Why Don’t My Kids Go To Church?

KIDSWhy don’t my kids go to church? We could easily replace kids with spouse, friends, parents, neighbors, and host of other people. And then, we could ask the question again. Why do those who have been exposed to the gospel, ‘raised right,’ and know all the Sunday school answers drift away from the church?  They talk about getting back into church. But their alarms never go off, their cars never start, and their spot on the pew next to your’s remains empty. Why? Why don’t our kids and our loved ones come to church anymore?

Now before we dive into the topic, I want to acknowledge that this article has apathetic Christians in view. As the never ending news-cycle makes clear, some men and women leave their local church because their church ceased to be a biblical church. The local assembly went from sharing God’s love to spreading sin, caring little about those who were spiritually harmed and/or physically abused by its leaders. This article is not about those who have suffered under evil pastors and church leaders.  Rather, I want to prevent further abuse and will discuss that more below. Our focus is those who drift away.

God takes on the hearts of our apathetic children and loved ones in 1 Samuel 7. In the previous chapters, we read that Eli and his sons had sent the Ark of the Covenant, the judgement seat of God, into battle. The Ark was captured by the Philistines who obliterated the Israelite army. But the Philistines do not keep the Ark long. All the cities who hosted the Ark experienced plagues and death. After suffering under the hand of God for seven months, the Philistines send the Ark back to Israel. The people of Israel celebrate and then desecrate the Ark. Seventy men in Beth-Shemesh die. And the Ark is once again sent away. Little national thought is given to the worship of God for the next twenty years.

First Samuel 7:2 says, “From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.”

What does all this have to do with our kids and loved ones who don’t attend church? Everything!

The Israelites grieved for 20 years. But they never worship God; they were worshiping their idols. In verse 1 Samuel 7:4 we finally read, “So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.” Though they had grieved much during those 20 years, they had not repented.

They same is true of our indifferent kids. They feel guilty about their lack of attendance stickers. They talk about returning to church. But they do not act on their guilt because they don’t love God. They are serving other idols, idols of the heart (Ez. 18). They live for money, houses, cars, vacations, the success of their kids, and the next thrill. They care little for God because God is not their master. Those who worship things other than God naturally have not time for worshiping God.

Those who have repentented, worship! After they Israelites repent they do church! In verse 6, we read,

So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.

When men and women repent of their sins. They worship God. They assemble together and pursue God with a unified zeal. Notice that the people of Israel have gone from worshiping idols to enthusiastically worshiping God. The are fasting and praying. And this is not an isolated act. Read the Gospels and the Book of Acts! Those who repent have an unending appetite for worship!

Those who love God do not come to church to get a favor from granddad, to impress a girl-friend, or to make mom stop nagging them. No, they come because they love God. They want to come. Bind believers in chains, and they will pull at them till they are once again free to worship with the people of God. Jesus affirms this passion in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

On the flip side those who have not repented, will not love church. They will find church judgmental, irrelevant, and boring. They will mourn their feelings of guilt but will never come to worship because their hearts serve another master.

If we or our loved ones care little for church, can never find time for the people of God, and think all that religious stuff is a superfluous nicety, we and they have a faith problem. We have a repentance problem. We have loved ones who claim Christ but do not know Him. 1 John 2:19 clearly states,

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Those who willfully and intentionally leave church because they are busy are not saved.

Now some of us our slow, to label our kids and loved ones as unbelievers. We saw little Johnny get baptized; we went on mission trips with Sally; and, we sang in the choir with Phil. Yes, they have absent from the church for 5, 10, 15 and even 20 years. But they lost a child, they went through a tough transition, and they are just so busy. Shouldn’t we seek to win them back into the church? Shouldn’t we try to reengage them by getting them to help with the ushers team or to serve as the Sunday school event planner?

No, friend we should not welcome those in unrepentant sin back into the church as if they never left. We should like Samuel call them to repent and then invite them to worship. Notice that the worship services resumed after the people turned from their idols and not before. If we neglect the doctrines of repentance, faith and sanctification, we will destroy the very churches we seek to save.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

When churches embrace cheap grace, they implode. Our churches are filled with evil men and women who stir up conflicts, who silence gospel preaching, and who abuse children and teenagers because we have embraced cheap grace. We have welcomed both those who hate sin and those who love sin into the heart of the church. Instead of practicing church discipline to help lost know they are lost, to protect the glory of God, and to defend the defenseless, many church leaders let both good and evil people come into the church and stay in the church. As a result, our churches are wrecked by all types of evil. Did not Paul write in 1 Corinthians 5:6, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”

The same tragedy occurred in ancient Israel. Eli refused to discipline his wicked sons. Because Eli looked the other way when sinners entered God’s house, God’s house became of place of physical abuse, sexual immorality, and drunkenness (1 Samuel 2:12-3). Eventually, Eli’s ministry and family were undone by sinners masquerading as the servants of God. Can we repeat Eli’s failures and hope to escape his judgement?

Instead of wishing for a reality that does not exist, we need to treat our children like unbelievers they profess to be by their works. We need to lovingly call them to repentance at every divinely appointed opportunity. We need to mercifully warn them that their works point to damnation and death. And if they refuse to hear us and are members of our church, we need to practice church discipline.

Our kids and loved ones don’t come to church any more because they don’t love God. Are we ready to deal with this reality? Are we ready to pray for them, to evangelize them, and to discipline them?

Do I Need To Win My Child To Christ?

paul-bence-221565Are we responsible for the salvation of our toddler who just jammed an entire waffle into her mouth and the teenager who just texted us that she might have hit a pole when backing up? Will God find fault with us if we fail to usher our children into the kingdom of God before trade in their pig tails for a college I.D. card?

Some pastors would say, “Yes.” Paul proclaimed, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them to Christ” (I Corinthians 9:19). As the following verses make clear Paul did anything and everything he could to win people to Christ. He suffered all kinds of hardships; he argued the gospel from all kinds or perspectives. He worked hard to win many to Christ. “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some, ” he reported (I Corinthians 9:22b).

Paul appears to be implying that parents must work hard to win their children to the Lord. We parents seem to be responsible for making sure little Johnny walks the aisle and for making sure little Sarah gets baptized. We must talk, persuade, and influence our kids until they are willing to accept the Christian life. We must win them for the Lord while the day is young.

While such thinking is pervasive in SBC circles and in evangelicalism in general, such thinking is not ultimately biblical thinking. Flip back to 1 Corinthians 1:1-2:1. Paul tackles the Corinthians’ boastful thinking by reminding them that God does all the work. God saves sinners as the apostles preached (1 Corinthians 1:21). God chose those whom would believe (I Corinthians 1:27,28, 31). Paul clearly did not believe that his sermons, his evangelism strategies, and his programs caused people to repent and believe.

He wrote in I Corinthians 2:1-2 these words:

And I, when I came you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and hum crucified.

Paul saved no one.

We will save no one. Even if we get junior to repeat a prayer after us, we have saved not saved Junior. We are not responsible for winning our children to Christ. We do not have to play the right music, leverage the right amount of guilt, or seize the perfect moment when our kid is both still and awake. Nor do we have to hold our kid hostage in a spiritual timeout, suspending our family movie night until our girl repents and believes.

We can save no one with our passion, sincerity, and skill.  Only God brings dead souls to life through his Word (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Can you or I by our earnest talking break the power of Satan over a man’s life? No. Can you or I give life to the spiritually dead? No. Can we hope to convince sinners of the truth of the gospel by patient explanation? No. Can we hope to move men to obey the gospel by any words of entreaty that we may utter? No. Our approach to evangelism is not realistic till we have faced this shattering face and let it make it’s proper impact on us. – J.I. Packer

We do not have to worry about saving our children. We are not called to win them or anyone else to Christ. We are called to proclaim the gospel. As Mark Dever cautions us, “Evangelism must not be confused with the fruit of evangelism.”

We can rest assured that our job is only to teach our kids about the gospel. We can be like Paul and share the gospel with the son who thinks he can work his way to heaven by obeying his parents’ rules. We can evangelize our daughter who believes she can find joy apart from obedience to Christ through self-fulfillment via sex. We can point our son to Christ as he grieves his latest break up; we can point our daughter to Christ as she mourns her rejection from her top college of choice. We can at all times and in all circumstances point our children to Christ.

To be a soul winner is to be a parent who sacrifices all for the chance to share Christ with their children.

We have to be willing to skip our favorite T.V. show, mess up our vacation plans, and lose money on non-refundable tickets. We have to be willing to play with dump trucks and rub a sore knee, and do everything in between. We have to be willing to be all things to our children. J.I. Packer said,

The truth is that personal evangelism is very costly, just because it demands of us a really personal relationship with the other person.

Do we have personal relationships with our children? Are we sacrificing all to get to know our children so that we can love them, train them, and point them to the gospel? Or are we just the bank, the shuttle driver, and the tutor? Do we know the kids sleeping under our roof?

We should know our kids. But, we do not have to add ‘salvation’ to our list of parental responsibilities. To be a soul winner is to be a preacher of the gospel. We can do this.  Moreover, we must do this as our own obedience and the vitality of our faith is directly tied to us sharing Christ with our children (Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6).

Thankfully, many of our kids are open and receptive to hearing the gospel from our lips. Some eighty-six percent of Americans today claim that their family influenced their identity. How you respond to your kids’ angry bat toss, their perfect report card, and their completion of their driver exam will shape them for better or for worse.

What are will telling our kids? Are we sharing the gospel with them?

Love God: Love Discipline

discipline“No.” I hear the word a lot. I hear my kids say it. Being a children’s pastor, I hear kids at church say it over and over again. If they do not say it, they often brazenly demonstrate the thought by grinning at me while the directly disobeying my latest command to sit down. “No!”

When our kids say no they do not ultimately have a problem with authority. They have a problem with God. The creator of the universe tells children to obey their “parents in the Lord for this is right,” and tells them to “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” (Eph. 6:10; Heb. 13:17).

When they tip over their cup, when they hop out of their seat, and when they scream at their parents in anger, they are declaring themselves to be the God of their universe. They are saying, “I know better; This will make me happy, and I have every right to get it regardless of the cost.” Little people who cannot go to the bathroom by themselves are attempting to turn the world upside down when they say, ‘No.’ We cannot let this happen.

The Bible has a term for such little people: fools. In Psalm 14:1 God says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.” We should lovingly discipline children when they do abominable deeds because such children are ultimately rebelling against God. We send kids home from church and place them in timeouts so that they will learn that they our fools. We imperfectly model divine judgement because we want our children to see their foolishness and repent of it. A one week ban from church is much kinder than an eternal life in Hell. If we love the children in our homes and churches, we will discipline them.

This is the mindset of God. He says in Hebrews 12:6, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” God punishes his children because he loves them and wants what is best for them. For us to be like God, we too must discipline children out of love.

If we remember 1 Corinthians 13, we will remember that love does not boast and does not seek out it is own. We discipline not because ‘our’ authority was challenged, and not because we are upset that ‘our’ plans have been changed. We should never punish children to defend our pride. Like our children, we are sinners daily in need of grace and correction. We discipline because we hate sin wherever it appears and because we hate seeing foolishness destroy our children’s lives. God administers such loving discipline to us. We must follow our father’s example. Are you ready?