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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Monday, June 04, 2012
Sunday School vs. Common Service.
I write today about something that is very close to my heart - Sunday School. 

In our assembly, we have (for years) been blessed by the efforts of a selfless group of saints who have taken up the mantel of supplying instruction to our children through our weekly Sunday School program.  These do not imagine themselves to be, nor do we as a congregation imagine themselves to be, supplanting the role of parental instruction - but recognize their ministry as augmenting the ministry of each parent.

In some congregations, I expect that the Sunday School teachers imagine themselves as "assisting" parents in this duty - which is tragic in that they misunderstand what it is that they are doing, but worse than this are those teachers or those programs which go so far as to imagine themselves as "directing" the parents in what they ought to be teaching their children.

Which is to say that while I am happy to have my own children in a Sunday School program, it is only because the program that they are in has not tried to supplant anything else - but has understood itself to be an augmentation to the instruction that is taking place in the Christian home.

I tell you the truth - I haven't sat down with a flannel-graph to teach my children about Noah and the ark, or David and Goliath.  I don't have them color bible pictures at home, nor do I make them memorize verses (except in Greek, when I am teaching them biblical Greek).  All my instruction is informal - over a meal, or as we sit.  I instruct them by talking to them about what I believe.  I put what I believe into practice in my parenting, explaining to them how my decisions to correct, or to show mercy, or to decide between the left of the right, are not being arbitrarily made, but are subject to my having searched out the will of God.  I take them with me when I go and do a good work, and explain to them that what I do I do because I love God, and the desire to honor provokes me.  When I sin against them, I confess it to them, and ask for their forgiveness - and I expect them to do the same to another.  When in some momentary lapse I behave in a carnal way - I do not justify it, but in a moment of spiritual sobriety I use my failures to teach them that it is never to late to turn from sin. 

We have tried to have a "family altar" or targeted bible studies - but, these haven't worked for us.  Instead we read the bible, both together, and independently - we talk about what the bible means, and how to be Christians in the way that God intends.  We talk about how religion can destroy rather than build faith, we warn them, we encourage them, we correct them, we love them.

I am grateful that others in my congregation nurture my children spiritually - but I do not imagine for one moment that this extra stuff can take the place of my instruction, nor do I imagine it can take the place of gathering together as believers.

I am happy to send my little ones off to Sunday School - as long as Sunday School doesn't supplant their gathering with the whole of the church.  The moment a church sequesters some of its own in one place while the rest meet in another - the church has lost sight of what it means to gather together.

You see, it -is- nice to have programs, and to memorize bible verses, and to color and to sing and to play, and to study at a level that someone else has decided is age appropriate; but for all its pregnant merit (and danger), that is =not= gathering with the church.

I don't when it became vogue to forget that we are commanded to gather together in a group, or when someone decided that this meant we all had to be in the same building, but not necessarily together - that some could be here doing "age appropriate things" and some over there doing "age appropriate things" - and that what really mattered is that whatever "age appropriate things" were being done it was okay and good because these things were "Christian" things - bible study, singing, etc.etc.   Well I am here to say that forgoing what is commanded in order to pursue what seems productive is the very thing that is wrong with the way many Christians "do church".

Sometimes I marvel at the blindness in the church - at how otherwise good and gentle believers fight with tooth and nail to hold onto something that is worldly in origin, and flies in the face of God's commands.  They embrace the teaching of men over the teaching of God, and make their own practices holy in their eyes, and the voice of objection strikes them as shrill, loveless - using words like "traditional" as pejoratives.

Ask me if I will be shuffling my children out of the common gathering and into age segregated classrooms for Christian instruction, and I will tell you that it isn't going to happen so long as the Spirit gives me breath.  Sunday school is a good thing, as long as it is an addendum, and does not supplant the common gathering.

God help this generation. 
posted by Daniel @ 11:37 AM  
  • At 7:19 PM, June 04, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In our church, they started a new approach about a year ago, wherein families are all together for the common service for the first 30 to 40 minutes of worship, then the children are allowed (not mandated) to attend a separate "children's church" while the pastor preaches his sermon. Generally, most children leave because their service actually started at 10 am (an hour prior to the start of our worship service), when their main lesson was taught, and the adults were in Sunday School. During the last half hour of the adult service when the pastor is preaching, the kids usually go outside to play. My only concern about this was that any parents or families with kids who come only to the 11 am service will have their children miss the lesson, since it was taught to the children at their 10 am gathering.

    One thing that our church instituted at the same time is that all age groups are taught the same lessons from morning through the evening on Sundays. That is, our pastor is now preaching through the book of Mark. Although our adult Sunday School is following a different book (Leviticus - don't know why), the rest of the youth and children are also learning what the adults are learning in the pastor's sermon (when the kids are dismissed for children's church). Sunday evenings, we regather for Discipleship wherein the women are in groups and the men are in a separate area - children and youth likewise. Each group discusses the morning sermon or teaching on the same passages, then we come together an hour later for worship and further preaching for another hour. I think having the same passages taught even if in different areas for different times is really a great idea - as it provides an opportunity for the family to discuss what they're learning at home that day and throughout the week.

  • At 11:08 AM, June 07, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    Anon - this has little to do with your comment, except insofar as I read 30-40 minutes of "worship" and was moved to express an opinion on the what I think is both a common and (unfortunately) inappropriate use of the word.

    The Greek word in the NT (translated as worship) refers to glorifying God through actively surrendering our will to His. What our knee does in bowing down before His glory, so our hearts do in true worship. Unless our will is surrendered to God nothing we do is worship, and when our will is surrendered to God in what we do, then whatever we are doing is worship.

    It is because I understand what worship is supposed to be that I concerned about the way the word, "worship" is being used by modern evangelicals. Often the word is coupled with "praise" so that "praise and worship" have become synonymous with congregational singing.

    We should be praising God and worshipping Him when we sing together as a congregation. What we sing should exalt Him, whether it be because the words proclaim His glory, or whether they encourage us in the Lord, or provide instruction - whatever builds up the body of Christ increases His glory in the world, and when it is done with the intent of doing this it is rightly understood to be worship.

    The problem I have is that using the term "worship" as a synonym for congregational singing tends to exalt congregational singing to a place above other forms of worship. It is just as much an act of worship for the congregation to pray than it is for them to sing; yet how many Sunday Services do you imagine set aside an half hour to forty five minutes for congregational prayer on Sunday? It is just as much an act of worship to encourage one another in the Lord, but how many Sunday Services set aside time for individuals to come and edify the body with personal testimonies and words of encouragement. It is just as much an act of worship, and perhaps moreso because scripture mandates it as part of our gathering, to spend time publically reading the scriptures, and I am not talking about someone reading the passage the pastor intends to preach on - I am talking about reading the scriptures to the congregation as an act of (prescribed) worship?

    Yet it is congregational singing that often makes up a full half of the typical, evangelical Sunday service - why do we do that? Because the other evangelical churches do; but we are emboldened to follow suit because we have give the practice a holy label: worship.

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