I recently heard Carl Trueman (Professor at a seminary in America) give a lecture on reaching the modern mind. In the question time he was asked why the church in the West is as weak as it is and he said that one thing we could take responsibility for is teaching our children the importance of church.
What he meant by this is that – for all our messaging that church is important – we are increasingly modelling to our children that it is not. So if children grow up to imitate what their parents do – which is more powerful than what they say – the links with church will decline.
The effects of this will be much more serious than missing out on some ‘good meetings’ together. The effects will be
– decline in learning God’s word
– decline in helping God’s people
– decline in impacting God’s world
I greatly fear that the children of today will face a more hostile world with a more fragmented faith. We must ask ourselves whether our children have learned from what we do that the local church is God’s plan for growth, fellowship and – ultimately – witness.
We need a high (biblical view of church). Sam Albery likens the church to an embassy. Just as an embassy represents a bigger country so the local church represents God’s bigger (spiritual) family. Or think of how Paul describes the local church in Ephesians 3 as communicating to the cosmos that God is gracious and great.
Of course, we don’t pick this up with our senses. We see the same old pastor and the same old people. We hear the same old words and the same old songs. There are times when the gathering is terrific but there are times when it seems very feeble and ordinary. In the middle of that weakest moment the Lord is still looking on His Bride with great devotion and still working for His deep and wide purposes. Every time!
Some of the reasons why we are getting detached from the local church are:
+ Podcasts and individualism. We think that if we get the information we have got the basics – forgetting that the presence of Christ is experienced when the 2 or 3 (or 2 or 3 hundred) gather in His name. The gathering provides more than a recording!
+ Family and competition. The elevation of the nuclear family over the spiritual family is a mistake and a blunder. We are not under law to be at church (though the new commandment – John 13:34 – is pretty clear) but the spiritual family outweighs the nuclear family and blessed are the children who grow up seeing this.
+ Busyness and expectation. Of course, there are real reasons to miss the gathered church – sickness and frailty and holidays and work and timetable clashes – but the absences are on the increase and we should be aware. What we should be checking is our heart and the desire to learn, serve and witness.
In the past few months I’ve been interstate a few times and involved in gatherings of various kinds. I’ve seen the tiny country church – without pastor or (many) people and I’ve seen the big conventions which are also struggling to survive. Sam Albery says (“Why bother with church?”) we must realise that where there is no church this is not just a town without a theatre – it’s a town without a hospital or water supply.
Jesus called us – and Jesus married us. The church is precious beyond this world. If you belong to the Head – you belong to the Body. And we must help our children learn this too – or they will struggle to survive, grow and witness.