Families Together at Sunday Worship

Pastor John Piper and his wife Noel have some very helpful suggestions for families to worship together on Sunday mornings. By the time their kids were four years old, the Pipers had their children participating in “big church” with the rest of the family. They do not believe that “children’s church” is helpful at all for children in the long-run, and I agree. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

‘Something seems wrong when parents want to take their children in the formative years and put them with other children and other adults to form their attitude and behavior in worship. Parents should be jealous to model for their children the tremendous value they put on reverence in the presence of Almighty God. . .

‘Children can be taught in the first five years of life to obey their father and mother when they say, “Sit still and be quiet.” Parents’ helplessness to control their children should not be solved by alternative services but by a renewal of discipline in the home. . .

‘We do not believe that children who have been in children’s church for several years between the ages of 6 and 12 will be more inclined or better trained to enjoy worship than if they had spent those years at the side of their parents. In fact, the opposite is probably the case. . .

‘It will probably be harder to acclimate a 10– or 12-year-old to a new worship service than a 5– or 6-year-old. The cement is much less wet, and vast possibilities of shaping the impulses of the heart are gone. . .

‘By the time they are four years old, our children assume that they’ll be at all the regular weekly services with us.’

You will find that the article contains much more practical advice on how to get the family together for worship on Sundays. So I highly recommend that you check out the rest of the article.

“The Family: Together in God’s Presence” – by John and Noel Piper (DesiringGod.org)

66 Responses to Families Together at Sunday Worship

  1. Barry March 11, 2008 at 12:17 am #

    Denny,
    Great post. I am indeed a jealous father who wants to have my boys learn from me what worship is, and how important it is for us to worship together as a family. Piper is right that it is a bit ridiculous in one sense to ship them off to be with other children, but I would add something else: it fragments the family at the high point of the week: corporate worship.

    This is immensely helpful and timely. I hope that churches soon realize that a quiet worship service, devoid of children, is not what’s important. Did we have children’s church at FBC DeR? I recall being in “big church” as a kid, and getting the what-for when I didn’t sit still and listen.

    Barry

  2. Josh Orr March 11, 2008 at 2:39 am #

    I couldn’t agree more. Its so important that children be involved in worship with the family. I especially appreciate his comment on bringing back discipline at home. Its good to know that there are parents that expect to raise their own children not a 24 year old children’s minister.

  3. Bryan L March 11, 2008 at 7:37 am #

    I actually agree in part with Piper. But I wondered is he talking about during the sermon too? Or is it just the worship time meaning when we sing songs and pray?

  4. Denny Burk March 11, 2008 at 7:48 am #

    Barry,

    Oh, yes. I remember. My dad had a look that he could give me from the choir loft that would put the fear of God in me. Talk about worship!

    Bryan,

    Piper is talking about the whole service, sermon included.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  5. Barry March 11, 2008 at 9:24 am #

    Denny,
    I remember once when my mom was in the choir loft, my dad was on the platform (back when they made all the ministers sit up there the whole time) and my brother and I were, against our wills, sitting on the front row with all of the deacons. Well, we did what little boys sometimes do–were goofing off and sort of fighting right there on the front row during the sermon. My mom gave us “the look,” but for some reason, the fear did not stay with us. We continued to goof off until my mom, during the sermon, stood up in the choir loft, excused herself, and marched down across the stage, right beside Bro. Emory, down the steps, to the front row, and right between my brother and me. She then proceeded to pinch the ever-loving fire out of us. What she wanted to do was beat us senseless. That had to wait till we got home. Whew. That was 25 years ago and I remember the whole thing. I think she and my dad took turns spanking us–when one got tired the other took over, then they’d switch back. We deserved it, to be sure.

    Good times!
    Barry

  6. Joshua March 11, 2008 at 9:38 am #

    I agree with his statement. However I’d like to add, that kids do need to be around kids. When I was a kid we’d go to “Sunday School” then I’d sit through the entire worship service with my parents afterward. That way, they got their time with just adults, and digging into God’s word, and I got to learn about Jesus in fun, kid ways. Then we as a family would go to “big church” and sit through the service. Since I was in children’s choir, I didn’t have a terrible problem sitting for that long, as long as I could draw on my bulletin and keep quiet. :p

  7. Denny Burk March 11, 2008 at 9:40 am #

    Ha! I’m laughing out loud!

  8. Ben R March 11, 2008 at 9:44 am #

    For what it’s worth, I agree with Piper on this one, too, but have a couple of points to add.

    First, the congregation must be gracious in allowing parents to train their children to sit quietly in the service and pay attention to what is going on. Too many churches I have been to ask parents of even mildly distracting children to take their children to the provided child care. In other words, Piper should be advocating a “church” philosophy and not just a “parental” philosophy on the training of children.

    Second, this requires parents to make a priority call in their service to the kingdom. Many parents in the church I attend are sooo busy on Sunday morning that they simply cannot keep any sort of eye on their kids, and therefore put them in the nursery. Barry talked about fractured families on Sunday morning, but then went on to insinuate that he sat alone during a number of services. As a child, I did, too. For my family, Sunday morning is the most fractured time of the week – we all go different directions. Parents need to give up certain programs, for a time, in order to train their children in the significance of worship. After some measure of discipline is in place, they can then go back to the choir, but that initial year of training is more important than choir. Too many in church administration don’t seem to care about this. So once again, this needs to be a priority set for the parent as well as an expectation set by the church.

  9. JB March 11, 2008 at 10:14 am #

    Is it fair to assume that you will be contacting your pastor and helping him work out exactly when you are going to end this distracting practice at your church?

    As with all things there must be balance. However, I sat in church every Sunday with my parents. I’ve been pinched, nudged and hauled out to the parking lot for a thrashing.

    In spite of all this, I can remember essentially nothing from my early days in church, except for the fact that ‘invitations’ went on forever.

    My oldest goes to Children’s church sometimes and sits with my wife sometimes (I’m the idiot preaching). I ask him what he learned and he is obviously clueless. Yet, when I quiz him regarding Children’s church he always has an answer that is at least semi-intelligent. I think a little of both is good.

    Your thoughts?

  10. Ray Van Neste March 11, 2008 at 10:31 am #

    I’m late to the conversation, but I’ll join in and say this is basically our practice as well. Starting at age 4 children begin coming to corporate worship. We always begin ours gradually bringing them in for the first half of the service for about 6 months or so before having them there ‘full time.’ It is work, but I tell parents that we need to see that corporate worship is not just about me gettign what I need. When we are in the process of bringing in a new little one I tell myself to expect to get a little less from various parts of the service while I engage in the important work of teaching one of my children how to sit quietly and attentively through a service. I believe I am giving up something now for future benefits that will far outweigh the cost.

  11. Nace March 11, 2008 at 10:40 am #

    Hey fellas,

    Me too with the memories therefore I disagree with Piper on this one. Barry, nothing says “Praise God” like a giant whelp from mom. I think mine got me near the arm pit when I was in REAL trouble. I had to overcome the fact I got ZERO from the Sunday AM hour when I was on my own. It sounds good but the impact is missing. The importance of teaching worship in the home is much more important than that hour on Sunday. I choose to keep that hurdle of the gospel away from my kids.

  12. Benjamin A March 11, 2008 at 11:09 am #

    I also agree with Piper on this issue, to a certain degree. There are some assumptions, held by this position that some individuals coming into the church may not appreciate to the same degree as others. While my family attends church on Sunday, we are also attending with our church ‘family’. To say a child must be by their parents’ side or the family is divided just doesn’t seem reasonable to me. Sunday morning is a time when we are all exposed to the ‘family of God’. They are with family on Sunday morning. Remember the old hymn, ‘I’m so glad, I’m apart, of the family of God….”. Children’s church may play an important role for some children, whose parents are not actively discipling/educating their kids at home. Many if not most parents in the average church are not actively discipling/educating their children during the week, so to assume they will do this on Sunday morning during the service is not realistic. It may be idealistic, but not realistic in every case.
    The Pipers are an exception to the rule, as are many of you who do actively train and educate your children during the week at home. But you do not make up the norm. Ideally, all ministries of the church (children/student) would simply be reinforcing what is happening in the home, but for most kids (children/students) what they get on Sunday morning (Sunday School/Children’s Church/Youth Meeting) is the only active Christian education/discipleship they are getting anywhere. Let’s face the facts, most ‘Christian’ parents are not educating their children at home in the scriptures.
    So when the average family comes to your church and realizes the standard (all children with you during service), most of them will simply leave and find a church home that has options for them as a family. It seems to me it would be better to have options for families, which allows the leadership a chance to educate/disciple/ equip these families to the place where they decide that having their children with them during the service is the better way for their family as a part of a more holistic understanding of their parental discipleship/education responsibility.

  13. BrianW March 11, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    Thankfully, nobody (including Piper) is talking about this in legalistic terms. I don’t think there is “an answer” as to when and how old; the principle or value is “families worship together”. We provide age appropriate teaching during the sermon for 3-5 year-olds and one of my associate pastors teaches those children the same subject matter that I’m covering with everyone else (age appropriate, of course).

    I appreciate Ben’s comments especially, in that, this needs to be a church wide value and practice. It does no good to tell parents to keep their kids in the service but be impatient and inconsiderate to the challenges of parenting.

    At least for us, we have a host of non-Christians (and Christians, really) in our church who don’t share the same parenting principles that scripture offers so a church needs to be patient and aware that by keeping kids in the service, you might be asking for more than you bargain for.

  14. JB March 11, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    Thank you Nace. Thus far in all the nostalgic reflections of family worship all we come up with is discipline we experienced for not sitting still. Man, that’s a really profound spiritual experience.

    Can any of you honestly say that as a 6 year old you went to worship with your parents and came away with a sense of wonder regarding their reverential awe in worship. An appreciation for liturgy and responsive reading?

    Please, your memories are just like mine. You jammed paper into the little pencil holes in the pews and tried to get your fingers caught in the juice cup holders. You wondered why people in the choir wore robes when it was hot and assumed that it was normal for men to smoke between Sunday School and church.

    You were bored stiff and can more easily recall how many ceiling tiles were in the sanctuary or how dreadful Mrs. Jones’ hair looked than the sublime time you spent in worship with you parents.

    Again, I say, “your thoughts?”

  15. Benjamin A March 11, 2008 at 11:37 am #

    JB

    You said, “Can any of you honestly say that as a 6 year old you went to worship with your parents and came away with a sense of wonder regarding their reverential awe in worship. An appreciation for liturgy and responsive reading?”

    I don’t think this is anyone’s stated goal of having younger children with them during the service.

    Do you really believe all the adults in your worship service go home every week feeling the way you described above?
    Do you honestly feel that way every week?

    “… a sense of wonder regarding their reverential awe in worship. An appreciation for liturgy and responsive reading?”

    I don’t think the majority of adults in any church leaves weekly having those thoughts. Idealistic-yes! Realistic- no!

    Also, not everyone’s experience will be the same as you and Nace. I never got wacked by mom on Sunday mornings. And while I didn’t get a deep understanding of the scriptures from sitting in service, while in my 20’s, and still lost in sin, I did have an understanding of the gospel that came from somewhere. And I do believe the Lord used even that (especially that) in drawing my sinful heart to believing faith.

  16. JB March 11, 2008 at 12:39 pm #

    Benjamin,
    Good. I’m grateful that the Lord used that to draw you to himself.

    I was using and still am a thing called a sense of humor in my writing. Of course not everyone remembers every aspect of each service. Much like you can’t remember what you ate for breakfast. The important thing is that you ate and were nourished by it.

    For the love of Pete! Sit all of your kids beside you if that’s what you want. However, if you come to my church you will have a choice to send them to a great children’s church program. What you won’t see is me tolerating the intolerista parents, with their unvaccinated children by their sides,looking down upon all the ‘other’ parents who let their children go to children’s church.

    Remember, you should be laughing while you read. Honest – it won’t hurt.

  17. John March 11, 2008 at 12:58 pm #

    I have to go along with what JB said. Our children are worshiping God in Children’s Church–they are praising Him through song and they are hearing the Bible taught in a way that they can relate and comprehend.

    As a pastor I cannot preach to adults and children at the same time and on the same level–I am not saying the children don’t benefit from being there, but I do think my children learn more at our children’s church than they would listening to their dad preach.

    I grew up counting lights coloring in the o’s and then the p’s in the worship guide and wondering when the preacher was going to let us out. I have a ton of friends who also grew up in that same model who are no longer in church–they got out as soon as they could…will the new model change that? Not entirely, but I pray it will help us close the back door.

  18. JB March 11, 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    John, you are a genius.

  19. Benjamin A March 11, 2008 at 2:08 pm #

    JB

    “What you won’t see is me tolerating the intolerista parents, with their unvaccinated children by their sides,looking down upon all the ‘other’ parents who let their children go to children’s church.”

    Is this your idea of humor? Sounds a bit degrading to me. Not all parents who want to have their children with them are “intolerista”, have “unvaccinated children”, nor do they “look down up all …”.

    I’m not used to this type of humor; you will have to humor me a bit as I adjust to your style of engagement. My bad. I guess I haven’t known you long enough to know when you’re serious or not.

    And for the record, I too am in favor of offering parents options. If they choose to keep them with them, fine with me. And yes, don’t look down on others who choose to do differently (pride=sin). If parents choose to put their kids in children’s church, great. Maybe you have misunderstood me somewhere along the way.

    Re-read post #12 it may help.

  20. Benjamin A March 11, 2008 at 2:20 pm #

    John,

    JB thinking you’re a genius could prove to be an insult.
    Food for thought.
    Now that’s funny. At least I made myself laugh. Hope you are laughing too…

  21. JB March 11, 2008 at 2:28 pm #

    Benjamin we are in the same camp. Were we to see one another in person right now I’m sure that music would play in the background as we ran toward one another and joyfully embraced.

    When it comes to serious, you can usually guess that I am not.

    While you and I agree and a few others on this post as well. The initial point Denny made is that Children’s church is not useful. And on this point he is clearly NUTS.

    Thus far he has merely contented himself to pull the pin on this theology grenade. Were he a real man, he would humbly recant or at least enter the fray.

  22. Lucas Knisely March 11, 2008 at 3:08 pm #

    JB,

    You said: “The initial point Denny made is that Children’s church is not useful. And on this point he is clearly NUTS.</i

    I think it is important to remember that Denny said the words “in the long run”. What I have noticed that tends to happen, over time, as the age group increases, less is accomplished because it is harder to have a one size fits all children’s program. Once they are old enough to sit still and listen, it is good for their parents and them to hear the exact same message from the preacher. Not only will that give the family something to discuss over lunch, it will also stretch and challenge their young minds to grasp deep topics. And who better to help them through grasping the meat of God’s word than their parents?

    Growing up, the van ride home consisted of: “What did you learn, Lucas?” “Um, I learned about Joseph and his colorful coat.” “Yeah? What about it?” “Um… I dunno.

    Wouldn’t a better scenario to be, “What did you think of the Pastor’s message?” And then you are able to reinforce, explain, or answer questions about the sermon.

  23. JB March 11, 2008 at 3:22 pm #

    Any way you slice it, “in the long run” means that it has no real use in the present.

    What do you Baptists do in Children’s Church anyway? Teach your kids how to roll joints and play with Ouija boards?

    Crikey! Ours is structured to teach children biblical truth on their age level. Strange concept I know.

    Denny, stop sending out your minions to defend you. Crawl out from under your desk and respond.

  24. Lucas Knisely March 11, 2008 at 3:38 pm #

    JB,

    I’m not defending Denny, he is more than equipped. I am however trying to keep things fair by including the entire context of what Denny said. And I haven’t received my Denny Burk Minion Membership card yet… that $20 may have been used on Banner of Truth books!!

    And my church has a pretty cool children’s ministry that my wife helps out with. I’m not saying children’s church is bad, but I do agree that it can reach a plateau and that it would be more ideal to have older kids in the service with their parents.

  25. Paul March 11, 2008 at 3:45 pm #

    “What do you Baptists do in Children’s Church anyway? Teach your kids how to roll joints and play with Ouija boards?”

    I went to the wrong church growing up… 😛

    Anyway, can’t speak to any of you members of the warmongering Southern Baptists*, but at our church, outside of a nursery for the 1-3 year olds, our kids are expected to be in the main service right along side us. The way it should be.

    *Denny once said that he had no respect for the historic peace churches. As a mennonite, I am a member of one of those.

  26. Benjamin A March 11, 2008 at 3:48 pm #

    Lucas,

    You said, “Wouldn’t a better scenario to be, “What did you think of the Pastor’s message?” And then you are able to reinforce, explain, or answer questions about the sermon.”

    That would be a great scenario. My observation is that most parents themselves don’t seem to be talking about the pastor’s message on the way to lunch.

    This is why I believe this issue is best left on the parental level. For some kids, children’s church is the best if not only time during the week they get biblical instruction. When properly done, it has the promise of planting and watering the seed of the gospel in their hearts and lives.

    Would that all parents be engaged in the discipleship of their children; would that all children had parents like Mrs. Piper to sit with during Sunday service; To instruct them more fully in the ways of the Lord on the way to lunch; and every other day of their young lives. However, that’s not reality in the church.

  27. JB March 11, 2008 at 3:51 pm #

    For $20 you should get a case of those cards. Lucas, we are on the same page.
    Paul – What is an Amish guy doing on the computer?

    Denny- Thrice you have been called out to defend your increasingly pitiful position. Yet, you continue to cower in the basement of Criswell. I’m only 165 lbs., but I’m wiry! Come on baby!

  28. Brett March 11, 2008 at 4:01 pm #

    Mennonite and Amish are not the same thing bro

  29. JB March 11, 2008 at 4:06 pm #

    Your kidding? You mean the Mennonite woman to which I am married is not Amish? I have to get my money back.

  30. Paul March 11, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    JB,

    You’ll know your wife is Amish if she’s busy making furniture to sell to the English.

    You’ll know she’s a mennonite if the pages of her copy of More With Less is worn to the bone and she tries to get the church to sing everything in a round.

    So, unless your home is filled with nicely stained furniture, yeah, I’d get your money back. 🙂

  31. JB March 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm #

    Yeah, she is writing a book on Mennonite War Heroes. It’s going to be pretty thin.

  32. Paul March 11, 2008 at 4:45 pm #

    I think the dedication page will be longer than the actual book.

  33. Lucas Knisely March 11, 2008 at 4:53 pm #

    JB,

    Denny is a pretty busy guy, he told me a while back that he doesn’t have time to watch all comments. He does, however, attempt to make responses to serious and direct questions. See his entire post on “Why pray” as a response to someone’s question in the “Pray For Dr. Mohler” entry.

  34. JB March 11, 2008 at 4:54 pm #

    Denny,
    You have fled from this thrashing quicker than the British left Dunkirk. Turn in your man card ASAP!

  35. Denny Burk March 11, 2008 at 5:42 pm #

    Why are you all picking on me today of all days? I am at home, quarantined in bed with the flu. In the shape I’m in, I could be “thrashed” by a third grader.

  36. Denny Burk March 11, 2008 at 5:45 pm #

    Justin,

    Remind me. Weren’t you and I at Northwest during the same span of time (circa ’96-’99)?

    That was the first experience that I ever had with “children’s church.” They had it set up so that from birth through high school, kids never had to go to “big church.” Do you remember that?

    Denny

  37. JB March 11, 2008 at 6:24 pm #

    You are correct about NBC. That little set up made about as much sense as a soup sandwich. Children’s Church has to be limited to children. For example, those who can pee by themselves but still wear spiderman underwear.

    Sorry about the flu. Drink can of “suck it up” and get back in the game son.

  38. Denny Burk March 11, 2008 at 6:28 pm #

    Justin, you’re killing me. “Soup sandwich.” “Drink a can of suck it up.” Were you this funny when I knew you?

  39. JB March 11, 2008 at 6:34 pm #

    And then some. I am no doubt the treasure you overlooked while at DTS.

    None-the-less after my punishing critique of your position regarding children’s church, would you like to recant outright or modify your stance?

  40. Denny Burk March 11, 2008 at 6:45 pm #

    The main reason that I agree with Piper’s take on family worship is that the Bible teaches that parents are responsible for the spiritual formation of their children (E.g. Deuteronomy 6:5-7; 11:19; Psalm 78:4; Proverbs 22:6; 1 Corinthians 7:14; Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:15). This is not a responsibility that can be farmed out to others. A crucial aspect of that formation is how to worship, and there’s no better way for children to learn than to watch their parents worship.

    The focus of Piper’s article was not on how much the children “got out of the service.” The focus is on the benefit that accrues to children who are able to learn how to worship in corporate settings from their parents.

  41. JB March 11, 2008 at 6:55 pm #

    I hope you are consistent and don’t farm your kid out to Sunday school either.

  42. Bryan L March 11, 2008 at 7:00 pm #

    Denny, you have your kids for 7 days of the week. Is it really that big of a deal to let them go for an hour and a half on a Sunday so that they can be around other kids and learn in a fun kid appropriate way? If you’re not doing your job the other 7 days of the week then that hour and a half you keep them with you in the main service ain’t gonna make much of a difference. Know what I mean?

    BTW, I hope you get better soon but I don’t really know how I should pray for you. Do you think it’s God’s will and desire for you to be sick?
    ; ) jk

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  43. JB March 11, 2008 at 7:03 pm #

    Denny,
    For $5 I will give Bryan L. a wedgie for you. Though I do agree with his last post excepting the final paragraph.

  44. JB March 11, 2008 at 7:23 pm #

    Denny,
    Each of your Bible verses are fantastic. We are agreed that the primary responsibility of a child’s spiritual instruction lies with the parents.

    However, none of your verses speak of conduct in corporate worship. Further, none of them prohibit the garnering of assistance. Also, the 1 Cor. 7:14 plug is a gigantic stretch.

    Lest we get derailed. Remember, your initial position said that children’s church (and we have defined children) is of no benefit in the long run (and I have commented ex cathedra on long run). The question I have is: Will you or will you not modify your position to state that parents of children have two good choices available for them and they should prayerfully make one of them?

    If your answer is no, then please outline for me how you will begin working with your church leadership at FBC Dallas to get rid of Children’s Church.

  45. Denny Burk March 11, 2008 at 7:24 pm #

    You guys are missing the point. It’s not like we’re saying that children can’t leave their parents’ side for one hour.

    The Sunday morning worship hour is not just any hour. It is the one hour in the week when the people of God gather together for worship–to devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer (Acts 2:42). It is one of the most important hours of the week for training and instruction. That’s why I don’t think it’s in the best interest of children for parents to give this hour up to others.

  46. Denny Burk March 11, 2008 at 7:31 pm #

    Justin,

    Maybe “no benefit” is an overstatement. Let me qualify the overstatement as follows. Children’s church is better than no church. But children worshiping with their parents is far better than children’s church (for the reasons stated in Piper’s article).

    Thanks,
    Denny

  47. Lucas Knisely March 11, 2008 at 7:43 pm #

    I bet Denny can do one armed push-ups too.

    Flu ridden and still kickin!!!

  48. JB March 11, 2008 at 7:44 pm #

    While we respectfully disagree. I will now release you from my theological choke hold.

    Even though I am letting you get away with the whole “far better” thing. Of course children’s church is better than no church. Much like brushing your teeth with no toothpaste is better than not brushing them at all. However, it doesn’t really do justice to the fact that Crest and Coalgate both accomplish lots of the same things.

    Much like having your children with you or not can both accomplish many (I said many) of the same things.

    How did I get so smart? I should be invited to speak in chapels or something.

    Thanks Denny, I really enjoy your blog. If you need more answers from someone who really has it all figured out just give me a shout.

  49. JB March 11, 2008 at 7:45 pm #

    Lucas, your admiration of Denny knows no bounds. Control yourself young son.

  50. Mason Beecroft March 11, 2008 at 8:39 pm #

    Interesting discussion.

    The historic liturgy actually has an immense capacity to engage humans at all ages. The non-verbal and sensory elements draw young and old into the drama of redemption. My son, who turned five in November, still remembers the Triduum services of Holy Week from last year. When we stripped the altar on Maundy Thursday, he wept for the fact that Jesus would have to die for our sins on Good Friday. Where else should a child be?

    Of course, the historic liturgy assumes sacramental and incarnational views rejected by the majority of evangelicals. If worship is non-sacramental, non-participative, and endlessly creative, then the child must be constantly disciplined. They will not be engaged. However, the repetitive, tangible, reverent, and Christ-centered Mass has the potential to catechize in an unparalleled way.

    Admittedly, the historic liturgy or any worship “style” is not a silver bullet. The work of the Holy Spirit and the role of the family have their roles, which cannot be quantified. Moreover, there is no equation that guarantees faith, other than proclamation of Christ and Him crucified. Qualification aside, there is not a more evangelical atmosphere for the human person than the Mass. It will not appease demographic idolaters, but it has proven itself and continues to do so.

  51. JB March 11, 2008 at 8:49 pm #

    Good grief, who let the educated people into this conversation.

  52. Benjamin A March 12, 2008 at 9:29 am #

    Mason,

    You said, “When we stripped the altar on Maundy Thursday, he wept for the fact that Jesus would have to die for our sins on Good Friday.”

    I’m assuming you meant to say, ‘he wept for the fact that Jesus DID die for our sins on Good Friday’.

    Wrong assumption?

  53. Mason Beecroft March 12, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    Benjamin,
    Yes and no.

    Of course Jesus died once for the sins of the world, in a specific time and place, most likely Friday, April 3, AD 33.

    The power of the liturgy is to draw us into the drama of salvation, without being reduced to a sentimental remembrance or a contrived reenactment. It makes our eternal redemption present in time, which brings a certain timelessness to our gathering in the presence of the Triune God around His gifts of Word and Sacrament.

    My son was drawn by the liturgy of Maundy Thursday into the terror of Good Friday, the day the church beholds the life-giving cross on which hung the salvation of the world. He, like the rest of us, knew that Jesus wasn’t going to be actually crucified again. Yet the liturgy made those historic events quite real for him in this place and time. For this reason, it is appropriate to use “would have to die” in the remembrance of the church, while acknowledging He made the payment for sins once for all nearly 2,000 years ago.

    Remembrance in the Hebrew mind and language actually pulls past, present and future together. A reminder of God’s salvation of His people the past, an acknowledgement of God’s continuing grace and mercy in the present, and a look forward to the fulfillment of His promises, This forms the framework for the Passover. The liturgy works with this understanding of remembrance.

    Hope this helps clarify, but I may have muddied the waters even further.
    +Mason

  54. Benjamin A March 12, 2008 at 11:08 am #

    Mason,

    Yes and No!?!

    Thanks for the clarification. Clear as muddy water!

  55. Mason Beecroft March 12, 2008 at 8:02 pm #

    Benjamin,
    A good teacher always encouraged me to respond to a question, “Why do you want to know?”

    I say “no”, not a wrong assumption, if you think that my phrase would deny the historicity of Jesus’ crucifixion. The incarnate Son of God, fully God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and fully man, born of the Virgin Mary, did die on Good Friday and did rise bodily on that first Easter in 33 AD. These events were in time and space.

    I say “yes”, a wrong assumption, if the worship of church is reduced merely to psychological or emotional remembrance. I come from a tradition that is sacramental, which means we are drawn into redemptive realities through Word and Sacrament. I know it is a different perspective on worship than most evangelical protestants, but a confession generally shared by Wittenberg, Rome, Constantinople, and other sacramental Christians. Thus, we follow the historic liturgies and lectionaries of the church to keep our lives established in the rhythms and eternal realities that focus us on Christ and His merits. Good Friday will be a remembrance in the Hebrew sense of the term.
    Pax et bonum,
    +Mason

  56. Jada Bown Swanson March 12, 2008 at 10:52 pm #

    I agree with this article. In fact, our kids are still young (dd just turned 3 and and son is 4) but I have gone from leading worship two or more times a mth. to only once a mth. I bring our son into service with me once a mth. or we go to our Hispanic service, which is at the same time. (It is more forgiving than our ‘big church’, mainly due to the Hispanic culture, as opposed to the American ‘church’ culture. Of which some posters have previously discussed.)

    My husband is a pastor and is on the platform, or in the back or such during the services. Ca we say our family is fragmented on Sundays. Usually we don’t even get to ride to church together, much less worship together. While I do agree that parents should not be so involved in ‘good’ things in the church that they can’t minister to their kids by having them in service with them, I know as a pastor’s wife, that Sundays are a semi-work day for me. Take last Sunday, I was asked to pray with one person, counsel another and set up meetings with someone else all during the starting of the second service. This was while I was serving on Guest Care (greeting/ushering/taking up offering). Obviously, our kids were in the Children’s Ministry program this Sunday. However, my husband and I were just discussing, why not have one of the kids (the oldest) assist me in Guest Care tasks? They can shake hands, say hello, even help pass the offering basket?

    We have also had our kids, even at their young ages, lead worship with us. Our son played a shaker and our daughter sang at Thanksgiving/Christmas Services. We are not in a small church, but not at all a mega-church. And, quiet honestly, when you don’t have family in the area or people to help from the congregation, you do what you have to do. For our kids they remember this and felt a huge part of our services and weren’t distracting at all. Our daughter sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at the top of her lungs into her dad’s mic as he led worship.

    We have discussed what we will do as the kids get older with both of us called to vocational ministry, etc. And we have decided that when we can, we will incorporate our kids into leading worship with us, if we are both in the ‘rotation’, which does happen sometimes. As well, we will begin to pray for others to come around us as a ministry family to assist us when we both have commitments on the same Sunday.

    I think this, too, should be addressed–Are we not a community of believers? Should we not be in this together? I am not letting go or giving up my rights/responsibilities as a parent, but I do think as a body of believers, we should be offering to help others who do have commitments (staff or lay people). I think the American way of taking care of yourself, not reaching out for help or offering help, has sadly, crept into the church to the point that we don’t assist one another in any way, much less offering to help when we see others in need in or outside of the church i.e. children in the service, etc. we often think “glad that’s not my problem.” But I know at our church, when children are dedicate the entire body makes a commmitment that they will assist the parents in raising the child in a godly manner, that they will come alongside of the family. Yet, honestly, I rarely see this. I am tired of empty words in our churches. If we say something and commit to it, then let’s do it. Let’s be the body in this and all ways.

    My husband and I have a desire to plant a church in the future and we desire to have kids in our services, and be a true multi-generational church, learning from one another, worshiping together and family-friendly.

    Neither of us were part of children’s church. Me, because the little country church I attended didn’t know what it was. And him because he would rather be in church with his parents observing them worship, learning from them, etc. We both think that we had more of a spiritual education in that regard than had we been a part of Children’s Church. Again what worked for us, and what we desire in our church plant, may not work for all.

    As one poster commented, I do think time for parents to engage with other adults in dialogue about Scripture, prayer, etc. as well as time for kids to learn is good. This can come from Sunday School (if your church offers it, our church does) or from some other venue. I do think, though, that having kids in service when they are old enough (for us we think 5years is a good start age for consistent servcie attendance) is a great time for the family (both the nuclear family, as well as the body of Christ.)

    I have been thinking too, what about the kids whose parents don’t attend? This, again, is where as a body of Christ, we need to step up to the plate and be what these kids need. As opposed to sneering at them b/c they don’t know how to act. Of course they don’t know how to act. Why should they? Have they ever had it modeled to them? We need to be the ones to do this if their parents are absent or uninvolved. Get out of our comfort zones and be the body as we are called to do.

    Oh well, this topic has gone in various directions and I am responding to the original post by Denny. Who knows if anything I have stated even makes sense. It does to me and I will be sharing this article with friends.

    Children’s Ministry is not bad. And as the Piper’s pointed out what works for them may not work for all. However, I think we have a lot to learn from this article. Children learn more from what they see their parents doing, as opposed to just what their parents are saying or telling them to do. So, let’s model to our kids the importance of gathering together, worshiping together and serving together. It may not happen every Sunday, but it does need to happen.

    Thanks, Denny for this article.

    My

  57. Jada Bown Swanson March 12, 2008 at 10:56 pm #

    Sorry for the typos. I do know how to spell, it is late. That’s my excuse! I just got home from church!:):):)

  58. Benjamin A March 13, 2008 at 8:25 am #

    Mason,

    You said, “A good teacher always encouraged me to respond to a question, “Why do you want to know?”

    My question: ‘Does your Hebrew understanding of remembrance (pulling past, present and future all together) allow you to view the Mass as an actual crucifixion of Christ as if for the first time? Thus allowing the language, ‘would have to die’ to have actual/real meaning?

    If it’s not an actual crucifixion, how is it more than psychological or emotional worship?

  59. Mason Beecroft March 13, 2008 at 6:15 pm #

    Benjamin,
    I would not understand the Mass as an actual crucifixion as if for the first time. But I would understand it as Christ’s true presence in the bread and wine, His Body and Blood by the power of the Word joined to the elements. He gives us the benefits of His death and resurrection-forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

    “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation (koinonia, communion) in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread we break a participation (koinonia, communion) in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). Christ’s sacramental presence among His people is real and actual, not psychological or emotional. By His Word joined to the elements of His institution, He fulfills His promise to be with us always to the very end of the age. He is not far off in protestant heaven, but with His people through the mysteries of the faith.

    At least this is a general description of the Lutheran understanding. At my blog I will post my Palmarum Sunday sermon later in the week, which may clarify the “would have to die” language.
    Blessings in Christ,
    +Mason

  60. Benjamin A March 14, 2008 at 3:00 pm #

    Mason,

    Thanks for the reply.

    Another question: Do you believe Christ’s sacramental presence among His people to be real and actual in non-Lutheran communities of faith, even though they perceive it to only be symbolically present?

  61. Matt March 14, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    Voddie Baucham has some excellent sermons available by podcast on this topic. He is ardently opposed to “children’s church” and “youth services,” or at least under the contemporary paradigm of parents pawning their kids off to some young kid pastor who doesn’t even have children of his own.

    I think the bottom line is parents ought to be more involved in their children’s spiritual formation and there is definitely a correlation between the contemporary model and the droves of college aged kids leaving the faith.

  62. Mason Beecroft March 15, 2008 at 1:14 pm #

    Benjamin,
    I believe Christ is present where His word is proclaimed and the Sacrament is administered according to His institution. For communities that expressly deny His presence in the Sacrament, choosing to practice according to their own institution (“This represents to us…” or some other commentary that would deny Jesus’ Word), then the benefits of His sacramental presence is forfeited. However, Christ is present in all Christian communities by the Word proclaimed- by this I mean the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name(Luke 24), not moralistic principles culled from Scripture to be a better whatever.

    In other words, the Holy Spirit uses the means of grace (Gospel in Word and Sacrament) to create, sustain, and strengthen faith. The Holy Spirit uses these Gospel means to sanctify us and keep us in the holy Christian faith.

    For Osteen-like communities, Joel or whoever is there, but there can be no confidence that Jesus is present in their midst for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Jesus’ word is absent. Jesus’ sacrament is absent. The ascended Christ calls such communities to repentance (cf. Rev. 2-3), even if they help people in a generic, therapeutic sense.

    Hope this provides some insight into the confessional Lutheran perspective. In summary, Christ is really and actually present where His Word is proclaimed and His sacrament is administered according to His institution (“Do this…”, “Go, therefore…”, “Repentance and forgiveness…”).
    Blessings,
    +Mason

  63. Benjamin A March 17, 2008 at 11:03 pm #

    Mason,

    Thanks for giving the confessional Lutheran perspective. I appreciate your willingness to answer my questions.

    From your answer, my practice of the Lord’s Table avails me nothing of Christ’s grace through His prescribed institution. In that the benefits of His sacramental presence is forfeited, I’m left wondering how your life or the life of your parishioners is more like Christ than those of us who only receive grace through the word preached. It seems that Lutherans and others who receive Christ’s grace through word and sacrament both, having thus a double blessing of grace, compared to us only receiving grace through the word, would in essence have doubly blessed lives.

    Q: In you experience, would you say confessional Lutherans, by the way they live their lives, reflect the added benefits of grace received through both word and sacrament?

    In John 10:10 Jesus said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
    In your opinion are Lutherans experiencing more of the abundant life that Jesus came to give compared to others who have forfeited His grace through sacrament?

  64. Benjamin A March 17, 2008 at 11:19 pm #

    Mason,

    I just read your comments from a different post. You said-

    “Now I know what happened to some of my posts on other discussions! I thought I made a computer error, but it was my wicked, sinful heart.”

    Maybe you were not being serious. But, if you were, it would seem that your receiving grace from both word and sacrament hasn’t enabled you to experience any greater freedom from the flesh than the rest of us who only receive grace from the word preached. This leads me to question the reality of your understanding of Christ’s sacraments from an experiential/practical level.

    It’s like a Pentecostal who claims the sign gifts are still active today, but have personally never healed, nor seen an individual healed as they were in the New Testament (lame hands made like new; blind receiving sight; lame made to walk). Wouldn’t it be great if this said individual with the gift of healing (used just like any other gift), would go to a local hospital and clear it out. Still waiting on that one.

    How has your double portion of grace, word and sacrament, made a real difference in your daily walk. Are you enjoying more of the abundant life than the rest of us? How would we see that reality???

  65. Mason Beecroft March 18, 2008 at 2:53 pm #

    Benjamin,
    Well, I was not being glib about possessing a wicked, sinful heart. I am thoroughly Augustinian/Lutheran in my anthropology, believing it to be scriptural. I don’t think it is excessively negative, only honest as well as biblical.

    Possessing Word and Sacrament does not give give a “double portion” of grace, but communicates the same grace of Jesus Christ through different means. This is an important qualification. There is only one Gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that the good news just happens to come through the Word preached; the Word joined to Water in Holy Baptism; the Word spoken in the mutual consolation of Christian brethren; and the Word joined to bread and wine, the body and blood. Christ comes to His people over and over in means He instituted so we can hear His certain words of redemption and salvation. We don’t possess more or less of the Gospel of Christ. All Christians possess the same Christ and His Gospel.

    Now, with reference to the talk of abundant life and daily walk and such, I would qualify that the Christian remains both sinner and saint this side of eternal life. Paul considered himself to be “chief of sinners” at the end of his life. And I am of the opinion that the struggle of Romans 7 is descriptive of the Christian life.

    For Lutherans, the entire Christian life is one born of repentance (Thesis 1 of the 95). An examination of self according to God’s requirements draws us constantly back to Christ and His grace. This breeds humility and contentment in Christ, not a piety that finds comfort in looking for a “real difference” or “growth” or “victory” or “abundance”. I dare not examine myself to find comfort or consolation of God’s work. I may not be the *&^*@#$ I was, but I am still not good enough. I examine myself and I run to Christ time and again to find His grace and mercy. I look to Christ always and there in the cradle, on the cross, and at the empty tomb I know God’s disposition toward me. This Gospel is God’s power not only for my salvation, but also for my growth in grace.

    When I was an evangelical, the burden of its narcissistic and myopic piety was almost overwhelming. I found that it typically bred either a self-righteousness (look at how free I am from the flesh in comparison to…) or a self-loathing (wow, if I am honest with myself, I am still a desperate sinner and it doesn’t seem to matter how many quiet-times I have or Christian T-shirts I own). In other words, the Christian life is about Christ and not our constant strivings, manipulations, pretenses, and efforts.

    You may look at me and consider me to be quite impious in a number of areas (the issue of gross public immorality is another discussion). I know that I am even more impious than I appear! In other areas you might consider me to be charitable, kind, and gracious. I know that I often act in such ways to meet expectations of others or with sinful motivations. Regardless of your criteria for evaluation or appearances, I am still more sinful than I imagine and yet Christ’s forgiveness blots out my transgressions and iniquities. Thankfully, Christ keeps His promise to be with us always and gives His gifts of grace in Word and Sacrament so that the good work He began will be completed. Ultimately, my life is hid with Christ and the fruit of His Spirit matures in its time. I need not pretend otherwise, although it often helps me feel better about myself!

    I’d love to continue this conversation on Lutheran faith and piety, but it is Holy Week and I am writing homilies and preparing for five different liturgies that start on Thursday. Perhaps we can continue after Easter?
    Pax-
    +Mason

  66. Benjamin A March 18, 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    Thanks Mason,

    Perhaps following resurrection Sunday we can continue.

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