Thursday, August 03, 2006

What In God's Name are We Doing to Our Children?

Everyone is concerned about the effect that our culture is having on children. Violence, immorality and perversion fill the airwaves. The family is breaking down, our schools are a mess; the moral foundations of our nation are crumbling. What is going to happen to our children and grandchildren as they grow up in this moral cesspool?

But I have a more serious concern today. I am bothered by the effects of a pagan society on the next generation, but I am more concerned about what the church of Jesus Christ is doing to our children.

A prominent church developed a children’s ministry center. The designer had worked for Disney and built a visual wonderland to amaze and attract. In the hopes that many children would come to Christ, the church put in a baptistery; one especially designed for children. It was shaped like a fire truck and equipped with a confetti canon that would fire every time a child was baptized.

I need to clarify something here. The preceding paragraph is NOT fiction. I have talked to people who have been there. The facts are verified and undenied.

What that church did may be extreme, but it is indicative of what is going on in children’s ministries across America. Children’s ministries are competing with fast-paced children’s television programs and exciting video games. So, we compete. If Disney can entertain our children, we will do it better. We will out-Hollywood Hollywood and out-rock-and-roll the music industry.

This is all done with the most noble of motives. The bright lights of our culture attract children, so we use the bright lights to attract them to Christ. If the kids watch TV, let’s give them VeggieTales. If they are going to play games, they might as well have a Christian theme. Their music might as well have vaguely Christian words. Whatever we have to do to get them into the church and keep them there, we will do.

But there may be a problem with all this. I am afraid that in our noble desire to make the church more palatable and entertaining, we are in danger of raising a generation which has no concept of what Christianity really is. My generation is narcissistic and self-indulgent. What will this generation of entertainment-jaded youth be when it is all grown up?

Jesus described the very nature of Christianity. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Paul told the Philippians, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Jesus not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” Jesus promised his disciples that in this world, they would have tribulation.

We work very hard to make the church experience fun, exciting and entertaining. We cater to children. But following Jesus is self-denial, not entertainment. We are called to serve him; not just to enjoy him. How are kids going to learn this lesson if children spend their lives being catered to and entertained?

When is the last time an American child was asked to sacrifice for cause of Christ? For several years I led a ministry at my former church called Bible Drill. It is hard work. Every week I had a dozen or so wonderful Christian fourth through sixth graders in my office whining about Bible Drill. “This isn’t fun. Can we go outside?” Every week I gave them the same response. “Nothing of real value in life is fun. The things that really matter require hard work, sacrifice and faithfulness.” The message never seemed to get through.

These kids were not juvenile delinquents. These were good kids – church kids. In fact, one of them went home with me at the end of the evening. But they had an idea ingrained into their pre-adolescent minds. Church is supposed to be fun. If it isn’t fun, they shouldn’t have to do it.

Where would they have gotten such an idea?

I am raising an issue for which I do not have an answer. I do not want to make church dull. Howard Hendricks said that it is a sin to bore people with the Word of God. I agree. I see no real problem with using technology to create interest. But I do think that we have to be careful not to let kids grow up in the church enjoying the show without being challenged to sacrifice for the cause. Jesus did not say, “If anyone – except the children – would come after me...” We cannot give children a watered down gospel or ignore the call of Christ to sacrificial living.

In our effort to keep kids coming to church, have we compromised the reason why they should come? Is the goal to get them into the church or to see them passionately devoted to the Savior?

Anyone remember Pinocchio? Wasn’t it the carnival that led him into bondage?


Todd Bacon said...

Interesting points my friend. This is one of many so far disjointed thoughts mulling around in my head. I recently read "Revolutions in World Missions" ( K.P. Yohannan and it has really planted some seeds that thankfully so far haven't just been ignored. I know that my kids have never had to sacrifice for the cause of Christ and I can't really point to true sacrifice in my life either. Glad to see you blogging... I'm subscribed to your rss feed so it updates me when you post. I'll be reading... (even with my responsibilities in Cuba) =o)

garretthufford said...

Hey David how do I subscribe to your blog in my e-mail??

jen said...

Some churches are doing the smae thing to the adults as well. I used to believe that our church was right where God wanted it and He was blessing us. Over the past two years I have noticed changes(either with me or the church)that makes me uncomfortable being there or calling it my "home" church. For example: building a coffee shop where our video and tape library was and moving it out to the hallway where the different ongoing bible studys could advertise. Last week was so lukewarm that they did two solos by Switchfoot(band that doesnt even want to have a "christian" recording "label". The songs did not have to do with Jesus but had a good riffs and confusing lyrics. I am frustrated, and dont know what to do to not let me and my household be swept along in the current like a dead fish <>X...

Damon Steele said...

Good stuff Dave, and sobering. You know what they say about putting a frog in a pot full of cold water and turning the fire on. By the time he's dead, he never realized what hit him.


Pastormarkee said...

Dave, thanks for posting. I got your blog from our sr hi guy. I agree with your concerns and agree 100% that we must model to our kids what sacrifices is and to give them opportunities to sacrifices. I think one of our problems is the fact that we do not give them a chance to sacrifices. We talk about, we say we have to do it, but we don't give opportunities to do so. We need to be willing to give them opportunities to sacrifices (and I'm not talking about money). This also means that we must be willing to sacrifices ourselves and give up our comfort and sacrifices with them. If you would like to see some of the things that we have done please email me and I'll enjoy sharing that with you.

Alex said...

Wow Dave. We were just talking about this type of thing going on in our church. Our Elementary kids sing and "dance" under a disco ball in Sunday school. Disturbing. The Wittenburg girls won't be attending "dance party Jesus"

Rebekah said...

I see your comment list is growing from 1 to now 7. That must mean you have hit a nerve. I must agree with Charity, (as we are so closely connected), that our children's ministry specifically, but being a representative of church American, seeks to "lure" children into joining the "fun" and then hopes to teach them something about Christ and really hope they make a "commitment" to ... uh, Christ. But what are we asking them to make a commitment to, really? Nothing more than they are already whole hog going for, fun, games, and a good story line with a cool ending. This is not the Christ I read about in scripture. Thanks for your thoughts and blogging. I am thankful there are still some church leaders who think outside America Church, Inc.

ps. I do thinks Christ is "cool" and He has the best story line and ending in the world, I just think we are going about it all wrong.