Preparing for the Future of the Church
A proposed change in the Spiritual education of children and young people
It is vitally important that we prepare now for the future of the church. How we train our children and young people has great bearing on the spiritual commitment of the next generation. God has high expectations and standards of conduct for our youth and young adults. Our intentions and motives have been right, but has the spiritual education in Sunday Schools, vacation Bible schools, Christian schools and church youth groups been consistently producing young people who are up to God's expectation and standards? Are they capable of providing future leadership for the church with the same doctrine, standards, and convictions that they have been taught? Are the children learning the Bible doctrines that they should? Are the young people in the Christian Church mature and following God's ways?
The future spiritual condition of the church is much worse than what we have imagined. In several nationwide telephone surveys conducted by the Barna Research Group, they found that only 9% of our country's born again teenagers believe in absolute moral truth — a statistic that is nearly identical to that of non-born again teenagers! George Barna, of the Barna Research Group states: "Christian families, educators and churches must prioritize this matter if the Christian community hopes to have any distinctiveness in our culture. The virtual disappearance of this cornerstone of the Christian faith - that is, God has communicated a series of moral principles in the Bible that are meant to be the basis of our thoughts and actions, regardless of our preferences, feelings or situations — is probably the best indicator of the waning strength of the Christian Church in America today." "Born again Christians" were defined in the surveys as those who said they had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. People were not asked to describe themselves as "born again" (www.barna.org — "Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings")
This is what God expects in the beliefs and conduct of our youth and young adults: "Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you." (Titus 2:6-8) "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1Tim 4:12) "Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace." (Psalm 144:11,12)
We need to give our children and young people the instruction and training they need to be mature and stable in their Christian lives. It is possible for our young people to attain God's high expectations in their lives. However, it means that we need to make changes, sacrifices, and commitments to reach God's higher standards. It will not happen if we continue to do things the same as we have been doing it.
Everyone has an opinion of how to raise and train children. Some have excellent results, some mediocre, and some poor results. Wisdom is seeing the cause and effect sequence of the majority who have a particular child training philosophy and making decisions based upon the general trend of results, rather than looking at exceptions. It is foolish to follow a child training philosophy in which the majority of the young people are not reaching God's expectation and standard, and hope that all our children will be an exception to the norm.
As I look at the results of those who have been raised in the traditional Sunday school, summer Bible School programs, the Christian school, and the church youth group, the majority are not where they should be spiritually. The majority of them are not prepared to provide strong mature leadership and evangelism for the future of the Church.
- Many do not appear to have much interest in missions or evangelism, especially in the mission of their home congregation.
- Many hold beliefs and life applications that are not what their parents or church held.
- There are a number who are not serving the Lord.
- Using Sunday school and summer Bible School as a means of evangelism to bring children from non-Christian homes without their parents has had little success in the child becoming a mature Christian, obedient to God's Word. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.
God makes a statement "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Prov. 22:6 When we do not see the results in what God has stated will happen in Prov. 22:6, we must not question God's intelligence, what He said, or His ability to state what He meant. We must accept the fact that we have made a mistake, and look for our mistake(s). We as Christ's Church must look at what we have been doing wrong in the Christian education of our young people that is training them to go in a different direction than what we thought we were training them.
The church has actually been training the young people in the church through its peer group education programs to develop an independent spirit in the area of beliefs, and to follow society; the exact opposite of what we thought we were doing. Parents and the Church have trained their children and young people in the way that they have gone — away from the Lord. Unfortunately to the grief of many parents and churches, as their young people get older, many are not departing from the wrong way to serve Jesus with all their heart. "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart form it."
All across the Church there is a shortage of pastors and missionaries. The Sunday school, Christian school, and church youth group in many churches is not producing the future leadership for their own congregation. Of those young men who are installed as pastors, a number of them are quitting after a few years and are focusing on their work at secular jobs. They do not see their responsibility as a lifelong commitment. When the going gets tough, or does not go as they would like, they quit. We must do something soon to produce solid spiritually mature leaders for the future of the Church!
In looking at some of the greatest leaders in the Bible, they were men who God trained in the wilderness, not in peer groups: David, Moses, John the Baptist, and Paul. Moses and Paul's formal education did not prepare them for leadership. They both had to spend time in the wilderness unlearning the world's philosophy, and learning the things God wanted them to learn. We as a family are raising sheep so our children can learn the correlation between sheep and people and how to be a good spiritual leader/shepherd. It is interesting to discover that some of the basic principles of shepherding sheep are counter to the basic philosophy today of many pastors. As we are beginning to understand sheep better, we are realizing that studying sheep is one of the best "seminary" courses for church leaders.
Our deep desire needs to be that each child in the church will grow up to be a man or woman after Jesus' heart, and love and serve Him all their life. We must make a decision to do all we can to train our children and young people in the ways of the Lord. It is a decision that requires a lot of sacrifices and some major changes in our spiritual education philosophy. Are we ready to do whatever it takes to produce the young people that Jesus needs to further Christ's Kingdom?
I have not been able to find any Scripture passage that commands us or even that gives the example of training children and young people spiritually by using Sunday schools, summer Bible schools, Christian schools, or the youth group. The closest example is the Jewish school system in Jesus' day that produced the Scribes and Pharasees whom Jesus called hypocrites. It is interesting to note that neither Jesus nor John the Baptist were educated in the Jewish school system (see John 7:15). If Jesus had been educated in the Jewish schools, He would have provided an example for us to use that method of education today.
The design and philosophy of the spiritual education in most churches is based on the world's public school style of education. It is sad that although the Church has a different educational content, our young people are coming out of the church's educational system with a similar mindset and lifestyle as society. Polls are showing that the beliefs and practices of those in the church are little different than non-Christians. If the Church uses the same method and philosophy of education as the world, why are we amazed and perplexed that our young people are turning out like the world? The method of Christian education is as important as the content. Using the world's method of education, we are seeing the same results in the church as are stated below in the design and philosophy of peer education and socialization. The following excerpt is from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1981, pages 426-427:
"Adolescent peer groups serve very real functions in society. They provide a way in which children can learn to become independent of family authority.
"In modern society maturity is equated with independence, with the ability to formulate one's own judgements, and with the capacity to make independent action and live by the consequences of that action.
"Peer groups provide children with experience of egalitarian relationships not possible in the family. Through peer groups the child is exposed to values and experiences of dozens of other families, many of which may be greatly different from his own. Through these contacts the child's horizons are broadened, his perceptions widened.
"In order for peer groups to serve these important functions, the child must get outside of `the family and interact with children of his own age. The school is ideal for this purpose. Its corridors and classrooms, clubs and activities provide a natural and convenient setting for the young to socialize." (emphasis added)
The design and result of graded classes is young people with independence (God calls it rebellion) from their parent's authority and beliefs. Independence from their parent's authority and beliefs are the very results we are seeing in the lives of many of those who have gone through the Church's Christian school, Sunday school, and youth group programs. This is the exact opposite of what God wants and what we want in our children's lives. The peer structure of the Christian school, Sunday school, and church youth group is ultimately spiritually destructive to the very children it is trying to help because it encourages an independent spirit.
Children need to be taught to be sociable, not to be socialized. Peer education pulls a child out of the family and away from the authority of the parents and exposes the child to potentially damaging spiritual influences and foolishness without the supervision of their parents. Peer education takes the responsibility of the spiritual training of the children away from the parents. How many fathers leave the majority of the Bible training to the Church and Christian school?
Many parents have chosen to question Proverbs 22:6 ("Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.") rather than believe it, because their children grew up not following what they had been taught. However, after understanding the stated design and results of peer education, we realize that those young people were being trained unknowingly by the graded Christian school, Sunday School and youth group method to be independent of their parent's and the church's beliefs and to believe like the young people around them — they were socialized. When they became old (adults), they continued in the way they had been trained to think rather than in what their parents and the church believed. The way they were trained, directed their thought process more than the content of the Bible lessons.
For children to follow in their parents footsteps in serving the Lord, it is vitally important for parents to keep their children's and teenagers' hearts and have a close relationship with them. Peers easily take a child's heart away from the parents and the child then follows his peers. God tells us the importance of the heart of the child being turned to the father and the father to his child in the last verse of the Old Testament:
Malachi 4:6 "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
Children are capable of understanding spiritual concepts above their "grade level". Spiritual understanding is primarily based upon the Holy Spirit giving understanding, not on a child's intellect or grade level. For the child who is not interested in spiritual things, merely simplifying the Bible will not increase his spiritual understanding. Also when spiritual education is limited to a certain grade level, the education of the child is also limited. It puts a "lid" on their learning.
Young children do not understand all that adults talk about when they are discussing spiritual things. However, they are hearing words and concepts that soon become familiar to them. As they get a little older things begin to fit together and make more sense because the concepts are familiar to them. Isaiah 28:10: "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little."
Graded education often simplifies or dumbs down concepts, but dumbing down the Bible does not increase the understanding of spiritual concepts. For example in the primary level Sunday school lesson the disciples may be referred to as Jesus' friends. When the children get older they have to learn who the disciples are. Because a completely different term is used, it is more difficult for them make the connection with what they had learned previously. With deeper spiritual truths and concepts this relearning is more significant. It actually slows down their learning and spiritual maturity process.
It is important that children have concepts and words explained so that the child can understand what is being said, just as it is also necessary for new believers. However, the lesson should not be limited to their "grade level".
If you do not understand what I mean by dumbing down the Bible, get a copy of your church's nursery and primary Sunday school book and notice how "babyfied" the lesson and commentary is. Most men have not taken the time to look at, or evaluate the content of the children's Sunday school lessons. For the most part it is written by women and taught by women. Pastors and fathers have a concept of what it should be, but the lesson content is not as good as they think it is.
God states that it is the very nature of children to be foolish, especially when children or young people are together without the supervision of their parents. My grandfather, who had eight sons, used to say that when he gave work to one boy he would get one boy's worth of work done. When there were two boys together, he would get half a boy's work. And when there were three boys together, they didn't get any work done. Proverbs 22:15 "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." Children have a tendency towards foolishness. They do not learn to be sober minded or to exhibit gravity in doctrine that God tells us to teach them in Titus 2:6-8 from their peers. By placing children into peer groups in the church, we ignore God's wisdom and what God says will be the consequence — their spiritual destruction. We are seeing this consequence happening over and over in young people in the church today, as we place them in groups with those who tend to be foolish rather than men who are wise. Proverbs 13:20: "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."; Proverbs 9:6: "Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding." 1Kings 12:8: "But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, [and] which stood before him:"; 1Corinthians 15:33,34: "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame."
God has given us the Biblical admonition to rid our children of those with wrong influences. Sadly many times Sunday school, summer Bible School, the Christian school, and the Church youth group are not a safe spiritual haven for children and young people. Many parents understand the importance of weeding their garden or flower bed, but they do not understand the need to weed their children's lives of wrong attitudes and influences.
Sunday school and summer Bible school are viewed as excellent evangelism methods. As a result cautions in the Bible are ignored because our children are viewed by the church as part of evangelism in Sunday school and summer Bible school. What is not usually realized is that the child from the Christian home's responsibility in the class is not evangelism but to learn. The child does not have authority, training, or the responsibility to teach or evangelize. They are there to be part of the class and make it big enough to attract non-believer's children. This education system yokes them together in education with unbelievers. Not only are our children learning from the teacher, they are also learning from the unbelievers in the class things that they shouldn't.
Even though Sunday school has been viewed by the church as an excellent evangelism tool, the Barna research group, a national researcher of religious trends, reports that only 4% of those who accepted Christ did so in a Sunday school class or a Bible study class. (see www.barna.org — beliefs: Salvation) Those who received Christ in Sunday school is actually less than 4% because other Bible study classes are also included. These poor results in Sunday school evangelism are in spite of all the bus programs, and other Sunday school promotion programs in the past. The church has made compromises in protecting their children from wrong spiritual influences and attitudes in the Sunday school class in order to evangelize the world. Instead of the Sunday school evangelizing the world, the world has been brought into the church and has left its influence on the church.
I have experienced in teaching children's Sunday School and summer Bible School classes that negative attitudes towards spiritual things and toward authority are expressed behind the closed classroom door and no one else in the church has any idea what has happened. These negative attitudes toward spiritual things come out in the Sunday school classroom more than other social settings, even the rest of the church service, because the child is faced with a personal response to the lesson. Merely the lack of interest in spiritual things by one or several children of Christian parents is very destructive to the spiritual interest of the others. More is caught than taught.
God tells us that the result of a family ridding their children of those with wrong influences is spiritual maturity and stability of their youth. That is what we want!
Psalm 144:11,12 "Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace."
Psal 1:1-3 "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."
Eccl 9:18b "One sinner destroyeth much good."
1Cor 15:33 "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners."
- When one child in a class has a negative or uninterested attitude, he has a negative and spiritually destructive influence on the other children in the class.
- When we think the spiritual destruction won't happen to our children, we are deceived.
Peer education tends to produce people who want to be with others like themselves. Many are hesitant to take a stand that is different than what the majority believe or do. Often they do not really know how to relate to those who are older, younger, or of a different marital status. They often choose a church where there are others their age or marital status, or that has a good sports team for them play on. Their focus tends to be more on what I can receive, rather than how I can best serve Jesus — takers rather than givers. The doctrine of the church does not tend to be as important to them. The result is that many young people are leaving the smaller churches that need them, and are going to larger congregations that they feel can "better meet their needs". A mature Christian is giver rather than a taker; one who has a focus on serving Jesus and in helping others, rather than focusing on having his own needs (wants) met.
George Barna of the Barna Research Group says this in his book "The State of the Church: 2002" about the baby boom generation:
"After pouring over numerous national studies we have conducted since the early Eighties, I believe that the issue is the way in which we have proposed Christianity to the Boomer generation. At heart, Boomers are consumers. The way we presented Christ to most Boomers struck a resonant chord with them from that mindset. We told them all they had to do was say a prayer admitting they made some mistakes, they're sorry and they want to be forgiven. Boomers weighed the downside — which really amounted to nothing more than a one-time admission of imperfection and weakness in return for permanent peace with God - and figured it was a no-brainer, a can't-loose transaction. The consequence has been millions of Boomers who said the prayer, asked for forgiveness and went on with their life, with virtually nothing changed.
"Sadly, they misunderstand the heart of the matter. They saw it a deal in which they could exploit God and get what they wanted without giving up anything of consequence. But very few American Christians have experienced a sense of spiritual brokenness that compelled them to beg God for His mercy and acceptance through the love of Christ. We have a nation of "Christians" who took the best offer, but relatively few who were so humiliated and hopeless before a holy and omnipotent God that they cried out for undeserved compassion. That helps to explain why in practical terms it's hard to tell the difference between those who have beliefs that characterize them as born again and those who don't; the difference between the two groups is based on semantics more than a desperate plea for grace that triggered an intentional effort to live a transformed life."
George Barna goes on to encourage church leaders to reconsider how we present the gospel to people, and to examine the impact that current spiritual approaches are having upon self-satisfied, spiritually complacent people.
Jesus stated plainly in the Great Commission what spiritual things we are to focus on in teaching about the Bible and the Christian life: "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Matt 28:20. We are to teach God's commands and instructions so that the result in the lives of those taught is obedience to Christ. This is the second part of the Great Commission and is as important as evangelism. In fact, if we fail to teach the children in the church and new believers to observe to do all that Christ has commanded, our evangelism is worthless. We have merely produced another hypocrite.
The foundational flaw in the International Sunday school lessons, on which many Sunday school curriculums are based, is that its primary focus on Bible stories, history, and non-threatening issues. The main focus is not to teach young people doctrine or to observe all that God has commanded us. Instead it majors on the minor. Most lessons are based on Bible stories to which subjective applications (right or wrong) can be made rather than taking a clear command, principal or doctrine and adding a supportive Bible story as a testimony. Students come through the Sunday school having a head knowledge of Bible stories and other information about the Christian life. But they have not been brought to obedience to all that Christ told us to do. Nor have they been taught what is right and wrong (sin). They do not have a complete understanding about what righteousness is.
This is also a foundational flaw in college level Bible School and seminary education. Students are given a lot of head information, but are not taught to observe all that God has commanded.
The Sunday school usually does not provide a good opportunity for men in the congregation to state what they believe and where they stand on various Biblical doctrines. Almost all the lessons in the Sunday school quarterly stay away from anything that might be controversial. The lessons are based on the Bible, but not all of the Bible. The selection of scripture verses for the Sunday school lessons limit the teaching of Bible doctrines to a very narrow scope and thus limit the discussion of practical applications of the doctrines. We are living in an age in which just because a man believed a certain way 20 years ago does not mean that he still holds the same beliefs today. One makes assumptions about what others believe, but unless one hears the others confess with their mouths what they believe, it is not totally safe to assume that they believe what you think they believe.
I have had pastor friends who I thought I knew what they believed about certain doctrines, only to later be totally shocked upon finding out what they actually believed. On a number of other subjects, even after pointed specific questions, they were reluctant to say clearly what they believed.
The Sunday School often does not require, and often gives little opportunity for the adults in the congregation to state their beliefs; neither does the Sunday School today require or train the young people to formulate what they believe and state it. This is a tragedy for the Church. It is important for people to confess with their mouth what they believe. The importance of saying what one believes, and not merely believing it without confessing it, is given in Roman 10:9 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."
One of the most damaging effects of the Church taking the responsibility of the spiritual education of the children, is that the fathers have neglected their responsibility to train their own children in the ways of the Lord. Most of the children's Sunday school classes are taught by women, and the fathers have little interest in teaching the children. God has given the father the responsibility to train his household in the ways of the Lord. Fathers are to be more concerned about the spiritual training and well being of their children than about their financial support.
Our observation is that most Christian fathers today see their part as helping their children getting what they need to make it financially, and see the Church as the one to do most of the spiritual training. As the fathers have given their responsibility for the spiritual training of their children to the church, they have neglected their personal responsibility to train their children in the ways of the Lord. As a result the Sunday school has actually discouraged the spiritual leadership of the father in the home. Fathers need to be instructed in how to train their own children in the ways of the Lord and to take their responsibility seriously. Men by nature either tend to take full responsibility or let someone else take the responsibility.
When you find that you are headed the wrong direction on a road, would you ride the brake and slow down to a crawl? Would you pull over at a rest area and park there and refuse to go any further? Or would you turn around? The focus of the concerned element of the church in my lifetime has been to hold on, to be slow to make changes, to ride the brake. However, changes continue to be made headed in the wrong direction about 10 to 20 years after most other churches have already made those changes. The solution is to make a complete change to follow all that God has told us to do, and to educate our children the way God has told us to do it. Continuing to make adjustments to the world's philosophy of education will not work.
The focus of many families has been on getting their children to make a commitment to Christ and then they feel that they can relax. They have fulfilled their responsibility.
The focus of fathers needs to be much greater. Fathers need to be training their children to grow up to be men and women after God's heart. Accepting Christ as their Lord and Saviour is only one step in that process. A father's goal needs to be to train his children in the ways of the Lord well enough, that his sons will train their children the same way. The goal of training sons and daughters in the ways of the Lord and to be men and women after God's heart needs to be conveyed to his descendants so that his grandsons will also train the great grandchildren to be men and women after Jesus' heart.
God commands fathers to train their children so that their descendants will have many Godly generations. In Psalm 78:1-8 we are instructed: "Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: 3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. 5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: 6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: 7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: 8 And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God."
What needs to change when 91% of the born again teenagers believe that there no absolute moral right and wrong? We need to train them to know and to do all the Christ has commanded us — to train them what is right and wrong and to do what is right. There is a general ignorance in the Church today of what it means to live the Christian life and to be a follower and disciple of Jesus. Many Christians' beliefs and practice are no different than those who have never made a profession for Christ. Many react to the concept of keeping Christ's commands and call it legalism. However, it is wrong for a person to call keeping Christ commands error when God has told us over and over that we are to keep His commands. God is the one who states what is absolute moral truth — what is right and wrong. It is not legalism to keep Christ's commands. Keeping Christ's commands is the way a Christian, one who has already been saved, shows true love for Jesus. This is stated over and over in the New Testament. The word ‘keep' means much more then to merely obey, it also means to treasure, to value highly, to keep safe, and to memorize. The following verses show that keeping the commands that God has given us is a core part of living the Christian life and being Jesus' disciples:
Matt 28:19 (The Great Commission) "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen."
John 14:15 "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
John 14:21 "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me."
John 15:10 "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
2Pet 2:20 "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them."
1John 2:3 "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him."
1John 5:2 "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
Reve 14:12 "Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
Reve 22:12 "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward [is] with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed [are] they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."
See also: Matt. 7:22-27; Matt. 12:50; Matt.15:6; Matt. 19:17; Luke 6:46-49; Luke 11:28; Jn. 13:17; Rom. 2:6-9; I Cor.7:19; I Cor. 11:2; II Cor.2:9; II Cor. 7:15; Gal. 5:7; Phil. 2:12; I Thes. 4:1-2; II Thes. 3:4; I Tim. 6:14; Titus 1:16; Heb. 5:8; James 1:21-25; I Jn. 3:22; II Jn. 1:6; Rev. 12:17.
Jesus has instructed us in the Great Commission to teach for results — that they observe, that they know and do all that He commanded us. We need to follow God's instruction to train the next generation to keep His commands and to be wholly committed to Him. They need to know what absolute moral truth is and do it. We also need to train our children to train their children and grandchildren to keep Christ's commands.
In Deut 4:9 God says, "Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;" As our family meditated on this verse some very important concepts stood out. There is more than one reason for the father and grandfather to teach their descendants. The one who teaches learns the most. As the father and grandfather teach their children and grandchildren, not only are the children taught but it reinforces to the adults what God says they are to do. As parents we need to teach our children lest we forget what God has done, and so it does not depart from our heart all our days. Today many parents are silent and are not teaching the next generation. Not only are the children falling away from the Lord, but we are also seeing parents and grandparents moving away from the Lord in the direction that their children and grandchildren have gone. This concept of each father and grandfather teaching their descendants is so crucial to the church's success in spiritual education and to the future of the church — not only for the young peoples' spiritual success but also that the parents' and grandparents' keep their souls diligently, and not drift away from Christ.
Gene 18:19 (Abraham) "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him."
Exod 10:2 And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.
Deut 11:19 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. 20 And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: 21 That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.
Deut 32:46 And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.
Psal 44:1 We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.
Psal 78:3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. 5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: 6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: 7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: 8 And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.
Prov 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
Prov 4:1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. 2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. 3 For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. 4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. 5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. 6 Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. 8 Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. 9 She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. 10 Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many. 11 I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. 12 When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. 13 Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life. 14 Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. 15 Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.
Prov 6:20 My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 21 Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. 22 When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. 23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
Joel 1:2 Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? 3 Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.
Ephe 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
1Tim 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
1Tim 3:12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
God's instruction to prepare for the future of the Church and to train the next generation in the ways of the Lord, is for each father to train his own children in God's commands and in doctrine. The father is the one to do the spiritual training. The father is responsible for how his children turn out. The father is also, in part, responsible for the training of the grandchildren. Parents need to be encouraged to not be intimidated by the church's education program but rather view themselves as the best teachers for their children.
I have felt frustrated as a father in knowing what to teach and what to say in training our children. I realized that what we were doing was not adequate, but was not sure what to do. I get the impression that there are many other fathers who feel the same way. We need a curriculum to guide us so that we know what to teach when we sit down for family devotions. Fathers need to be accountable to the church or many will not teach their children as they should.
God has led us to develop a new Bible study curriculum that teaches the commands God has given us in the New Testament about living the Christian life so that we can better carry out the second half of the Great Commission. It is not merely an alternative for the current Sunday school curriculums but will have a whole new educational concept for the Church.
The content of the curriculum is based on a list of over 500 commands we have compiled of God's commands in the New Testament that apply to us today. These commands we have further categorized into over 100 subject categories ranging from alcohol to worship. The goal of the curriculum is to bring children and adults to spiritual maturity, and that they will observe and do all that Christ has commanded in the New Testament that we are to do.
Doing things together as entire families in the church should take the place of the church youth group. Young people need to be included in the life of the church, and not separated into their own group, if we want them to be involved in the life of the congregation when they become adults. By doing mission, and service work, as well as social events together as families, we can increase the community aspect of the congregation instead of splitting up the church into age groups that then are isolated from the rest of the church. Also by including singles with families, singles can be included in the life of the church and not separated into a singles category that does not fit in with any of the rest of the church groups.
We need to act now and prepare for the future of the church. Let us lay aside the hindrances and failures of the church in the past and press on to the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Phil. 3:13,14
- Contrary to Popular Opinion, College or Seminary Education is not Beneficial for Pastors
God is quite clear in many passages of Scripture, and through the example of Jesus, that higher education is not beneficial for pastors. Ignoring all that God has written about the subject, most churches require at least a college degree if not a seminary degree for their pastor.
- Home 'Sunday Schooling'
The answer for the Spiritual education of our children in the home church. In the House church we have the freedom to look at what God’s design is for the spiritual education of the children and implement that rather than feeling like we have to make our home church a small replica of the conventional Sunday school.
- How to Turn the Hearts of the Fathers to the Children
The key for lasting revival. Many fathers feel inadequate in knowing how to turn the hearts of their children to them. Here is the answer from the Bible.
- Music for Children
The music that you and your children sing and listen to is more important than you may realize. The songs that we sing and listen to permanently shape our understanding of who God is.
- The Key for Lasting Revival
The way to have a lasting revival seems to be elusive. There have been many revivals in the past, but few are still bearing fruit today. Here is the answer from the Bible on how to have lasting revival.
- Totally Rethinking Church Part 1: Stepping 'Out of the Box'
Millions of Christians in the last several years are totally rethinking what ’church’ is and are looking for a deeper relationship with Christ. Much of what defines what the conventional church is, how people are fed spiritually, and how money is spent by the church does not have a specific basis in Scripture.
- Totally Rethinking Church Part 2: Sheep - a Key to Understanding God's Design for the Church
Lessons learned from how sheep feed, will totally reshape your understanding of God’s design for the house church and how people are fed spiritually.
- Totally Rethinking Church Part 3: A Refreshing Change for Church Leadership
God’s plan for leadership is somewhat different than we are accustomed to.
- What Music Should Children Listen To?
Children need to be given good, solid music if we want them to grow spiritually through music.