Why Bringing Your Kids to Church Is Not Enough

The conversation goes like this. A well meaning parent comes up to me, expressing their desire to get involved with the church. Always curious, I ask why, and the answer I typically get is this: “I want my child to grow up in church.” Though certainly we should want our children to grow up in church, I’m gravely concerned with what is often meant by this innocent statement. Usually what people really mean is this: “I want my children to be raised with some sort of faith, preferably the Christian faith, because it was so important to my moral upbringing. Since I am either unwilling or unable to provide it myself, I’ve come to the church to get them to take care of the spiritual life of my child while I’ll take care of everything else.” To put it more simply, parents want to outsource the spiritual nurturement of their child to the church. 8483660163_3fd14630eb_z

Though I certainly welcome any family and any child into the community of the saints, I do want to challenge the idea of outsourcing the spiritual care of your children to the church. Unfortunately the church has only reinforced this mindset within many people through our programs and ministry methodology. We have taught parents to come and drop off their children where paid professionals stand by to handle the tenacious work of discipleship. As a former youth pastor, I’m fully aware that ministry to teens without the parents simply doesn’t work. The responsibility for the spiritual care of our little ones cannot be placed upon the church entirely, but rather the full weight of responsibility rests on the shoulders of daddy and mommy. God has called the parents to evangelize and disciple their children. The church then exists to come alongside mom and dad to equip them for their task and supplement what is already taking place at home.

So if you are a Christian parent, please bring your children to church, but you must do *more* than that. As any experienced parent will tell you, more is caught than taught. Therefore, in addition to just dropping your child off at church, we must model the Gospel to our children. We must live out what it means for Christ to be our greatest love and greatest treasure. We must display what it means to submit our lives to king Jesus and his authoritative word. If you take seriously your job as a parent, you must live out your faith to those little eyes who are always watching.

Here is the main point: In addition to bringing our kids to church, we must model a life of devotion to Jesus.

Though we certainly never do it for the show, our children should see our devotion to Jesus in action. Our children watch us in the most private and mundane of moments and they should see our professed love for Christ on display. They should see us pray and read the Bible, growing in our relationship with Jesus. Our children should be able to look to us as example of what the Christian life is. Sadly, for far too many families, Jesus only comes up on Sunday mornings and is ignored the rest of the week. When you tell your children to follow Jesus on Sundays, but ignore him every other day, chances are your kids will follow Jesus none of the days. Why? Because your own spiritual life screams hypocrisy.

How can mom or dad tell me Jesus is worthy of my devotion when they show no evidence of that devotion themselves? Why make Jesus the Lord of my life when he isn’t the Lord of theirs?

I’m afraid many parents do more harm than good by forcing their kids to go to church, teaching them that church is like broccoli—nobody likes to eat it, but you have to eat it because it's good for you.

I’ve talked with many parents who struggle with their children who don’t want to come to church, particularly in the teenage years. Every Christian parent encounters this at some point in their parenting, and parents should indeed require their children to come to church, whether they want to or not. Though what is most likely happening behind the scenes is something much bigger than just refusing to come to church; the teen calls the bluff on the parent’s hypocrisy, reacting against the parent who speaks out of the both sides of the mouth.

We must repent of our Janus-faced parenting and confess our hypocritical compartmentalization. After all, the goal of our parenting is not to produce well-behaved, moral little monsters, but contrite sinners, redeemed by the blood of the Christ. If we hope our children will join the redeemed, we must not cast doubt on the truth Gospel by our hypocritical life. Parents must authentically live out their faith before their children. Though we may have the rest of our church fooled, our children are not. Our rehearsed play-acting will only put a bitter taste of Christianity into our children’s mouths. We need less Christian thespians, and more parents who authentically, consistently, and genuinely live their lives in devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.

So bring your kids to church, but you better demonstrate devotion to Christ in your private life. If not, your legalistic requirement of church attendance and your hypocrisy could very well estrange your children from the Christ you profess to love.

What Super Bowl Marketers Know that the Church Can't Miss

The super bowl this year was one for the record books. People watch the super bowl for a variety of reasons – some for the game, others for the commercials, and some for the half time show. The super bowl has become such a huge event in America it is practically a national holiday. As I was watching the game something stuck out to me about the commercials this year. It seemed like many of the commercials strongly featured Dads.  A few different companies this year decided to market their products by featuring prominently fathers. It was nice to appear to the sentimentality and bring father’s in the focus, but why? No matter how great the commercial is, the aim is not to pull on your heart strings but to sell you a product. These companies don’t spend millions of dollars to just give you warm fuzzies. We live in a marketing world. We are always being sold something, and often marketers know our culture and know what makes us tick better than anyone. And this year, for Super Bowl 49, Dads were the focus of the commercials. Watch some of these commercials in case you missed them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd1qCi5nSKw#t=58

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoqWo3SJ73c

Isn’t this strange? In a day and age where many are arguing to eliminate gender stereotypes and where Father’s living in the home is a relic of the past, these marketers decided they could best sell their products by bringing fathers to our attention. While the marriage between a man and a woman is being redefined in our culture into a genderless union and while the home has been shattered by divorce, these marketers feature loving, gentle, and present fathers.

There is a crisis of fatherhood in America. The traditional family of Dad, Mom, and children seems to be rapidly fading. Many men ignore, run away from, or deny any responsibility they have when it comes to their children. Rather than rising to be worthy of the title husband and father many men are content with the title “baby daddy”. Men refuse to fight for their marriages and for their families and cowardly run from difficulty indulging every selfish pleasure their hearts crave.

But that’s not the picture these advertisers presented to us at the super bowl. These advertisers know us better than we think. They know that there is something hard wired into humanity that longs to be loved by a father. We long to experience the warm protective, self-denying, embrace of dad. The picture of Dad they presented to us is the ideal we crave, but not this is not the reality for many of us.

Children need Fathers. Despite arguments trying to minimize the father in the family, marketers know what many deny – we long for a Father. These super bowl commercials point to the great challenge of Christian men to be father’s who sacrifice, love, protect, and provide for our children.  We need Christian men who can demonstrate in word and deed the love of God the Father to our children. Every human being longs for this. Though our earthly fathers may fail us, we must always point people to the Father who never does. We must point them to the Father who displays his lavish love for us by purchasing our redemption. America has a hole and a desperate longing for fatherly love. The marketers know this. Does the church?

4 Tips for Practicing Christian Hospitality

The art of hospitality is hard to find in action today. We think hospitality is just cooking a meal or hosting a party. Hospitality is at least those things, but it is much more than those things. Hospitality is making people feel at home, comfortable, and open to great conversation. Good hospitality will make you drop your guard and be vulnerable. Hospitality is also a spiritual gift, that the Lord can use mightily for his name.

1. Invite People into Your Home

To use a gift of hospitality, you must be willing to open up your home. Our homes can be quite private. Our homes are our space. They are often messy, chaotic, and our place to isolate ourselves from everyone else. Therefore the act of opening up your home is an act of vulnerability. You are inviting people to your most intimate place of rest and solitude. You are inviting them into a personal part of your life.

Many feel a pressure to impress when they invite people over. Many people invite people over not to serve them or to be hospitable, but to show off they cleanliness, furniture, or style. Yes, it is a good idea to clean your house before people come over. Yes, a nicely decorated house is a plus, but it is not the point of hospitality. The pressure to impress others is not hospitality but pride. True hospitality invites people over even though the house still might need a fresh vacuuming. The purpose of inviting others into you home is to serve them, not to impress them.

2. Ask Good Questions of Your Guests

Again the purpose of hospitality is not to fill people's stomachs but to fill their souls. Some of the best conversations to be had happen around the dinner table or sitting on your couch. When you have people over, take the opportunity to ask some good questions that take the conversation deeper. Don't spend the whole night talking about the basketball game or the latest episode of Downton Abby. As a hospitable host you are seeking to meet the spiritual needs of others.

For Christian guests ask questions like:

  • How did you come to know Christ?
  • What have you been reading in the Bible recently?
  • Has there been a sermon or message that has impacted you recently? What was it and why?

For non-Christians ask questions like:

  • Do you have any sort of spiritual beliefs?
  • What do you think about Church? Have you ever gone before?
  • Do you believe in a god? If so, which god?

Throwing out a spiritual question like this can seem awkward at first, but it is amazing how the conversation turns to deeper things after you do so.

3. Listen Carefully, Respond Graciously

A key component to being hospitable means listening to others. Some people are just talkers. We have all been to dinner parties when one or two people tend to dominate the conversation. They talk about themselves, their accomplishments, and their hobbies. A hospitable host is not someone who is self-consumed, but truly listens to others. As you ask questions of your guests, deeply and truly listen to their answers. Don't begin preaching a sermon to them, but listen carefully and respond slowly in gentleness and love.  Listen for things like "What is going on in this persons life?", "How can I be praying for this person?", or "Where are they at spiritually?" A hospitable person listens to others looking for opportunities to serve.

4. Pray with Your Guests Before they Leave

Kaitlyn and I are trying to make this a practice anytime we have people over for dinner. After a great meal and some deep conversation, we take time to pray with our guest before the leave. It is a great way to finish the evening, especially when there has been some deeper spiritual dialogue.

The Urgent Need for Hospitable Christians

I believe that the church desperately needs more people using  the gift of hospitality. In my experience, people don't tend to open up to much in the hallway of a church or in the pastor's office. Some of the best spiritual conversations I've had with people have taken place in my own home. More Christians need to open up their homes to others for the purpose of ministry. People are not looking for some formal, cold, distant religion, but a warm, personable, relational faith community.

I also believe that hospitality is also a vital component for modern evangelism. Many of our neighbors would never respond to an invitation to go to church, but would jump at the opportunity to come over for dinner. May we leverage our homes for the Gospel, and may they become the missionary outpost scattered across the world to make disciples.

How has someone else's hospitality impacted your life? Share with us in the comments below!

Meaning in the Mundane

Life can get a little mundane can't it? In our lives we can quickly get into the monotony of routine. Wake up, get the kids ready for school, go off to work, eat dinner, go to soccer practice, go to bed. Rinse and repeat. As ambassadors for Christ how do we thrive in the seemingly mundane routine we find ourselves every day? The answer is what must look to every area of our lives with Gospel intentionality. You see the Gospel provides meaning to the mundane and purpose to the trivial. Through a Christ-centered lens our ordinary days become powerfully meaningful and eternally significant. Let me give you two examples.

Raising Children with Gospel Intentionality

When we begin to live with Gospel intentionality, the way we raise our children is different. We are not just raising them to get a good job, get a good education, and make a bunch of money. We are raising them unto Christ. We are raising them to fulfill the great Commission. We are raising them for Christ and to evangelize them, disciple them, and release them as fellow partners in advancing the Gospel. This makes changing diapers and late-night feedings incredibly meaningful. Everyday mundane things filled with Gospel purpose.

Going to Work with Gospel Intentionality

The way we go to work is different, when we begin to go with Gospel intentionality. Many people absolutely hate their jobs. Their sole purpose for going to work is just to make a paycheck. However the Gospel fills our work with purpose. In Christ, not only are we going to work to provide for our families, we go living for Christ to be a light in a dark place. We build relationships with co-workers to be able to live out and speak Christ. As we go into our jobs we do not go as corporate drones but joyous ambassadors for Christ. Therefore no matter what our profession from garbage man to CEO all of it is incredibly meaningful.

The Gospel gives purpose to the mundane and meaning to the trivial. In Christ, our ordinary days become extraordinary. So if you are struggling to get out of the morning and finding your routine boring, begin to see yourself as an ambassador for Christ. When you do you will find just how meaningful the mundane can become.

Pastor Dad: The Honor, Joy, and Responsibility of Fatherhood

Dads are a big deal. In our society, when we are more confused about masculinity and manhood than ever, we need Godly fathers to step up and lead their homes. Today I'm celebrating my first father's day. It is my joy to be the father to my sweet son Jude. As I reflect on my first Father's day, I am critically aware of the huge honor, joy, and responsibility of fatherhood.

As a husband and father, God has called me to be the pastor of my home. He has called me to imitate Jesus by laying down my life for my family. It is my job to sacrifice and humbly lead. As I study the scriptures, it is clear that a father is to be a mini-pastor over his family. God has given him a small flock of his wife and children to shepherd, love, and protect. In our homes and in our churches we need a revival of Dad's who see their roles in their homes as pastors.

We need Dads who takes their responsibility as the spiritual leaders in their homes seriously. We need Dads who can take their wife and children by the hand and lead them in prayer. We need Dad's who are competent enough with the Scriptures to teach their children and correct them from error. We need Dad's who do not train a bunch of moralistic pharisees, but children wrecked by the grace of God.

At the end of the day I know that God is going to hold me accountable for the spiritual condition of my wife and children. It will be up to me to disciple them, lead them, and protect them. It will be up to me to teach Jude what it means to be a man and what it means to follow Christ. As the pastor of my home, I cannot delegate these responsibilities out to children's ministries or youth ministries.

We need more Dads to grasp this vision of biblical fatherhood. We need more Dads to step up and be pastors of their homes. Dad's, this is a daunting task you and I are called to do, and we are unable to do it apart from the grace of God. Seek His face, press into His word, and have confidence in Christ. By God's enabling grace, may Dad's rise to the glorious honor, joy, and responsibility of fatherhood. May we bring this next generation up in the fear of the Lord, and may our children and grandchildren praise our God and King, Jesus Christ! What greater joy and honor is there than to leave a lasting impact in the world through the discipleship of our children.  Dads, lets get to work and pastor our families.