With the growth of mega-churches in America coupled with the culture of big business, age-segregated government education, the sports craze, and the entertainment haze, the Church has been negatively influenced with the ways of the world. Dads leave home on Mondays for their weekly business trips while soccer moms are busy carting the kids around from one practice field to another. At the end of the week, they come together, and some will attend church on the Lord’s Day. While the world is busy splitting our families apart, the last thing we need is the Church contributing to the mayhem.
The first thing Christians need to do is to restore their own families. God has appointed the husband/father to be the head of the household. The man of the house is commanded, first of all, to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). The man of the house should love, lead, protect, and provide for his family. These responsibilities, however, do not merely apply to the physical well-being of his family, but more importantly, to the spiritual. A man should lead his family spiritually.
When God created Adam, He gave work and responsibilities to him before Eve was even created (cf. Genesis 2:5-18). Therefore, it is important for a man to know the will of God for his family and lead them in love to follow Christ and heed His commands. A man should lead his family to understand the will of God and involve his family in its mission. In order to do this, he must be consistently instructing his family from the Scriptures and leading them in family worship(Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
On the other hand, the role of the woman, is quite different. The wife/mother was made for the man to come alongside him, to be a companion to him, and help him in his God-given ministry (Genesis 2:18). The materials that God used to construct the man was different from the woman for a reason.
God made man from the dust of the ground. Man would have his purpose and fulfillment in life by tilling the ground from which he was made. Woman was made from man, and therefore, will best enjoy her purpose and fulfillment in life when she is serving the substance from which she was made, the man. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:9, “ Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
This does not mean that woman is any lesser than the man for the Scripture also says, “For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God” (1 Corinthians 11:12), but is does reveal that we have different purposes and functions to the glory of God. The headship of a man in the home is absolutely essential to the manifestation of the glory of God in the home (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3).
When a marriage is functioning biblically, the husband lovingly leads, and the wife reverently submits according to the Scriptures (Ephesians 5:22,24,33). This is a picture of Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:32), and when this picture is perverted in negligence or disobedience, God is not glorified in the home and the home is not happy.
Now what about the children? It seems that most homes in America tend to revolve around the children, their activities, and their desires. Our children have learned to become consumers in the home and society and not producers. Because the Church has, by and large, bought into the world’s market for children, we now think that our children are the ones who need to be served, coddled, appeased, and entertained. When the family revolves around the children, then churches are sought for their ability to provide the services their children desire.
Families shop for churches today like they are shopping for the latest Christmas toys. This mentality is detrimental to both the church and the family. This philosophy has dumbed-down the church in its doctrinal understanding, and has produced entertainment-driven churches that are man-centered rather than God-centered.
To help us understand what role the children should play in both the family and the church, Noah provides us with some good principles. God approached Noah, revealed His grace to him, and instructed him in his ministry – to build an ark. It would take Noah 120 years to complete the ark. After twenty years, Noah needed some helpers, after all, the worldly neighbors were not interested in helping to build a boat since no water was nearby. God provided three sons to help build the ark, and for the next 100 years the work continues until it was completed. Then Noah, his wife, and three sons with their wives entered the ark and was saved from the world’s destruction.
We could pull many other examples like Aaron and his sons, the Levites and their sons, Korah and his sons, etc. Children should be helpers in the home and with dad’s ministry in the kingdom. When a man leads his home, ministering to his family spiritually, his wife respectfully helps him, and the children follow suit, the family will be a happy and blessed family which glorifies the God of heaven.
Children will find their identity and satisfaction in life, not with a group of peers in the youth group, but serving Christ in the home and Church. Children are well capable of ministering in the church (Proverbs 20:11) and finding their identity among the whole church, young and old alike.
The church should be a place where families learn to worship and serve God together. We at Heritage believe it is important to keep our families together in both the worship and ministry of God, and therefore, we do not age-segregate our ministry.
The Model for the Church
The Church should not be modeled after a Fortune 500 corporation where the pastor is the CEO. It is a shame that some churches seek managers and administrators, rather than men of faith and the Word, to lead their church.
Too often elders or deacons are selected because they are good business managers rather than on their spiritual qualifications for ministry (cf. Acts 6:3 and 1 Timothy 3:1-13). Good spiritual leaders for the church will come from good spiritual leaders of their own families. The Scripture says that men who aspire to serve as leaders in Christ’s Church should first manage well their own households (1 Timothy 3:4).
The Church is called a household of faith (Galations 6:10), and operates like an extended family, or household. Everyone, whether single or married, young or old, children or parent is part of God’s family and has a function within it. When the Church is not operating like a family, but more like a business operation, it is not operating biblically and a host of problems result.
The Church, which is a covenant community of believers, then looks very much like a family – because it is. If the family is properly understood, as the previous section delineated, then the operation of the Church should be more clearly seen. The men, of course, would lead, the women come alongside the men and help them in their ministries, and the children follow suit to help in the work of the kingdom.
Like the family, the Church does not revolve around the needs of the children, and so should not cater to every desire they have. Rather, the Church should recognize the blessed gifts of God that He has given the church, and so equip them and their parents to do the work of the ministry. Children should be expected to be producers in the Church, just like at home, and in fact, they will feel most satisfied when this principle is achieved.
There is one fundamental principle that should here be observed. The Church is not the primary channel of discipling the children in the covenant community, but the dads are. Deuteronomy 6 provides explicit instructions to the dads in the covenant community to teach their children and grandchildren. Therefore, the primary responsibility of teaching our children about God and His Kingdom is that of the fathers. This does not mean that the Church has no responsibility, for the Lord told Peter to feed His lambs (John 20:15). The Church has a complimentary responsibility in teaching and discipling the children.
When the Church is seen as the primary responsibility for teaching the children spiritually, the fathers most often will shirk their own responsibility and the results are devastating. Paul reiterates this important responsibility of fathers when he directly commanded the fathers to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). It is important to note here, that when Paul was addressing the church at Ephesus, which was a book about the Church, that did not command the church leadership to do this work which was primarily the responsibility of the fathers.
At Heritage, we understand the importance of this timeless principle, and therefore we make it our aim to equip, encourage, support, and pray for fathers to lead their homes spiritually and teach their children. The Church will never be as effective in bringing up godly children unto the Lord as godly fathers, who are in her pale, will be able to accomplish.
Does this mean that we undervalue or depreciate the value of children in the church? Absolutely not, and quite the contrary. We see them as wonderful gifts from God and a valuable resource in God’s kingdom. We believe they have a valid place in the worship of God and corporate sanctification of God’s people, and therefore, do not cart them off to children’s church to be separate from the rest of the body. We believe they can learn and benefit from the means of grace offered each Lord’s Day in the corporate worship of God.
When children are removed from the corporate worship, or excused from the sermon, that they are most depreciated and deprived of the very means of grace God gives the little children. All though the Old Testament church and through the New Testament Church up until this century, the children have participated in the public worship of God along with their parents (cf. Deuteronomy 31:11-13; Acts 20:7-12).
When Paul was addressing the church at Ephesus, he turns to address the children directly in chapter six, and commands them to be obedient to their parents. If the children were segregated from the rest of the church meeting at that time, playing games and watching films, enjoying the puppet shows, and having refreshments, they would have missed the grace offered in the instruction as Paul addressed the church.
Catechizing the Children
At Heritage, we believe strongly in catechizing our children. Catechizing is a form of teaching doctrine and Scripture through a question and answer format. While some scripture memory programs are good, we believe most are lacking because they do not teach the children what the Scriptures mean. It is our desire to have our children, not only have the scripture hidden in their hearts, but to know what they mean and how it all fits together systematically. Catechisms are great for achieving this goal.
Our catechism ministry rewards our children with awards and corporate acknowledgement of their achievements while placing the burden of the work upon parents who rightful duty it is to train up their children in the Lord. In arranging our catechism ministry in this fashion, we provide the tools for the parents to train their children, the encouragement to the children for their progress, and the accountability for the families to progress in the training of the Lord.
Since Heritage believes in the essential participation of families in the kingdom, the pastor encourages every family have regular consistent family worship in their homes. While this may sound intimidating to some fathers who have never led in family worship, the elders want to encourage and equip fathers and families to worship God in their homes to have Christ’s name honor and magnified there.
Each Lord’s Day the pastor provides a family worship guide for the families to follow. The worship guide provides daily Scripture reading that will be preached and discussed the following Lord’s Day, and some hymns and Psalm to sing that will be sung corporately in the upcoming worship service.
Not only does this provide tools for families to utilize in their homes for family worship, but it also prepares the family together for the upcoming climax of worship when God’s people gather corporately on the Lord’s Day.