In our right desire to reach more people with the gospel, we have made faith relevant, accessible, and easy. I am not advocating for unnecessary barriers to getting people to church at all. The question I am raising is this “What is the True Church.” Can I sit at home and with a bag of Cheetos and pull up an “online campus” on Facebook and “have church?”
Most people say yes. I say no.
The problem comes down to how we define the church. Historically the church has been understood as comprised by three realities.
- The Gospel is Proclaimed. – Very little controversy here. Are we preaching the gospel of Christ or are we meeting to swap recipes and sell each other essential oils? As good as those things may be if we are not proclaiming the gospel of our sin and Christ sufficiency we may be a lot of things, but we are not being the church. This can be done over the internet very easily. The reason that we believe that online church is a viable way to live in community is that we have over personalized our faith and have reduced the church to gospel proclamation. Gospel proclamation can and should happen over the internet, but we must not believe that the transmission and the reception of the gospel message alone constitute a church.
- Where the Sacraments are given – This is where the idea of online church breaks down. You can not partake of communion by yourself, and you should not be baptized in private either. The sacraments of communion and baptism are communal graces for our good and God’s glory. This is something that can’t happen over the internet and shouldn’t happen in private. In most churches, the sacrament of communion doesn’t happen as often as it should. We must continually be reminded of what Christ has done and look forward in anticipation of the marriage supper of the lamb. This cannot be done over the computer and can not be done alone.
- When church discipline is administered Across all types of church and denominations of the church this aspect of the true church is most lacking. In wanting to not offend members and be sensitive to seekers we have lost this aspect of the church altogether. This is something that can’t be done over the Internet but must be done in the context of relationship. The goal of church discipline is not primarily to teach someone a lesson but to walk alongside them and continually apply the gospel to their hearts and minds until they see their need and Christs sufficiency.Are online church services helpful and convenient? Yes. Should we provide them as a way to temporarily connect those who are sick or away from their church family? Yes. Is online church, church? No. Can you love Jesus but not love his Church. Biblically speaking I don’t think you can. My encouragement to you is to find an imperfect local body of believers, get to know them and allow them to get to know you. You need to hear the gospel proclaimed weekly but you also need people in your life walking with you to loving apply the gospel to your heart. Find a church where you can commune spiritually and physically with local believers and hear the gospel proclaimed and applied. Love the church. Be the church.
A few nights ago I had a conversation with my wife because our son was in a play that had some language in it (he didn’t have any lines). There were also a few suggestive ideas in the play. My wife asked me “should this be a play that a Pastor’s Kid is in?” My response was there is no such thing as a pastor’s kid.
Being a pastor’s kid is challenging. The expectations are more than most people realize. Some people are waiting for you to mess up so they can say “See, told you so” others see you make a mistake and they act as if this is a total shock that this should ever happen. What doesn’t help is your peers tend to view you with suspicion or with the expectation that you should know every answer to every Sunday school question. There are some benefits to being a pastor’s kid, but in general, the crushing burden that you feel from most people can be overwhelming. In my experience with being a pastor’s kid and knowing lots of them the reaction to these expectations tends to create either rebels or Pharisees.
I was a Pharisee. This is still something I struggle with, I was a good kid that goodness led to pride until I failed to live up to the expectations that others had for me, then my failures were both public and crushing. I strove so hard to be a good kid and not to embarrass my parents or the church that I ended up being a professional people pleaser. I don’t want that for my kids. I don’t want that for any pastor’s kids.
How as a church community do we help the children of our leaders not become rebels or Pharisees? How do I as a pastor raise my kids to love the church and cherish Christ? Here are a few things I have learned the hard way.
Parents don’t waste your pain. There is in every parent the good desire to protect their kids from harm. This should be done diligently this, however, is not the same thing as protecting your kids from all pain. First of all that is not a possibility. You can’t shield your kids from all pain. Second, it isn’t wise. Keeping your kids from all pain does not allow your kids to see life as it is and see Christ as he is.
We waste our pain when we hide it, minimize it and deflect it. Pain is guaranteed in this life. More than any message your kids hear or any message you preach pain preaches a more vivid memory your kids will not soon forget. What causes pain in your life reveals to your kids what you love and where you run when you experience pain shows your kids who you serve. Because who or what you turn to is what you believe has the power to save you.
Your pain isn’t just causing discomfort it is doing something. The Apostle Paul says You can see what it is doing but it producing in you an eternal weight of glory.
Bishop J.C. Ryle says this about pain and suffering.
“It is all working together for your good. It tends to sanctify. It will keep you awake. It will make you humble. It will drive you nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ. It will wean you from the world. It will help to make you pray more. Above all, it will make you long for heaven. It will teach you to say with heart as well as lips, “Come, Lord Jesus. Thy kingdom come.” The warfare of the true child of God is as much a mark of grace as the inward peace which he enjoys. No cross, no crown! No conflict, no saving Christianity! “Blessed are ye,” said our Lord Jesus Christ, “when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” If you are never persecuted for religion’s sake, and all men speak well of you, you may well doubt whether you belong to “the Church on the rock.” (Matt. v. 11; Luke vi. 26.)
We must shield our kids from harm but we must not hide our pain or they will never see the sufficiency of Christ. They will never go to hard places and they will never do hard things because they have no categories for what it looks like to walk with God in pain and suffering.
“No cross, no crown! No conflict, no saving Christianity! “Blessed are ye,” said our Lord Jesus Christ” No cross no crown. Our God is not safe but he is good. Help your kids see that. Suffer well so that they will see the beauty of Christ in your brokenness.
Contra Mundum: For the World. Against the world. What does that mean to you?
Every godly parent wants their kids to love Jesus forever. The challenge is how do we do this when we don’t ultimately control this. Getting your kids to eat vegetables is hard enough getting them to embrace a life of devotion to Christ is challenging and at the same time not up to us. If it was up to us and within our control, we would all flip that magic switch and make our kids treasure Christ. It doesn’t work that way. This question is addressed in New City Catechism
Q 20: Who is the Redeemer?
A: The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, in whom God became man and bore the penalty for sin himself.
The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Parents we have to remind ourselves that Jesus is the only one who redeems. Does that mean you are off the hook? By no means. We water we plant God makes plants grow. We are called as parents and pastors in the life of a child to water and plant but the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer.
My challenge to parents is threefold.
- Don’t waste your devotion.
- Don’t waste your pain.
- Don’t waste your time.
Don’t waste your devotion is a simple challenge to parents to live their faith in the light of day. We live in an age of specialization and privatization that has spread into our homes and into our faith. We leave public faith to the “religion specialists” at church and we privatize our faith at home to such an extent our kids never see us read our bible on accident or on purpose.
Don’t waste your devotion is a call to public “Personal” prayer and Bible times. Rather than secluded closets and locked bedrooms. Let your kids see you read the bible in the morning and pray payers not so they can think you are something that you are not but that you can model a devoted life. I read my Bible and pray across the table from my kids eating frosted mini-wheats. I don’t do this so my kids think I am holy but rather so they can see where I place my trust every morning.
A devoted life isn’t just public devotions but conversations that point kids back to Christ as our greatest treasure. A devoted life is them seeing you lead someone else closer to Christ as you disciple another believer one-on-one or in a small group.
A devoted life is one where you mention your concern and demonstrate it by praying for world missions. Recently a missionary we support asked for Bibles we discussed this as a family bought the Bibles and prayed over the Bibles as a family. Because I want my kids to see needs of others and to see their need for others that are part of the worldwide body of Christ.
We don’t waste our devotion when we do what the gospel requires of us in front of our kids rather than behind their backs because what many would consider flaunting our faith when it comes to our kids it’s called discipleship.
Parents don’t waste your devotion.