A Place to Worship and Grow

“‘And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'”
Matthew 16:18
Dear Servants,
In the sermon Sunday I will tackle the above passage from the mouth of Jesus. What, if anything, is Jesus saying in this passage about the modern church in all its current manifestations? After all, we have everything from mega-churches to family-sized, various denominations, non-denominational types, liturgical, online, traditional, revisionists, etc. I don’t want to steal my own thunder for Sunday, but I do want to tease out a thought that arises from time to time with regard to picking a local congregation to attend.
As of late, I have been asked to officiate several weddings for young adults. I was, in fact, down in the Orlando area this past weekend to officiate another wedding. One of the by-products of taking on these weddings outside the congregation is that I get to speak into the lives of young adults through the pre-marital counseling (usually 4 or 5 sessions via Skype). One point I focus on is finding a congregation to join so that you and your spouse can grow together in Christ. The classic way of stating this is ‘if both husband and wife are growing closer to the Lord individually, the closer they will become as a couple.’ In the early days of my marriage, Sunday mornings were one of the times Jody and I felt the closest. Finding a congregation in which to worship and grow with your spouse is so essential to marriage.
I don’t think many would disagree with this statement; however something changes when we have children, especially when children become a little older and start expressing their thoughts and feelings. At this point, some married couples put their own spiritual growth on the “back burner” and focus primarily on finding a church that meets their children’s needs. I remember years ago, a young couple saying that they really loved worshiping at SOC but that the service was just so long with weekly communion that they had decided to join a church with a one hour service…for the kids.
The question I want to raise is simply, if finding a place for worship and growth is so essential for a couple, why is it no longer a factor for that couple once kids come along? I have two points to make. First, I would strongly suggest that the spiritual life/health of mom and dad is the number one determinant of the spiritual health of children. In fact, Deuteronomy 6 reminds us that as parents, it is our responsibility to be the primary disciplers of our children. Verse 7 says, “You shall teach [these commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” For this reason, I think the most important question for parents to ask when seeking a congregation is, where can I best worship, be spiritually fed and equipped to lead my children?
Second, I would like to point out that where our children want to go to church or what they think should happen at church is not always truly best. I always go back to a time when we were living in Pittsburgh and the kids asked if they could climb out their upstairs bedroom window and play on the roof. Would it be tons of fun for a kid to go on the roof? Yes. Would it be best for them? No! Our job is to train our children in the way they should go. This means we as their parents must make the best decision we can for them, whether they understand it or not. As a former youth pastor, I can tell you that the biggest factor in your child pursuing Christ in the adolescent years will be if they have a core group of friends also seeking Jesus. That is not guaranteed in a church of any size but can be achieved in a church regardless of size. I am so grateful for the friends Jake, Charleigh, and Samantha had growing up. I’m also thankful for caring adults at Servants of Christ who invested in their lives. The focus of our prayers and action should be in helping them make good friendships, and for a community that can speak into their lives with the love of Christ. Now I’m not suggesting you should join a congregation where there is no thought or resources for children and youth ministry. This is why I am so thankful for Kim Harris and Nikki Smith who lead our ministry to youth and children. Pray for this important ministry as we head into the fall. I pray that SOC is a place where you as adults are growing in relationship to Christ, fully equipped to lead your children. If any of you have questions, Jody and I are always available for conversations about raising kids: it’s one of our passions.
See you Sunday,

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