure we note that this isn’t the be-all and end-all of passages on ecclesiology – but how about if we did at least this much before we went to the spiritual nuclear option of "leaving" churches because we think the pastor is a pawn of Satan? You know: what if we joined our churches for the sake of the kids before we started expounding about how we must leave our churches "for the sake of the kids"?
See – I think it's a legitimate claim to say, "my kids are in spiritual danger because the church I attend refuses to teach kids that the reason Christ is glorious and beautiful is because our sin is so great, and instead teaches that the point of the story of the loaves and fishes is that you should share your lunch." If that is the only spiritual guidance your kids get, you're right: they are in spiritual danger. I'm just not sure you and I mean the same thing.
If that's how you run your family's spiritual life – that is, you expect them to pick it up at church, primarily at church with only your rubber stamp rather than your example – maybe the root problem is not the church. Maybe the root problem is that you yourself have delegated your spiritual responsibilities.
I taught 1st grade boys for a year at our church, and we were using what I thought was frankly-insipid denominational literature that set its sights way below the capacity of these boys to learn. So I decided to upgrade the curriculum by trying to make some broader-picture applications for the boys by helping them memorize two things and fitting those two things into the lessons: the Lord's Prayer, and the names and identities of the 12 Apostles.
When I told the parents that this is what we were going to do, I got the feedback that there was no way the boys could do that – they just can't. The problem is that when I asked the boys if they could name 10 pokemon and their powers and masters, anyone one of them could name 20 – including the homeschool kids.
Because, as I said in the meta yesterday, there's no problem with them seeing that every day.
Another great example is when our youth pastor started teaching church history [!] to his teens on Sunday morning, and suddenly parents started threatening to "leave the church" because he pointed out that we're Protestants who believe in Sola Scriptura, along with the other 4 of the 5 solas. These being parents who, btw, who couldn’t tell you the difference between Beza and Bozo, and have a casual relationship (to say it nicely) with our youth facility and its activities.
So if you're going to come across with the packaged objection, "I'm leaving for the sake of my kids," make sure that one of the things inside that package was that you actually joined for the sake of your kids, and that somehow your joining was demonstrating your spiritual responsibility to your kids.
And I say that because dogpreacher wants to drive-by with the exclamation "FAMILY WORSHIP" – and I think there's a lot to be said for "FAMILY WORSHIP", almost all of it good. If we are really living as Christians, disciples of Christ, we are sort of 24/7 in the thing. You know: I don't just show up to coach soccer twice a week. I sweat our lineup; I think about drills we can work on which will improve the way our team plays. I have a real abiding concern for the new kids who are only getting the minimum half-game playing time that they will have a good experience, learn something, and not get discouraged but will learn to love the sport even though they are not going to get full-game playing time this year. They may not even score any goals – how can sports be fun if you don't get to score?
But if I'm sweating it, and all the kids on my team –don't- sweat it and never touch a ball except when it rolls past them on the field, have they joined the team – or are they merely spectating from on the field? And "FAMILY WORSHIP" time is –certainly- something we do away from church. But the question has to be, "does that take the place of church?"
Is it really an either/or situation? I mean, do we make church life reductive down to our doorstep where our doctrine and practice never has a chance to rub up against someone who might have some kind of spiritual maturity advantage (let alone spiritual authority) over us – so we only pastor our kids and we call that "church"? Isn't it both/and where we (the Moms and Dads) have one kind of spiritual authority, and then we participate in another kind of relationship outside of the home where we ourselves are held responsible for being inside the boundaries of orthodoxy?
In that loop, we're back to the question of "join" before we can bring up the consequence "leave". If you haven't really "joined" your church in an Acts 2 sort of way where you are a consequential member of a community joined in spiritual unity in truth which lives out in real relationship, I think you have a lot of nerve to say you're "leaving". That's not headline-quality news.
If you're leaving "for the sake of the kids", I say leave – go ahead and go. But get joined to a church for the sake of the kids in such a way that you demonstrate to the what joining means.
And all that said, since we haven't said it in a long time, be with the Lord's people on the Lord's day in the Lord's house because you have been called out to be there. If you're going to do something for the kids' sake, do it for God's sake first and show that you understand obedience before you try to exercise authority.