Why There Are More Babies Than Mean, Old Ladies in Heaven

The mom panics, the dad’s face turns a touch red, and the old ladies begin to shake their old ladyheads. The baby has cried. As the baby is run out the sanctuary back door like patient about to be airlifted to the hospital for a brain transplant, the murmurs start: “Why did they bring that kid in?” What a distraction; I can’t focus with all that noise.” “Nursery, anyone?”

And while parents with young children should seek to be considerate of others, most of the people who dislike having kids in their services don’t have a people problem. They have a gospel problem.

When the disciples rebuked the parents who wanted Jesus to bless their kids, Jesus rebukes his disciples. And Jesus rebukes his disciples not because kids’ ministry is his number one passion. He rebukes the disciples because they get the gospel wrong.

The disciples didn’t want the kids interrupting Jesus’ day because they thought salvation was a matter of works. I.e. you help God help you be what God wants you to be. Because the little babies being thrust before Jesus could do nothing meaningful for the kingdom of God, the disciples shewed them away. Jesus only had time for those who belong in Big Church. No distractions please. Or so they thought.

But the disciples got the message of the gospel wrong. Jesus flipped the religion on its head. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14). Jesus was saying that the church doesn’t belong to all the cranky, self-righteous people. The church, the kingdom of God belongs to the children! How can this be? The babies don’t vote, tithe, or lead Sunday school classes!

Well it all goes back to our understanding of salvation. According to the scriptures, crying babysalvation is a free gift of God. Our Lord saves us not because we were able to focus on the sermon for 50 straight years, not because we earned our 100th Sunday School Pen, and not because we tithed 3% of our income for the last 60 years. God saves us by his grace. He saves us not because of works that we have done but because of his love (Eph. 2:8-9). And because God is loving and merciful, he saves little babies and children that die. (For a full look at how this happens, see my blog Onesies: the doctrine of salvation.) As John MacArthur wrote:

The salvation of young children…is a deathblow to any form of legalism, since such children obviously can do nothing to merit salvation.

In a since the disciples were right. The little children could offer nothing to the kingdom of God. But they missed was the fact that they too could offer nothing to the kingdom of God. If we view children as a nuisance, as a bother, or as an unwanted distraction, we need to check our hearts for pride. We need to ask: “Are we impressed with what we and our church is offering to God? Do we think ourselves as being more worthy and deserving than little babies? Have we forgotten that we add nothing to our salvation?” And then, we need to welcome the little babies like Jesus did. We need to be glad that they are with us.

At the end of the day, the church does not belong to the senior adults. Is also is not supposed to be the millennials’ new coffee house. The church belongs to those who are trusting in Christ alone for their salvation. The church belongs to those who have been saved by grace. As a result of God’s mercy, there will be more crying babies in heaven than self-righteous old ladies. Shouldn’t our churches reflect heaven?

 

Why They Leave Jesus

There is perhaps nothing as discouraging as watching men and women walk away from the faith they once claimed. Jesus was betrayed by Judas. Paul was wounded by Demus. And, we are hurt by those whom we once consider our spiritual sisters and brothers.

Why Do People Leave The Church?

walking -freeAs a preschool and children’s pastor, I have read countless studies examining why people leave church. A host of reasons are offered to explain the exit of once faithful kids, youth, and adults, ranging from poor teaching to lack of organizational vision. I have even weighed into the discussion with several blogs:  Sunday School is Broken?, Successful Failures, and Don’t Be Kid Focused.   And while it’s good and healthy for us and for our churches to constantly evaluate what we are doing and what we are saying, we don’t have to employ a church strategist to figure our why people walk away from the gospel. The scriptures clearly tell us that men and women walk away from the people of God because they are unredeemed. Ultimately, the leave not because of our failure. They leave because of their failure to embrace the gospel.

In I John 2:19-20, we read

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.

The scriptures are very clear. People are known by their actions. While actions do not save, they reveal the loves and desires of the heart. Those who do not love God will be greedy, will be overly focused on money, will lack self-control (esp. sexually,) will constantly stir up drama, and will be prideful, boasting in their goodness (2 Timothy 3:1-5). They may appear godly, showing up to church, serving on mission teams, and occasionally tithing, but their day-to-day actions reveal that they serve a master other than Jesus.  As I John 2:4,6 says, “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walled.” And when people leave the faith, they are have not taken a new path. They have simply revealed what path they have been on all along. Walking away from the faith is simply the most demonstrative step they can take. And now, they’ve taken it.

So what do we do? How do we respond to those who walk away?

What Do We Do?

We grieve, we rejoice, we love, and we pray.

First, we grieve. We mourn the fact that a soul is lost an under judgement. Sin is death. We should desire for all to be free from its damming power.

Next, we rejoice. Christ came to save sinners. Only those who realize that they are not saved and can realize that they need a savior. I would rather have a man leave the church, knowing he does not love Jesus than sit in the pew everyday thinking himself saved while he was speeding off to hell. Jesus came to save the sick and the hurting. The man who knows he is not saved is closer to this category, than the religious Pharisees who think their Sunday school pin impresses God.

Third, we loving present the gospel. If Mathew 18 makes anything clear, it is this: we are to patiently love those in sin. We are to go to them, we are to care for them, we are to tell them the gospel over and over again, hoping that they will believe.

And lastly, we  pray. When people walk away from the gospel, things are gloomy. But while it is impossible for us to change people and impossible for us to reason them back to Jesus, nothing is impossible with God. He can and does often save the most unsavable persons. Pray.

While it is not surprising, it is distressing to watch people walk away from Jesus. But it is never hopeless.

Have you seen a friend leave the faith? How did you and/or your church handle it?

Can We Trade Church For Travel Ball?

trade blogIt’s here! Travel Ball! Families with young kids will increasingly be spending their weekends eating fast food, sleeping in bug infested motels, and getting sun burned as they sit on hot metal bleachers! Oh the life! Not too surprisingly, travel ball often requires families to miss church from time to time. This is nothing new. But the trend of bloggers justifying such excursions with biblical language is an unexpected twist that we should stop and consider.

It’s Ok To Skip?

The arguments for skipping church go something like this. My daughter’s coaches pray before every game. As she plays, she learns teamwork, how to be an encourager, how to overcome adversity through Christ, and she gets tons of opportunities to share about Jesus. Moreover, all the travel provides our family with quality time together. Surely an event covered in prayer that teaches our kids tons of godly life lessons must be a good thing. Thus, parents and kids should not feel bad about skipping church. Essentially they are still doing the Lord’s work.

I have personally witnessed the benefits of sports. God used baseball to humble me and to expose many bad attitudes in my heart. And today, my exploits on the baseball diamond continue to supply my sermons with helpful analogies. Positively, sports teach kids leadership and relationship skills. Because God created sports, they can and should be used to advance his kingdom.

Dress Shoes or Cleats?

But the question still remains. Should the diamond be allowed to replace the pew? Is this a good trade?

To answer this question, we have to determine the purpose of church. Why do we go to church?

Biblically speaking, the church exists so that the people of God can display “God’s glory and wisdom” (Dever). The church accomplishes it mission using a three pronged approach. First, People go to church to worship God together through hymns, the preached word, and prayer (Col 3:16). As people glorify God, they grow in their knowledge and understanding of Jesus. Second, people worship together to encourage and edify the body of Christ (Heb 10:25). They main way people learn to live out the gospel is by being around other believers. And lastly, the church comes together to demonstrate the love of God to the lost and dying world (John 13:35). What should make the gospel compelling to the outside our church doors is how Christians care for each other. As the song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

Don’t Skip?

When we skip church, we are skipping out on our chance to grow in knowledge of God, to be encouraged by our bothers and sisters, and to demonstrate the love of Christ to the world. What do we what do we get in return for swapping dress shoes for cleats? We get a short prayer, valuable life lessons, and some quality family time. None of these things are bad. But, they are not a substitute for the church. This swap is the spiritual equivalent of the trade that sent John Smoltz to Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander. Yeah, the Detroit Tigers will not be celebrating Mr. Alexander’s election to the Baseball Hall Of Fame anytime soon.

If we consistently skip church, our lives will suffer. We will become more stressed, will struggle more with sin, and we will become a poorer witness. As Jesus says, we do not survive on life lessons but on “everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3). To know God well, we must spend time with his bride, the church. There is not substitute for the church.  As Thom Rhainer writes,

Corporate worship is not one option among many. It should be a consistent and persistent practice of all believers.

Travel Ball is not evil. But it can never take the place of the church. Are you ready to treasure the Bride of Christ?