25 September 2014

"For the sake of the children"?

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in October 2007. Frank addressed the idea of leaving a fellowship "for the sake of" one's children.

As usual, the comments are closed.
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"?

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.

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?