Originally published November 2005.
While out visiting recently, my wife met a woman who described herself as a pagan. She had a five-year-old son, very near my oldest son’s age. The boys played together for a few minutes, which opened up a door of further discussion with this woman. She said that, while she was pagan, she allowed her son to attend church if he chose to do so. She then began asking about the church, and especially what we did in regards to children her son’s age. She told my wife that she had taken her son to several churches, but had not liked what she had seen in these places. “All they do is play,” she said. If her son was going to go to church, she wanted it to be in a place where he would learn something, not just play and be entertained.
The Difference Between this Pagan and Many Christians
How sad that this unsaved woman had more discernment than many Christians today. She claimed to be pagan, which is defined as someone who does not recognize God in any religion. Yet, she knew that for her son to go to church to play was a waste of time. Why is it that God’s children have not figured this out? It seems that the first question Christians ask about any church is, “What sort of activities do you have for the children?” A church without numerous activities for young people and children will fail to see large numbers of visitors who last, unless these visitors are without children, or they feel that activities aren’t what makes for a good church.
Some Christians Go to Church to Play
So many so-called fundamental Baptist churches have changed the format of their Wednesday evening service. It used to be that the children would sit and be taught from the Word of God right alongside their parents, then there would be a time of prayer over the many needs of the church and its people. Nowadays, many churches have done away with prayer, except for an opening and closing prayer. The adults have a Bible lesson, while the children are taken off into another room or building to play and be entertained. The majority of the adults in attendance are “helping out” with the children, and miss out on the teaching from God’s Word. We will never raise another generation to fear and serve God when we refuse to teach them anything but games and an occasional devotional. Even the occasional devotional is nothing to brag about. The children only endure it so that they can get on with playtime. Other churches try showing videos to their children to keep them entertained, while their parents are singing choruses along with the worship team. What we see happening today is a competition between the world and churches. What children find as they grow older is that the world has better entertainment than the church, and they drift away from the church and the things of God. Many parents’ hearts have been broken over this very thing, but they do not seem to understand that they, the parents, have taught their children to crave play over truth.
Some Christians Skip Church to Play
Any excuse is acceptable for skipping a church service in these last days. Church services are cancelled or rescheduled for the benefit of the Super Bowl, or any other event in the community. This teaches our children that church is unimportant; that we hear enough of the Bible at some times to leave it out at other times. Many individual believers skip church for various reasons. It seems that meeting with family and out-of-town guests is much more important than meeting with God in His house. Folks claim that they need to get away from everything, but they only succeed in getting away from God. And, in the end, their children never come to God.
This circumstance is nothing new. For centuries people have been unfaithful to the house of God. Even the prophet Isaiah was given some words to say about people’s appetite for play rather than God. “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58:13-14). It seems a great effort is necessary to get folks out on Sunday morning, while the Sunday night service is nearly impossible to get many people to come to. God’s people sit in the pew and think about all the things they could be doing if they just hadn’t come to church. According to Isaiah, these people miss out on the blessing of God, while they dishonour the Lord by their lack of attendance. They certainly aren’t helping their children to develop a relationship with God.
Where Is the Teaching?
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14-15). ” As a whole, our children are not being taught in the things of God. Memory verses used to be a part of our Sunday School class when I was growing up, but I hear very little of that sort of thing now. I do hear that it is unwise to expect that children should sit and learn Bible verses, meanwhile, we expect them to learn what they are taught at school. I hear that it is unwise to expect that children should sit and be attentive in Sunday School or a regular church service, meanwhile, we expect them to sit and be attentive in school. These are wrong priorities, and these wrong priorities will bear bitter fruit. Who is to blame for this lack of teaching among our children? I believe that we can find a two-fold failure to train our children in the things of God.
First of all, these children have parents who are responsible to teach and train their children in the things of God. Deuteronomy 11:18-19 says, “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” The first need for parents who desire to teach their children, is that they have a personal walk with the Lord. The “do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do” philosophy has never worked with teaching and training our children, and it never will.
Beyond this, parents must immerse their children in the things of God. In other words, parents need to talk about these things with their children constantly, not just on the way to church and on the way home from church, but daily. We need to start young with our children because if we do not, the world certainly will. We must follow the Lord’s command to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). ”The phrase “bring them up” seems to mean that parents are to make the nurture and admonition of the Lord a way of life for their children.
This means that if parents are to teach their children the things of God, they must regularly attend a church that will teach their children the things of God. It is inconsistent for parents to seek to train their children at home, and then take these same children into a church that will please their children’s flesh, rather than teach them the truth.
But, what if the father is not a Christian? Should the mother sit idly by and watch as her children are raised as heathens? Of course not. The Apostle Paul talks about Timothy’s training in the Word of God. This training did not come from his father, who was a Greek (Acts 16:1), but from his mother and grandmother, who were believers (2 Timothy 1:5). What a precious thing it is to have a whole family that loves God and serves Him together, but we cannot allow a lost or backslidden loved one to keep our children from being taught in the Word.
Also, a pastor is responsible for the teaching of those who attend services at his church. The Apostle Paul said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28). ” There is no mandate for a pastor to seek out ways to entertain his flock, but to feed them from the pure Word of God (Matthew 28:20). It is the pastor’s responsibility to see that even the children in his church are being taught in the Word of God. He must set the priorities for the children and youth of the church. Will they be taught godly things or games?
It is vastly more popular to try to entertain the children because a happy child is a cause for parents to remain in a church. Therefore, pastors are tempted to create or allow more and more activities for the children. Many pastors seek to justify this clamour for fun by calling it an outreach tool. The way I remember it, tracts and a New Testament were outreach tools. Has the Word of God become so powerless that it takes modern media and modern tactics to draw folks to Christ? What we lack today is not more methods, but more consecration. If God’s people were devoted to Him, there would be no need for other methods to draw people into our churches.
What we have to offer a lost and dying world is far better than a little fun on a Sunday or Wednesday. We have the hope of abundant, eternal life and salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. We have the truth. Because we have the truth, we must teach it to our children. If we do not have the truth, then, by all means, let them be entertained rather than diluted.
Why is it that a pagan understands more about what should go on in church than many Christians today? I believe that Satan has been working overtime to blind and distract believers from our purpose, which is to bring Christ to a Christ-less world. We must examine ourselves, and be certain that we are not guilty of entertaining our children at the cost of teaching them the truth. If we are not faithful to teach our children in the things of God, in a very few years we will see many churches close their doors, missionaries return from the field due to a lack of support, and countless souls sent into a hopeless eternity.