Absolutely NO Children Allowed; We’re Worshiping Here

Perhaps you’ve read about this incident on FaceBook. It first appeared on January 21, 2015 at a blog called “Pajama Pages.”

Last Sunday morning, Connor Shaw, the former USC Gamecocks quarterback and current Cleveland Browns backup quarterback, tried to attend a NewSpring service with his family, but found that NewSpring’s “children bouncers” (their term) prohibited his children from entering the auditorium with him.

He wasn’t impressed, and said so on Twitter:300x300xDot_not_touch-300x300.png.pagespeed.ic.lwg19gt7nx

Me & my wife were told we can’t go to congregation with our daughter. Too young?!? Don’t think He would approve ‪@newspring Matthew18:1-3

(Read the entire piece here).

 

“New Spring” refers to New Spring Church, a multi-campus group in South Carolina, led by controversial pastor Perry Noble. This is not a post intended to bash Perry Noble or New Spring Church, although I certainly could spend some time on our differences. No, it is my intent to bash a heinous and unbiblical policy being followed (and forcefully, according to Pajama Pages.

 

It is contrary to God’s Word to forcibly separate worshiping families. Throughout God’s Word we see pictures of the generations worshiping together. Where were the children during the feeding of the 5,000? There were elders and children and those “nursing at the breast” at the sacred assembly we read about in Joel 2:15-16. No need for a full Biblical exposition. You can find that in Children in Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship.

 

This separation of families is what was done in the Soviet Union and its satellites. This is a practice long-associated with cults. It should not be practiced in the church. A separate “cry room” may be necessary. A changing room for diapers and other issues is fine. Even a voluntary opportunity for families to spend some time apart.  It should be the goal of every congregation, however,  to foster an atmosphere in which families can worship together. It won’t always be easy. It won’t always be fun. In the end, however, it will be rewarding as we train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the LORD.

What’s Your Sign?

Back in the 1970s and ‘80s a popular pick-up line was, “What’s your sign?” It was intended as a sort of icebreaker, something to say to someone you’d like to get to know. It referred to signs of the zodiac and astrology, which were quite trendy in popular culture at that time (the “Age of Aquarius” and all that).th-2

I often told congregations at that time that a good and proper answer would be, “I was born under the sign of the covenant.” I know that this answer stopped many an unwanted advance. (For a discussion of Biblical covenants go here.)

Actually there are many signs of the covenant. Here are just a few:

  • The Sabbath is a sign of God’s covenant faithfulness.

As we continue in our look at Biblical sabbath, we need to recognize that the sabbath is a sign of the Covenant. In Exodus 31:13 God says “This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so that you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” He is holy, therefore only He can make us holy.

In the church we employ certain signs and symbols. Baptism symbolizes our dying in Him and becoming a new creation. The LORD’s Supper indicates that He shed His blood that we might have communion with Him. The Sabbath is a sign that the people who follow it are God’s people; a people set apart, made holy.

Let us not disdain the Sabbath.

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Next week we will look at the fact that Sabbath-keeping is not a mere suggestion.

 

Keeping it Holy

This morning my wife and I were reading in Numbers, chapter 15. Verses 32-36 treat the topic of Sabbath. As is our habit, we followed up on some of the cross- references. There are many. The idea of Sabbath is important to God. Unfortunately, it does not seem nearly so important to man.

thThe origin of the Hebrew sabbat is uncertain, but it seems to have derived from the verb sabat, meaning to stop, to cease, or to keep. Its theological meaning is rooted in God’s rest following the six days of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). The meaning of the Sabbath can be found in several places. Exodus 20:8-11 tells us this:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

This passage makes a clear connection between the Sabbath day and the seventh day on which God the Creator rested. Sabbath observance therefore involves the affirmation that God is Creator and Sustainer of the world. In the New Testament, believers found it appropriate to use the day of Resurrection as the day of Sabbath rest and worship. (See Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).

To “remember the Sabbath” meant that the Jew identified the seven-day-a-week rhythm of life as belonging to the Creator. If the Creator stopped his creative activity on the seventh day, then those who share in his creative work must do the same. Sabbath contravenes any pride that may accompany human mastery and manipulation of God’s creation. In ceasing from labor we are reminded of our true status as dependent beings, of the God who cares for and sustains all his creatures, and of the world as a reality belonging ultimately to God.

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In the next few entries, we’ll look at several aspects of the Sabbath. In the meantime, I’d be interested in seeing YOUR ideas on Sabbath. What does it mean to you? Does it require anything of us? On what day should it be observed?

 

A Sense of the Sacred

What do you call the venue at which your congregation meets for worship? To some it’s an auditorium. Others refer to this place as “the theater,” or the “assembly hall,” or even “the gym.” To me, it’s the sanctuary.

A sanctuary need not be a marvel in Christian architecture. It can be a humble space rented from a school or community building. It can be in a storefront or a social club’s meeting room. It may also be a large, beautiful cathedral. The point of the term “sanctuary” is not the surroundings, but its use.

The word can be defined thusly,

th-2Sanctuary is a word derived from the Latin sanctuarium, which is like most words ending in -arium, a container for keeping something in – in this case holy things or perhaps holy people, sancta or sancti. The meaning was extended to places of holiness or safety. (Wikipedia).

A sanctuary is a container, it holds something. Ideally, what it enfolds is Christian believers filled with awe.

Words have meaning. If we call the place in which we meet for worship a gym, it will be treated like a gym. If we think of that space as a theater, then theatrics probably happen there. But, what happens when we enter the sanctuary?

In Psalm 73, Asaph is bemoaning his fate. He sees himself as the pure and righteous, yet those all around who cheat and lie and mock God are getting fat (in a good way). Then this, in verse 17: “…until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” It was in the sanctuary that Asaph encountered the living God. It was there that he discerned the truth about His relationship with God. He wrote:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
    you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    that I may tell of all your works.

These are the things we should hear and have reinforced in the sanctuary, that place of refuge and safety and reverence.

As we enter the house of worship, we should have a sense of the sacred. And we must pass this awe on to the next generation. In Psalm 78, this same Asaph writes,

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,  and the wonders that he has done.

Hide what? The glories of God! No, we want to expose them.

Certainly these lessons are to be taught at home, by believing parents. Let us not neglect, however, to teach the children the awe, the majesty of God in the setting of corporate worship.

I recently came across a blog post (actually, my wife sent it to me) that explains rather nicely what we should be conveying to the next generation regarding the sanctuary – and what we should avoid. Here’s a quote from that essay.

We have spent so much time and effort trying to make Church appealing to children by making it feel like home or school, creating spaces for them where they can sit apart and do their “kid” thing. Spaces where they feel welcomed in their childishness and “at home”. But we have been mistaken.

Because, first, we do not need to make children welcome in Church. By the very nature of the fact that is a Church founded by Jesus, who called the children to Himself, they are welcomed. We call a Church “the 

Second, we are not meant to feel at home at Church, at least not in the sense that we feel comfortable behaving the way we do at home while at Church. Stepping into Church should make us exhale with wonder. We should be aware that our surroundings have changed when we entered those doors. It should bring us to quiet attention. It should bring us to our knees. And our children should feel the same way. They may not respond to it in the way that we do as adults, but a child should have the sense of quiet hush that is adoration when he enters a Church. (Let’s Give Our Kids a Sense of the Sacred)

These are some of the points Sandra and I make in the book Children in Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship. Allow me to boldly suggest that this be your first book purchase of this new year. Teach your children well. Teach them the glorious deeds of the LORD and His might, and the wonders He has done.