The saddest thing for faithful families is to see their children grow up and seem to grow out of their faith. That is a reality for many parents and grandparents as we now see the level of "nones" grow in the United States. The reality of faith is that it can not be lived for another person. We can not be another's faith. American culture, Western culture for that matter, has left behind much of the faith heritage that we had once been central to life. Since the turn of the twentieth century faith has fallen to the wayside. This occurred in what was dubbed early on as the Christian Century. Despite the twentieth century being a century full of great material, the greatest Bible availability, and more Christian materials available when compared to anytime prior the twentieth century saw the greatest percentage of decline of Christians in the United States and the Western world. It is a tragedy which many have been seeking to resolve. The difficulty is not in the form of worship, but the place which Christian thought has entered into a place of obscurity. If one believes the Bible and reads it plainly, they are seen as being extreme instead of simply followers of Christ (which had been the norm for most even into the twentieth century). Christian thought is often criticized as anti-Science. The problem of that is that Christian thought has always been scientific in its pursuit of knowledge. Faith is not anti-facts, but a means in which to understand those things which can not be observed, i.e. creation. How is it that we can help bring a return to faith? The first place to begin is for those of us that are followers of Christ. As followers to be positive witnesses of faith and to share with others the glorious gifts of faith to all people, including our families. In our witness, we can strengthen the faith of those we love, not by witnessing a faith centered on rules but grace and hope. A hope not in something within ourselves, but in Christ and in him alone. In living out this faith, families can be transformed as fathers love mothers as God desires so daughters can expect how their husband should love them and sons can learn how they should love their wives. It is a picture painted in Genesis 2, but because tarnished in the Fall. We are made in the image of God and much of the struggles that we face in life are because of our forgetting in whose image we are created.
As I look ahead, I realize that there are changes that I need to make in my own life for ministry. Being a father of six young children does cause for a strain between the time I have for being a pastor of a local church and developing a ministry that God has put on my heart. I am stretched, yet I am hopeful.
Being a father of six, I am also confronted with how much I fail and how underequipped I have been to do this parenting thing and am thankful for the wife that God has given me because of the great gifts that she has that I am keenly aware that I do not hold. She makes order out of chaos. I, also, have been able to observe other fathers and parents that are totally different than I am.
Let me explain, I don't have that calm, gentle voice naturally. It is work for me to use that calm, gentle voice. I watch many of these videos and programs that tell me as a parent to be this calm, soft-spoken person with my children. My wife sees these also and we have attempted this and feel defeated as our voices become elevated in order to acheive the results that we had been striving for prior to this, yet it did not seem to happen the way that we were working for in the first place.
The reality that I have come to terms with is that there are methods that may or may not work universally as well as some principles that are universal. Love is the universal and that needs to be expressed, but what is not always universal is the expression of that love and how it is felt or understood. I feel love differently than my wife and, I believe, I feel love differently from some other male friends of mine. I express love differently than my wife and other men and women also. The Five Love Languages is a great tool to understand this principle. Now in thinking about this it may be of benefit that the relationship between parent and child will also be different and will affect parenting. This is important to understand.
The same is true in ministry, though the spiritual truths do not change, the spiritual environment does. Much of the church models that we see put out there are a one-size fits all attempt. Why do we believe that? If we love differently and parent differently, why wouldn't there be varied models of worship? Not everyone will like organ music and hymns with a liturgy, but there will be those that hunger for that. Not everyone will enjoy modern praise music and no liturgy either, but that is the model that seems to be sold most often.
I am one that believes that a liturgy is for family and worship is meant to be intergenerational (kids worshipping with their parents). I hope that over this year I will be able to develop this further with some tools and hope that you will join me in this.
This is a question that we all should be asking ourselves especially when there are so many tools available to help with this. It is a matter of understanding the culture we are in, but also with a realization that we aren't an amalgam that can be easily understood just because of what one group exhibits.
Being a Gen-Xer, which seems to be that generation that most have just let fall to the wayside as most materials focus on the Millenials (oh, how they love that....said no millennial ever). The reality is that we are moving into a post-Christian world that does not view the Church like the parents of Baby Boomers did. The church is something that many have been to or heard about, but decided it was not for them and walked away. They saw the infighting, the hypocrisy, and the judgment and determined that the Bible is not true and the people who believe it are anti-Science and out of touch with reality. For some of those that have tried to stay their faith is often compromised and are living a life that, not that long ago, would have been apprehensible to most in the Church.
Barna and Pew find that more and more young adults are identifying less and less with the Christian faith and don't really want anything to do with those that are a part of it. At best they are angry, and at worst they are apathetic. So, what are we, as the Church, to do about it? I'm not talking about the buildings that we go to for worship each week, but all who call themselves followers of Christ?
My greatest passion is the carrying on of the Gospel in the Church and within families. Being a father of six children very close in age and, also, being a pastor, I have witnessed the difficulty of bringing a family to church. I have seen what it is like for a mother to have to manage young children during the service alone as I have sat unable to really do anything. Unfortunately, I have also felt the pain of having my children be a point of contention with parishioners and have had the unkind words directed at me and my wife.
Because I am a pastor, I know that things were sometimes said that would not be said to another parent. I, also, know that because of the shame that some people had about their feelings that they have said and done things not in the open. I have, also, witnessed other families leave never to return because of comments directed at their children that caused a wound. Most of the time, these things are not truly meant to be hurtful and most that engage do so because they have some distance from when they had children. Another reality is, our society has changed, and with it, our way of viewing things and doing things. There are things that would've been tolerated even twenty years ago that are unthinkable now. In all honestly, some of the things that were tolerated, probably shouldn't have been, but some of the stuff that is tolerated today is truly killing our kids.
Our children need the Church and our Church needs our children. It is a mutual relationship and there is no better place where families can find support than the Church. So, that is why I have created this. There are a great many of very good materials out there working on the strengthening of families and the welcoming of families in the Church. Most of these are done by changing how we worship and how Sunday School is done. There are some great things in this, but what about those congregations and those families that desire the structure of liturgy? That is where I hope to offer a voice.
The question is, how do we welcome our children into a liturgical worship service? I believe the elements are already there and in that it can afford a great opportunity to deepen the worship life of all who attend, whether they be young or they be old. I look forward to this journey together! Keep posted for more things to come!