Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Children in Worship

As long as I've been a pastor, the question of whether children should be expected to sit through the Sunday morning worship service has stirred controversy. It's a question about which good people differ.

In my particular church, which has two worship services, we offer a complete Sunday School program for all ages during the early service. During the late service, we have classes only for children from birth through Grade 2. Our goal was to make it possible for families to worship together (at least with their older children) during the late service. For most people that works well, but parents with a child in 3rd, 4th, or even 5th grade sometimes find it a challenge to expect him or her to sit through what is normally a 75- or 80-minute service.

So what do I say to those parents who have a tough time keeping their young child quiet and attentive during worship?

I say, the Bible says you're doing a good thing.

When you search the Scriptures, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that children should participate in the corporate worship of the covenant family. Here's a smattering of Bible verses:
  • Joshua 8:35 - children participated in Israel's covenant renewal ceremony
  • 2 Chronicles 20:13 - children stood before the Lord along with their parents when Israel was threatened with attack
  • Ezra 10:1 - children were there when Ezra led the people in repentance
  • Psalm 148:7-13 - children are told to praise the Lord along with everyone else
  • Colossians 3:20 & Ephesians 6:1-3 - children were in the assembly when letters from Paul were read and explained
  • Matthew 19:14 - children were welcomed, blessed, and prayed for by Jesus
  • Matthew 21:15 - children shouted at the arrival of Jesus on Palm Sunday
My favorite Bible passage about children participating in corporate worship is Deuteronomy 31:12-13 -

"Assemble the people - men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns - so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess."

Notice what Moses is saying. Children should listen, learn, fear the Lord, and obey God's law...just like everyone else.

The bottom line is that children are an important part of the believing community. They not only get blessed by the Word of God and the worship of God, but they are also a blessing to the rest of the church family.

I realize that kids get restless and sometimes disturb other people. That's why I think parents need to come to church prepared with activities and rewards, and everybody else needs to be 100% understanding. When our children were young, my wife came to the sanctuary with a good supply of papers, crayons, and treats. If a parent needs to get up and walk around in the back of the sanctuary with his child for a few minutes, go right ahead. If a child makes noise, so what? I'm sure those Israelite gatherings referred to above could be noisy affairs.

In this as in so many areas, we have to resist the consumer mindset that is always knocking on the church door. Maybe there could be nothing better for our families, our churches, and our nation than to welcome little children into the worshiping community.

I conclude this post with an excerpt of a sermon by John Piper:

"...we live in a day in which pressures from all sides are on the family to be fractured and atomized. Fathers are worked to a frazzle and so are too dogged to spend quality time with children; mothers are lured away from their little children to the work force; children have their own activities, and the one thing that pulls them all to the same room makes zombies out of them all: the television. Stir into this a general cultural mood of 'me first,' and my rights and my self-realization, and you have got a powerful anti-family milieu. In this atmosphere, the church, as the preserver of biblical principles, must find ways to say 'no' to these pressures and affirm the depth and beauty of familial bonds. But where and how? It seems to me that the high point of our corporate life together is the place to start. Let’s make worship a family affair as much as we can."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Odes Project

This morning at our church, the Worship Ministry performed a number of songs from The Odes Project. I have fallen in love with this music! The songs are modern translations and arrangements of ancient Christian hymns called the Odes of Solomon. For some fascinating information about the Odes Project and the songs on which it is based, go here.

Jonathan Noel, our Director of Worship and Music, contributed his voice and piano-playing to the original recording of the Odes. On the website referenced above, you can listen to some of the songs and order the CDs. They are an inspiring collection of worship music.

The folks in our worship ministry did an outstanding job this morning and I thank them all.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cars I've had

I thought it would be fun to see if I could find internet pictures of all the cars my wife and I have owned during our married life.

We got married in 1976. Our first car was a 1972 (?) Volkswagon camper like this one (only ours was white). I bought it just before my senior year of college. As we drove away from the church on our wedding day, our friends threw bucket-loads of rice in it. For months we kept vacuuming rice out of it. We adored this car. I bought it because I was quite the back-to-nature closet-hippie type guy back then, and VW campers were the statement for the times. Suzy made colorful curtains for the interior. The tiny engine was in the back. There were all sorts of neat storage compartments inside the van, as well as a small refrigerator. The top popped up and there was a cot you could sleep in up there. The back seats folded out into a good-size bed. We took this car on lots of road trips and our friends thought we were really cool. We had to give it up when Suzy got pregnant with our first child Rebecca, because it got too hard for her to shift gears (it was a stick). And in its place we bought...

... a 1974 (?) Toyota C0rolla station wagon. It looked like this, only white with blue interior. Why we bought a station wagon I don't know. But it was fun to drive. Problem is, the transmission crashed after a couple years and we bought...

... a 1967 Chevrolet Biscayne! This thing was a boat. You could put 4 people in each of the two bench seats. It looked just like the Chevy Impala of the day only it was a 6-cylinder, two-door version. I remember it had no air conditioning. Suzy and I took it on several long trips, including one to Florida, and just about roasted alive. The color was an ugly sort of dull green. This was the car we brought our 2nd child David home from the hospital in, and it's the car we drove to St. Louis when we moved there for seminary. We sold it to our next-door neighbor who was also our landlord. Then we bought...

... a 1978 Plymouth Volare station wagon. By this time we'd had our 3rd child Jennifer, so we figured we needed another station wagon. It was red. It's probably the worst car ever made. It gave us nothing but problems. So we moved up in the world after I got my first job as an associate pastor and bought...

... a beige 1984 Dodge Caravan. It was like the one in the picture but didn't have the wood-grain on the side. It was the first year these cars were made I think. The neat thing about our Caravan was that it was a 5-speed stick. I've never seen one like that since. We bought it from a well-off family in our church and it had low miles. We felt we'd finally arrived, as far as cars are concerned. We had this car when our 4th child Michael was born in St. Louis. When I took a church in South Carolina, the Caravan died and we bought - you guessed it...

... another station wagon. This one was the station wagon of all station wagons: an Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. I think it was a 1987 or -88 model, and was blue with a wood-grain piece of vinyl on the sides just like the one pictured here. This was quite the luxury model of the day. It had electric windows and electric front seats. It stretched about a half-mile long and had a fold-up bench seat in the "way back," as we called it. This is probably the car our kids remember best, as it was the car we took tons of vacations in. It was indestructible. Because it could get really hot in the way back, we put a little fan back there and connected it to the cigarette lighter.

While we were in South Carolina we thought we'd try leasing a second car. So we shopped around and fell in love with a red 1994 Nissan Sentra. It became my wife's car. Sadly, not long after we got it, it was totaled in a terrible accident, thanks to a guy who drifted over into my wife's lane and rammed her head on. Praise God she was not hurt, and he came out OK too. But the car was finished. Too bad, we both loved that car!

So when the Sentra was totaled we decided to buy rather than lease, and we bought a 1995 Subaru Legacy, similar to the one in the picture (only brown). Loved this car!

In 1996 we relocated to Ocala, Florida. I sold the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser for $100 at a junk yard and bought a 1995 Nissan Quest minivan. It looked just like the one in the picture, only the hatchback door was dented in by one of our kids (I'm not naming names), who backed into a mailbox soon after getting her drivers' license! I've blogged about this car before. It was a wonderful car and took us all over the country. We had it for 10 years. We sold it not long ago to a family in our church and it had 218,000 miles on it. For the first time in our lives we bought a new car...

... a 2008 Toyota RAV4. We wanted the model with an extra third seat in the back, so when our kids come to visit we have room enough for everyone.

It's funny how cars tell a story of love, of family, and of memories that are far more precious than money can buy.