Here is a guest article by Nathan Redman.
Nathan Redman is a layman & aspiring deacon at Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) on St. Cloud Minnesota. He has been happily married for almost ten years to his wife Bernice. They have two children, Elsie (4) and Porter (2). In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family, being a coffee snob, confessional lutheran websites, and Pittsburgh Steelers football. He gives a lot of credit for his journey into confessional Lutheranism to his pastor (Bruce Timm) but also Issues Etc and Worldview Everlasting.
Don’t you dare believe what all those nice old ladies at church say about your kids and mine.
Your kids are sinners!!!
I have to admit there are times when I wish my kids would sit still, face the front, and let dad get the most out of the Divine Service. I fight the urge to grab them and briskly walk them out of the sanctuary to tell them what they did wrong. You know, maybe Sunday School during the Divine Service wouldn’t be so bad or maybe I could even go to the evening service by myself. Heck, as long as they know who Jesus is and general theology of Christianity they’ll be fine. My Old Adam is creeping in, my sin and selfishness want it to be all about me, all about my “experience” at church. I get irritated when my daughter tries to kneel down at the communion rail before our other members are ready to kneel. Some would say I have too high of expectations of my four and two year old.
Growing up as what I would call a CE (Christmas & Easter) ELCA Lutheran I really don’t have many memories of attending church. After confirmation I stopped going to church and fell into years of rampant sin and utter spiritual emptiness. I bounced from church to church not finding anything to latch onto or even believe in. I called myself a Christian and didn’t understand what Christianity was really all about. Then I started attending a confessional LCMS church mostly because I liked the pastor and the “old school” church service. I came to realize a few years later that what I liked about this church was not the pastor or the church itself. It wasn’t about what I liked, but what I received the day I was baptized. It was about the work of Christ on the cross…FOR ME!!! The Word of God properly preached, my pastor in the stead of Christ forgiving my sins and receiving His true body and blood. I had been missing this my whole life and it was always there. How could I ever keep those gifts from my children?
But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
So why should we insist on teaching our kids about these great gifts from God? Why even go to church? What can we do as parents to teach our children how important church life is?
First, our children need to understand that they are sinners. In fact we are all sinners…mom, dad and even your pastor is a sinner. We need to talk about forgiving each other and Jesus forgiving you. As they grow we must continue to impart to them that they will continue to sin and fall short of how God intends us to live. Sugar coating this life, our sin and the world we live in today isn’t going to help our kids grow in faith. They must be shown their sin and also shown that there is only one way that sin is defeated.
Second, children need faithful parents – parents who know their stuff. They need the kind of parents who will bring church into the home – before meals, before bed. How about a Bible story instead of cartoons? As parents, the devil will attack us with all sorts of lies. Hey, you got the kid baptized that should be enough to keep them believing in Christ. Don’t worry about it, attending church once a month is enough. Your kids are confirmed, now you can let them decide if they want to attend the Divine Service. Think about your own sin and how the devil constantly attacks you. How do you think he will treat our children? The fact of the matter is parents have a huge impact on their children. They look up to us, even if they may not admit it. If we aren’t attending church every week, if we look bored in church or don’t listen, if we aren’t attending bible classes or being active in our church life, what kind of message does that send? It tells them that church is a part time gig, far less important than school and other activities.
Third, children need to see their parents at church as beggars before God, confessing their sins and receiving forgiveness. Church should be taken seriously by parents to show their children that sin is real and deserves punishment. I’m sorry but seeing dad up there with a banjo singing about the fire in my heart for Jesus isn’t going to do it (sorry Pastor Harrison). The Bible doesn’t teach us that our actions, or our sweet singing voice will get us out of this life of sin. Only faith in the work of Jesus Christ will save us. Faith comes from knowing you are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God to expose your sin, bring repentance and the comfort of the good news. Faith comes from getting down on your knees as a penitent sinner and receiving his true body and blood. Faith is in Christ’s work for us all. And faith is front and center at your local confessional Lutheran church. At church you receive all the gifts you will need for this life and the next.
So the next time that nice old lady at the end of the pew tells you how great your kids are be sure to tell her that they are sinners just like you and me – which is good, because Jesus only came for sinners.