Children and the Church

One of the lessons God has impressed on me since my children were young was how they and the church related to one another. In our mid-sized congregation I was looking forward to us being able to have a "children's church," alongside our "big people service." It did not take me long to know that this was not how God had intended for children to learn. Through Sunday School and every other program, our family was divided on a regular basis. We kept our children with us as much as possible, really having no other basis than "knowing it wasn't the best." I began to think about Jesus being at our church, which He is always present in, then, I thought if Jesus actually, physically walked in our building called the Church, would we send our children off to the "children's church?" It was then I recalled Scripture that says, "they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, 'Permit the CHILDREN to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.' And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them." Mark 10:13-16 (emphasis mine) One quote I just can't get away from is, "Tell me what the world is doing and I will tell you what the church will be doing in seven years." Francis Schaeffer Where are we searching for the design of the church, for what we do? It should always come from the Word of God, remember His plan is always best, and, there is usually a reason for His plans and order. Wanting to know why we do what we do, God's Word is now at the forefront of every decision our family makes. I received an email from Nancy Campbell who is with the Above Rubies website and magazine I receive and it opened my eyes with nothing but how God's Word deals with children and the church. It may be a bit long, but well worth the read.

Should Children Be In Church?
I am reminded of William Bradford's 1623 Thanksgiving Proclamation: "All ye Pilgrims with your wives and little ones (emphasis mine), do gather at the Meeting House on the hill...there to listen to the pastor, and render Thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings." As you read the following Scriptures, you will notice how Biblically familiar this proclamation sounded.
Joshua 8:33-35, "Joshua read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded, which Joshua read not before all the assembly of Israel, with the women and the LITTLE ONES..."
2 Chronicles 20:4, 13, "So Judah gathered together to seek help from the Lord; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the Lord.
All Judah was standing before the Lord, with their INFANTS, their wives and their CHILDREN."
Do you notice that when there was an important prayer meeting, when the Word of God was to be read, or when God wanted to speak to His people, it was not only the adults who gathered-the children came too, even the little ones! This actually means the toddlers! Help! The Hebrew word for 'little ones' is 'taph.' The term comes from the tripping gait or short steps of little children. We generally tend to exclude the toddlers from our midst because they can make a distraction, but God wants them there.
Deut. 31:11-13, "When all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, the men and the women and CHILDREN (once again the Hebrew word here is 'taph' meaning the little toddlers)...that they may hear, and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. Their CHILDREN, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God..."
As I have come to understand God's heart for children and the guidelines He has set down in His Word, I have had to change my thinking about the way we program our children in church. Most churches today, with good motives and the best of intentions, divide the children into separate classes and take them away from their parents. My husband has pastored churches for forty years and we have also done the same thing. But is this what God wants? Is this the example of Scripture? Let's continue searching...
Ezra 10:1, "Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and CHILDREN gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly."
Joel 2:15-17, "Blow a trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly. Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the CHILDREN, and the nursing infants."
Once again, everyone is included, even the babes who are nursing. It is usually the solemn assembly where children are excluded in case they make a sound, but even in the most solemn assembly God wants them included. We do not find any Scriptures in the Word of God that encourage us to separate the children from the main congregation.
However, this puts greater responsibility upon parents. We have to teach our children to listen and to behave in church. We cannot use the Children's Church as a baby-sitter! I had plenty of experience of this. As a child, I was taken out of church every Sunday and spanked for misbehaving. If you have a difficult child, do not despair and do not give up. As a little child I was called the "devil incorporated!" But my parents didn't give up on me and I ended up walking with the Lord all my life.
Psalm 144 talks about our sons growing up as "plants in their youth." Is it possible to have children that are mature even when they are young? I believe that they can grow into greater maturity when they are part of the church family, sitting with and observing older godly young people, the mothers, fathers and grandparents.
Proverbs 13:20 (a scripture that I constantly impressed upon my children) says, "But he who walks with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." When children are in the company of wise people, they will grow into wisdom. If they are constantly separated into the company of other children their own age, they will stay at the level of foolishness because "foolishness is bound in the heart of a child." When you have a lot of children the same age together, you have multiplied foolishness! (Proverbs 22:15)
Recently, I was reading the account of Jesus cleansing the temple by overturning the tables of the money changers and driving out all who were buying and selling. You know this story, but do you know what happened immediately after this event? I hadn't noticed it before and was quite amazed. Immediately "the blind and lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the CHILDREN shouting in the temple and saying, Hosanna to the son of David, they were sore displeased...And Jesus saith unto them, Yea, have ye never read, "Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself?" (Matthew 21:12-16)
The chief priests and the teachers didn't want the children in the temple. They didn't want them making a noise and crying out praises to the Lord. They were angry and indignant! But Jesus wanted them there and after the temple was cleansed the children were back in the midst, praising God. Do you think that maybe one of the cleansings of the church is to repent from our disassociation with the children and receive them back into our midst?
There were always children around when Jesus was teaching. On many occasions he used a child to illustrate a point and gathered a little one in his arms as he spoke. He didn't have to send a runner to a nursery or Sunday school class to retrieve a child. No, they were right beside him and that's how He wanted it. Mark 9:36-37 says, "Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me."
How many preachers in our churches today teach with a child in their arms? Of course, we do not expect this to be a normal procedure, but it would be nice to see from time to time,wouldn't it? It would remind us a lot more of Jesus.
The Message Bible translation of Mark 10:13-15 is powerful. "The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: 'Do not push these children away. Do not ever get between them and me. These CHILDREN are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in.' Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them."
Jesus says that children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Shouldn't they be at the center of the gathering together of God's people too?
Nancy Campbell
"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
the fruit of the womb is a reward."
Proverbs 127:3
Amazingly His,

No comments: