Parenting in the Pews

Parenting in the Pews

Note from Pastor Jay: This is a blog post written by my bride. It is excellent. It has to do with training our children for corporate worship.

The purpose of coming to church with our family is to engage in worship, but what does that mean? There is a difference between “going to church” and “going to worship.” Going to worship requires a life transformation and happens out of a new heart, not an old habit. Going to church can be nothing more than smart time management with good intentions. It may not have much to do with worship at all.

So what is worship? A 19th-century Lutheran theologian in Germany, Rudolph Otto, tells us that worship is “the emotion of a creature, submerged and overwhelmed by its own nothingness in contrast to that which is supreme above all creatures.”

When we get up in the morning, there must be something more—something outside ourselves, something bigger and greater and more worth living for than what we saw in the mirror. Author Sam Storm says that “What we need is a heart that is strengthened and sustained by the knowledge and experience and love of a really, really, really, big and beautiful God!” This is where worship begins—with a big view of God. Worship is not so much about what we do; it’s about Who’s presence we are in.

The invitation to come and worship is offered to all, and this includes children! Those of us who are parents must take the command to train our children in the area of worship very seriously! Our children need to have “ownership in a vision” of Jesus Christ, or when difficulties come, their vision will leak! Before each of our children entered the Sunday morning worship service for the first time, Jay and I spent time explaining to them each element of the service; why we give money to Jesus, why we sing, why someone preaches from the Bible, and why we listen carefully and do not talk to friends or color.

From that first Sunday of corporate worship together, Jay and I have continued to pursue obedience to God’s command, given through Moses, in Deuteronomy 6: “Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.” So how do we do this practically? Jay and I read the Scriptures, in the evenings, around the supper table—regardless of who’s at home. We did it this summer with all of our adult children home. We did this all through the years as our kids were growing up. We also taught our children to honor the Sabbath and to see it as a gift—a day set aside by God to worship and to rest. We strongly discouraged working on Sundays or doing homework. Honoring the Sabbath has been an incredible blessing for our family.

We also regularly read stories together about real Christian heroes, people such as Jonathan Goforth, Corrie Ten Boom, William Booth, Lotti Moon, Eric Liddell, or even Joni Eareckson Tada. Jay and I prayed with our children and invite them to join us in the monthly day of fasting. We memorized Scripture together, to meditate on the holiness of God and guard ourselves against sin. We attend a God-centered church and required them to be involved in serving in some type of ministry. Jay and I also wanted our children to know that worship doesn’t just take place in a church building. It’s a 24/7 invitation. Whether we are climbing the Rocky Mountains and discussing God’s majesty or watching the waves crash in the Atlantic Ocean and talking about God’s power, whether we are gazing over acres of farm land in rural Minnesota and marveling at God’s beauty or simply sitting on a sand dune overlooking Lake Michigan and delighting in God’s tranquility—all these wonders of nature scream that there is a God, that He is big, that He is alive, and that He is beautiful.

In order to follow Jesus Christ for the long haul, we must regularly cleanse our hearts of the sin that so easily entangles us and we must keep our thoughts of God big, allowing Him to ignite a fuel of wonder and awe within our souls, that can never be extinguished.

Why is this so important? So that, when you and I and my children gather together on Sundays, we have Someone great to sing about and lift our praises to. Then, with hearts filled with the gladness of God, we have a reason not to sin on Monday. We have something to fill our daydreams other than illicit sex or more money or some other mindless, meaningless fantasy. We have a reason to fear God, to tremble before this awesome, all-consuming Fire to whom we must one day give an account of every word and deed. Sam Storm tells us, “People who serve a shrunken God have nothing to offer a world on the brink of hell.” John the Baptist echoes this truth in John 3:30: “He must become great; I must become less.” This is the heart of worship: getting our eyes off of ourselves and embracing a big view of our magnificent God, with a single passion to know Him, love Him and serve Him with all our being.

The Psalmist challenges us, “Search high and low, scan skies and land, you’ll find nothing and no one quite like God. The holy angels are in awe before Him; He looms immense and august over everyone around Him. God . . . who is like You, powerful and faithful from every angle?” What a privilege, responsibility and duty it is for all of us who are parents, to not just allow our kids to come to church with us but to introduce them to the God of the Bible and then proactively walk beside them in life, training them to know, love, and obey Him with their whole hearts! Author and former Pastor Eugene Peterson writes, “Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God—it whets our appetite [for Him].” Let’s get busy whetting our children’s appetite for the most important thing!

by Becky Childs, Senior Pastor’s wife
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