Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kids and Church

Well if no one else is going to post here, I'll just have to do all the hard work myself. Ya bunch of slackers.

The last post was about Men and Church. I was thinking this morning about kids and church.

A couple of months ago, I watched the documentary "Jesus Camp." It had been in my Blockbuster online rental queue for quite some time, because I had heard about it, and I was really curious. The film was nominated for a number of awards, and it stirred up a lot of feelings in people, mostly because it painted a fairly scary portrait of a group of "evangelical Christians" and the ways they brainwash children into become political soldiers of God.

Or something like that. Either way, some of the footage really made me wince.

I even had a short argument on the IMDB message boards about whether the film really documents "evangelicals," or a tiny subset of pentacostals. But that's not really the point here.

My question is this: Within our churches and homes, do we teach our children Bible stories and blind faith, or do we teach them Bible stories and critical thinking skills?

For me, I know that the common thread growing up was that kids would attend church until they were no longer forced to go by their parents. This often happened sometime between the ages of 15-17. By that point, a lot of my friends had stopped going to church, except for two groups:

  1. Those that were Catholic, and going to church was a ritual and tradition, or,
  2. The ones who had a "cool" youth group, where the popular kids and cute girls would hang out.
Other than that, a lot of teenagers weren't going to church. Why not? Did the ones that had been raised in the church not have a solid foundation already built?

In "Jesus Camp," much of the story centers on two kids, ages 9 and 12. And both of them seemed to be totally committed to God, to the point where the 12-year old mulleted boy would get up in front of a room to preach, and the 9-year old girl would happily evangelize strangers on the street because she said the Holy Spirit told her to. The movie is chock full of children speaking in tongues (it's pretty much mandatory), children weeping and shaking with the Holy Spirit, and children praying in front of a life-size cardboard cutout of George W. Bush (go ahead, laugh a little nervous snicker at the last one).

While I admired a 12-year old kid that would have the guts to preach to a room full of other kids, some of the kids -- and most of the parents -- disturbed me just a little.

Obviously, the children in this film are miles apart from most of our own children.



I'd like to think that I'm not "brainwashing" my children. I'd like to think that I can teach them and introduce them to Jesus, and that they'll be able to develop a relationship with Him of their own choosing (and His) if and when they desire. I'd like to think that as my kids get older, I will prepare them for the fact that these Bible stories that we read at night aren't taken as fact by many of the people they will encounter later in life.

I'd also like to think that the majority of teaching will be done by me and my wife in our home. But realistically, my kids, although young, are at church a great deal. Multiple times per week, quite often. Sure, right now it's coloring pictures, doing crafts, singing songs, and listening to stories. My kids are young, but when I get home with my 5-year old daughter, she can recite the entire story -- with details! -- that she heard in class about Peter being in prison and an angel coming to let him out.

So the truth is, we entrust a great deal of our children's learning to people at church. And I trust those people, even (for the most part) the ones that I don't know. I don't feel like we are brainwashing our children. We teach them the Truth, we teach them about Jesus' love, and as they get older, they have the free will to accept or reject it.

Yet two things still trouble me. One, if The Church (in the broadest sense) is doing it right, why do so many of those kids reject that truth as they get older? And secondly, do "outsiders" look at what we do as indoctrination? As brainwashing?

While it may not truly matter what those people think, might they have a point?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Men and Church

Is much of today's "church" geared towards women, and alienating men? Some articles and quotes for discussion...

A few posts from the Church for Men website:

    Some of the latest worship songs border on the erotic... When I saw the phrases “moving to the rhythm” and “spread wide” I just about fainted. Lyrics like these leave little doubt: today’s praise music targets love-starved women. (Gals buy about 75% of the praise and worship CDs) I don't know any man who follows Christ for his "intoxicating fragrance."
I'm so used to today's "praise songs" that I barely notice this anymore. But in contemporary praise music, the tone of Christ as our "lover" rather than our "leader" is pretty obvious when you compare it to the masculine hymns of old. (And yes, I just made myself sound like an old fuddy-duddy... I actually generally prefer newer upbeat praise songs to old hymns, but I understand the point of the author.)

Also see the great article, "Why Men Flock to Islam."

    Islam’s unbending moral code, its five strict pillars and even its reputation for ferocity are attractive to men at a gut level. A man thinks, “Here is a faith that’s going to hold me to a higher standard. Men are dying for this.” Furthermore, Islam appeals to the kind of man who is repulsed by the soft, accepting and relational faith pushed in many churches today.
If you don't have time to read the article, the author talks a bit about how our churches might be able to "deliver" for men without oppressing women in the process. And some might find number one interesting:

    1. A clear mission for every church. Most church mission statements are rambling and non-specific. Men are drawn to clarity and brevity. If they’re going to give up their weekend, they want to know why.
There is a serious gender gap in our churches... The statistics show that churches are comprised of 61% women and 39% men. And a lot of the men that DO attend, do so because their wives tell them to. They are unaffected.

Jesus was a magnet to men. What is it about modern churchianity Christianity that is driving men away?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Epicurean Paradox

Continuing last night's discussion of the problem of evil (which has been continuing for the last few thousand years, I suppose)...

The Wikipedia article on the subject is an interesting read.

I'm actually only about halfway through digesting the article, but hopefully I'll have time tomomrrow to finish it up.

Were there any deep thoughts on the subject last night after I left?

Friday, May 11, 2007

"We as Christians spend too much time... devising game plans and strategies for reaching our 'opponents'."

Slightly off our usual Monday-night topics, but there is a fascinating post on the xxxchurch blog about relational evangelism...


Craig Gross and Ron Jeremy travel together often on their "Porn Debate" tour. They are friends. They eat together, spend time together, and have a genuine friendship. Read the post, it's just a very interesting take on whether our attempts to build relationships with the lost is sometimes like a "give-and-take" trade agreement.

A key sentence towards the end:

    Ron Jeremy can not be an opponent. He must be a friend, and friends share friends and invite each other into their world.
I've heard stories from more than one friend about times they have delved a bit deeper into the "sinners" world to reach the lost. Sometimes deep enough so that they may not even be comfortable talking about it in "church," because they know there would be a backlash.

We know that Jesus ate and established relationships with many so-called "sinners," and he did so without sinning.

How deep could you go? Does it feel like a "trade agreement" sometimes?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What Is Church?

What is church?

What should church be? How closely are we supposed to follow the model of the early New Testament church?

The church in Acts is vastly different from the church of today. Yet the first-century church in Acts is also often upheld as a shining example of what and how we are supposed to be.

But is that what God truly intended? Did he want us to try to match them exactly, to copycat what they had done? Or did he expect 2000 years of enormous social, cultural and technological change to form a church of a different type?

From my narrow mindset (Midwestern American middle-class Christian white male... You can't get much more whitebread and narrow-scope than that), I see a lot of churches that have got it wrong, and a lot of churches that seem to have it right.

I see house churches that seem to have it right.

I see house churches that are obviously completely misguided.

I see megachurches that seem to have it right.

I see megachurches that are obviously completely misguided.

Does size matter? Is numerical growth a key indicator of the health and "Godliness" of a church?

What if someday, we learn that we've got it all wrong? What we are doing isn't really what God even had in mind in the first place?

What does God expect of his church?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


This blog is a holding place for further discussion, debate, argument, screaming, shouting, ponderings, deliberation, meditation, examination, consideration, and the occasional link or article to go along with what we discuss on Monday nights.

Caffeine: A stimulant to the nervous system and heart.

Ecclesiology: The study of the theology associated with the nature, mission, constitution, and functions of a church.