Saturday, February 28, 2009

We are a family

I've been preaching and teaching that we (the local church) are a family for years now. At our local church we recently made a change to reinforce that concept - we now include our K-5 children in corporate worship. We're one week in, but I'm already excited...

It seems odd to me that so many local churches shuttle their kids off to their own little corner virtually every time they meet. I understand that there's great value in having kids grouped with other kids sometimes: age-appropriate teaching, peer bonding, etc... But why the trend toward virtual isolation? I'm not sure it speaks well of our culture.

Having said that, one of the things I most like about our local church is that people actually want to include kids in the life of the local church! So we finally took the next major step last week, keeping the K-5s with their parents until the start of the sermon. For my part, it was great! Having all those kids viewing and participating in corporate worship, seeing what a mass of adult followers of Jesus looks like when singing their praise to Him, ... The benefits are probably incalculable, to be honest.

So, if you get a chance, let me know how you see this issue. What does your local church do? What would you change about the involvement of children in the life of your local church?


Read More......

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Missional training

As most of you know, I'm absolutely convinced that the church in America has messed up the very nature of Children's Ministry (CM) almost beyond repair. We have coddled them, we have entertained them, we have over-simplified everything for them. In the process we have also implicitly taught them that the local church exists for them.

One of the reasons I'm most honoured to be the Children's Pastor at our local church is the chance to change this, at least within our church family. We reached what I think I might look back on as a milestone the other day...

During our Wednesday night children's ministry, we began collecting items for our local nursing home. Children of all ages brought candies, cards, chapstick and other goodies to the church building. Then last week those same children decorated white gift bags and made Valentine cards for the residents of the nursing home.

So far, pretty standard fare for CM. What we did next has - I pray - laid the foundation for training our children to think missionally. We took the older kids from this group - a Sunday School class - to the nursing home to personally deliver our gift bags and Valentine cards. Twelve young souls - most of them in 4th and 5th grade - travelled the halls of the nursing home in groups of 6, guided to rooms of residents that could use some cheering up. The group I was with spoke with a lady recovering from the nasty cold that's been going around in these parts. She asked me to pray with her before I left the room. We were given the real honour of meeting and talking with a WWII vet, a man that was on the shores of Normandy 2 days after the invasion! We met a sweet lady that shard the same name as one of our children there that day. We spoke with a man barely able to speak.

What didn't we do? We didn't preach. We didn't insert the token gospel tract into their bags. We also didn't hide our love for Jesus. We didn't hide the fact that we were representing a local church. We wore our faith on our sleeves yet did not wield it as a weapon.

I couldn't be more proud of these, "my" kids. They shared the love of Jesus. They encouraged lonely hearts. They were - I think - challenged themselves by some of what they saw. They advanced God's glory.

On top of all that, they're learning first-hand that the life of the local church is not about being served. It's not about consumerism. It's not about what a local church can do for you. It's about service. As our Lord did, we came to serve those residents.

My great hope is that we've begun what will be a long-term relationship with this nursing home. I hope to get these children and others back to visit them regularly. We're already planning to tell the real story of St. Patrick with them sometime next month.

I know it seems small in so many ways, but I really think we're on to something here. Your thoughts?


Read More......

Monday, February 9, 2009

Words written in red

One of the more curious tendencies of the emerging church is to take the words of Jesus as somehow more important than the rest of the Bible. Reverence for Jesus has to be demonstrated by elevating His words to a higher plateau, I suppose the thinking goes. I've seen this attitude in scholarly works on EC and at the local level. It's problematic, and I know I've posted about it before, but for the benefit of a friend let's address the issue again for just a bit, eh?

First things first - the Bible explicitly tells us that all Scripture is given by inspiration and all Scripture is profitable for growth in Christian character. You'd like to think that would settle it, but apparently it doesn't for plenty of EC folk.

Perhaps more to the point, Jesus Himself clearly sees enormous value in the Old Testament Scriptures. In fact, He uses the text of Jonah to validate His own ministry. In Matthew 12, His detractors ask for "a sign" and He promises to validate His ministry by none other than the "sign of Jonah". The language of the text makes it clear that Jesus fully accepts both the authenticity and authority of this OT text. If Jesus Himself had such a high view of Scripture, is it not the height of folly to declare that Jesus' words are more important than other Scriptures?!

Here's another issue: the words of Jesus fail to address so many issues that other texts of Scripture deal with. If we are to limit ourselves to only the words of Jesus, we severely limit God's voice on many, many topics.

Another: seeing the words of Jesus this way is a fundamental error in our view of Scripture. If Scripture is a sort of divine self-help book, then perhaps you could argue that the "way of Jesus" is most important in the Bible. But since the Bible is, in fact, God's self-revelation to humanity, such a view of Jesus' words falls very short of adequate.

None of this, of course, means that I'm devaluing the words of Jesus. I'm simply arguing that - while it sounds terribly pious - regarding Jesus' words as somehow more important than other words of the Bible is actually a lower view of Scripture and therefore the Christ of Scripture, too.


Read More......