Do You Desire To Bring Your Child Into The Kingdom?

It's hard enough to be a Christian parent in this world. How do we combat the forces of evil while at the same time raise our children to desire to walk in God's light? By seeking His face, His Word and inspiration from each other as we stumble through this parenting process together. You will find all the instruction, encouragement and resources you need right here at The Greatest Mission Trip You'll Ever Take to help you be the most effective witness to your child that God would have you be. Look around and come back often. Let's learn together.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Observe The Sabbath Day

photo by David Paul Ohmer

You would think that for most Christians this would be an easy commandment to keep. You’re a Christian, you go to church, right?

Actually, the commandment doesn’t specifically say that we’re to walk inside a structure designed for gathering people to worship and sing songs and hear a sermon preached. It tells us we’re to observe it, like a holiday, and keep it holy, a day set aside as special before the Lord.

That’s the excuse given by those who argue that they’re a Christian, but they just don’t go to church. After all, it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible, “Thou shalt go to church.” However, we’re not meant to read the Bible snippet by snippet, using a single verse as a literal rationalization for our self-serving Christianity.

Remember? It’s not about us.

Jesus was in the synagogue every Sabbath. Sometimes he was listening, most of the time he was teaching (what were you doing when you were twelve years old…), but always he was there. I’m guessing that since we’re named after Him, Christians, we ought to be following His example.

All the hand picked men of God were in synagogue every Sabbath. From the prophets to the apostles, gathering together to worship as a corporate body was not just expected, it was mandated. And as hand picked men of God they were smart enough to understand that when God commands it, you do it.

The first century church set the example for all future churches. They came together not only out of love for the Lord, but for each other as well. They worshipped, communed, fellowshipped and learned together, and the apostles did all they could to make sure that, as a body devoted to Christ, they stayed on track with correctly and lovingly obeying the fourth commandment.

Our following the fourth commandment as a family entails that we follow the example of those who came before us, most especially that of Jesus, whom we adore.

To make sure your child learns to embrace this commandment here are my words to you:

Don’t make extracurricular choices more important than going to church. You won’t find yourself overwhelmingly supported on this by others, but that baseball tournament, or that 4H competition or that all-nighter pulled Saturday night shouldn’t be more important than worshipping God as a family. There are ways around the obstacles. There are other churches in town, you can have a time of purposeful family devotion, or you can listen to a sermon podcast or on CD as you’re traveling. Plant the seed that it’s all right to make exceptions for going to church and your child will find ways when he goes off to college or out on his own to extend that reasoning to other areas of his life.

Demonstrate an enthusiasm for going to church. Don’t make church a rules-based decision. We get to go to church because we love God and love being with other people who love God. Talk it up before going to it and talk about it afterwards. Let your child hear you discuss with your spouse or someone else the sermon or how much you loved participating. Let your child think that to not go to church will mean he’ll have missed something.

Engage your family in the church. As the family of God we should get to know one another. Participate in ministry, attend Sunday school or small group study, get to know the pastor, invite someone over for dinner. It’s real easy for a child to walk away from the faith if there was never a connection made with church being family.

Emphasize that church is about God. This is a hard one to get across because we all struggle with it. We go to church because we relate to the music or the pastor is a good speaker or because we feel meaningful with our service there. All of those things are good things, but it’s not the primary reason why we go to church. Church is about worshipping God and celebrating a risen Savior. As such, when God commanded we observe the Sabbath, it was with that intent in mind.

This commandment should be an easy one to keep, but it actually takes a little work on our part as parents to make it so. Nonetheless, teaching your child obedience to the Lord is always, always a worthwhile endeavor.

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Anonymous said...

Well, as I read in They Like Jesus But Not The Church, there are people who like Jesus but refuse to go to church because of either negative experiences of their own or their friends who then told them about it. It also lists the reasons why, too.

On this perspective, it's important that we, as Christians inside the churches, can change enough so that we can welcome outsiders with open arms. Unless their perceptions on us church-going Christians change, they won't change.

Meanwhile... onto another issue, but related. There's an interesting debate going on between the first generation Asian Christians (at least in the Episcopal level in Chinese ministry) and those Asians who are second generation and beyond. The issue is... the first generations generally prefer to be with people who can speak their native languages, which explains the need of having ethnic churches. However, those who are second generation and beyond prefer multi-cultural churches. Why this is a problem? Because it could be a family related problem. Sure, the family as a whole would go to church. But, they would be spread out into at least two churches! For Asian ministries, this is not good because it is one that needs young Asian leaders to step up. Can the ministry adjust and adapt? I don't quite think so because compromising too much would actually make them lose their original identities. (An example of which would be how my former church runs its English service.) So, the implied mission I think the folks in Chinese ministry sort of assigned to me was... try to find a middle ground that would satisfy the first generations as well as those who are second generation and beyond. (This is an easy thing to say, but a very tough answer to find. But, I will tell what I am experiencing with the Chinese ministry leaders in a month and a half.)

Deb Burton said...

Bill, thanks so much for the insight into your culture and how it impacts ministry and the family. I know something of the same dilemma exists between family members who want a more traditional service vs those who want a contemporary one. I've seen parents go to one church and teens to another. They're both in church with fellow believers, which is good, but I sure hate seeing families split up to worship the Lord.

If you come up with a viable solution, God bless you. You have a lot to do, my friend.

Thanks for stopping by. :)

Anonymous said...

yeah, in the Asian ministries' case... I would say it has more to do with language than the desire to go to contemporary service and stuff.

My former church was formed 25 years or so ago. Based on what I heard, Chinese ministry of the Episcopal Church used the existing building (probably with some renovations) probably wanted to start a Chinese Episcopalian congregation there in the LA area. However, up until 2000, the services were only in Cantonese. So, this indirectly kicked out the second generations and beyond in the first place. Since then, the church had started a service with at least some English in it. They experimented with an English-only service between 2000-2007, which lasted 3 months. Then, in 2007, despite the failures of the initial experiment, they started an English-only service anyway.

My view is that the church planters in my former church did not do a good job visioning for those Chinese Episcopalians who are second generations and beyond. Thus, the relationship can be summarized a Chinese saying- "water thrown onto the ground is very difficult to pick up". In this context, it indirect means that the damage to the second generations and beyond had been done and it would be extremely difficult to make amends.

Out of what I am thinking so far, there's no immediate solution. The only solutions I can think of are more of intermediate or long term. The solution I have in mind is... for the leaders of the entire ministry to compile a video to show why Chinese ministry is important to every Chinese Episcopalian. Maybe I would then follow up with an article that would be posted on the Episcopal News online. Chances of success? I would say it could be like finding a needle inside a haystack. But, it's better than doing nothing at all or having these churches compromise too much and lose their identities in the process. (These churches can't lose their identities because first generations still need a place for them to call "home".