Tuesday, January 11, 2011

House Church - Keeping the Family Together

The God of scripture views children very positively.

In Genesis 1:28 we read, "And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'"

In Matthew 19:13-14 we read about Jesus' view of children, "Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'"

In light of God's positive view of children, He expects parents to properly disciple their offspring.

The book of Proverbs has much to say about this. For example:

Proverbs 3:12, "For the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights."

Proverbs 23:22, "Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old."

Proverbs 23:24-25, "The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice."

In the NT we read in Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

In order to bring this about, children must spend time with their parents. Children must talk with their parents. Children must serve with their parents.

One way that children can see, hear, and learn from their parents is to be with them during church gatherings. This is what we see in the bible.

I believe this is one of those topics that is so obvious to the writers of the bible that they don't spend a whole lot of time on it. There is no command, for example, for children to be with their parents during church meetings. It is assumed.

For example, Paul writes in Ephesians 6:1-3, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother' (this is the first commandment with a promise), 'that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.'"

Paul assumes that children will be present to hear the reading of this letter. They will have just benefited from hearing Paul's discussion of marriage as a picture of Christ's love for the church.

Interestingly, the bible never even hints that children should be separated from their parents during church gatherings.

Acts 16:30-32 is an interesting and familiar account. Luke writes, "Then he brought them out and said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.' And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house."

Although this is not a church gathering, notice that Paul and the others spoke the word to not only the jailer but also to all who were in the house. Were there children there? We don't know. We do know that no one was separated out into differing age groupings.

For the church today, why are kids important? For one thing, they are part of the body. They may not be saved, but they can add positively to the gathering. Paul states repeatedly that the body needs all parts to function properly.

Children can learn from what they see and hear in all parts of the gathering. Children can add to the gathering through what they have to say. I love to hear kids give their perspective on whatever is being discussed. They often put things simply yet profoundly. I have learned a great deal from kids.

This past Sunday during our church meeting we were talking about living for Christ in the world. Our daughter, Caroline, began talking about her work at Chick-fil-A. She discussed how difficult it is to share the truth of Christ in a secular, fast-paced setting. We were able to encourage and pray for her. This never would have happened if she had been in a separate Sunday School class or Youth Group. It also wouldn't have happened in a worship service because she would not have had opportunity to speak.

Regarding our church gatherings, the kids are with us some of the time but not others. As I've said before, when we first arrive everyone hangs out talking for a while. I often don't even know where in the house my kids are at that point. As we begin to gather in the living room, everyone comes together. Sometimes we sit as families, sometimes not. The key is that everyone is there and can participate. I love having toddlers around, too. It keeps things real. We all sing together, pray together, encourage one another, etc.

It's obvious that a toddler isn't as involved in what's happening as the parents are. However, we should not underestimate what it does for children to observe their parents worshiping the Lord through body edification. As they gradually get older, they can begin to participate more and more.

During the Lord's Supper we are together some of the time as families. The nice thing is that we know the big church family is all together. The kids who are saved partake of the bread and cup, and everyone digs into the food. We all have the opportunity to talk with one another in all sorts of different groupings.

Children are part of the church body. They add greatly to church life. They need discipling. For this reason, the house church seeks to keep families together. Children benefit from being with their parents. Parents benefit from being with their kids. The entire church grows because of this.

On a personal note, for a few years I had hardly seen my kids "at church." It is now wonderful to be with them for much of Sundays. What a joy to be together as a family as we gather with the family of God!

2 comments:

normajhill said...

Right on! one hundred per cent agree with you. Thank you!

I just wonder why so many people vehemently disagree... (mostly, in my experience, because they are just concerned about their own personal comfort)

Eric said...

Norma,

This has been a wonderful experience for us. As for those against it, they always have pragmatic arguments that fall far short of scripture. You are correct that many simply don't want kids around to disrupt the "ceremony."