So, we’ve talked about why the Church need not fear for her survival. We’ve started the discussion of outreach with the importance of doctrinal faithfulness, the appropriateness of beauty, and the essence of congregational hospitality. Our discussion of outreach now moves out a ring as we come to the matter of bringing people to the congregation. How is it done?
Bringing new people to the congregation begins with the family. The family consists of a husband and wife who have children. Ordinarily couples have children through procreation, occasionally through adoption. Since procreation is the means instituted by God in paradise for having children, it will be my focus here, though couples who adopt are certainly also families in God’s sight and are by no means to be despised.
The family has this special honor from God, that it is the most fruitful arm of outreach. Not only does God bring people to the Church through the family, but he creates new people through the family. A congregation that cares about outreach should do everything in its power to extol marriage and procreation. It should also teach frankly that cohabitation and sexual activity outside of marriage are sins and that the practice of family planning is a plain violation of God’s Word.
Somewhere along the line many parents in our country stopped teaching their children that living together before marriage is a sin. The sexual revolution and the advent of birth control pills made sexual immorality seem normal, and far too many Christians either were deceived into accepting it, or knew it was wrong but didn’t instill the truth in their children. This led to a generation of Christian children who went along with the world, in many cases jettisoning their former beliefs entirely. Now it seems that some Christian parents care more about maintaining peaceful family relations than they do about the Word of God and the duties God has given them toward their children. Some even take offense now when pastors won’t commune their children who are living in sin, as if God had to change himself to suit their worldly indulgence.
Also, somewhere along the line, more than a few pastors and congregations stopped speaking against family planning. It became acceptable to say things like “one and done” or “we only want two,” as if we’re the Giver of life. Our congregations generally make the clear confession that we’re not the Taker of life—that abortion is murder, and unacceptable. While preventing conception isn’t murder, nevertheless, is it not preposterous to think that we can control the giving of life without offending against the Giver of life? “Be fruitful and multiply,” the Lord said in Genesis 1:28. Who are we to say, “No, you don’t have to bother yourself about that”?
So, what should we do to uphold marriage and procreation within our congregations? Parents should teach their children the truth about marriage as God has instituted it: that it’s God’s union of one man and one woman, permanent and exclusive. Living together and sharing a bed is for marriage. Parents should also teach their children that they were made for marriage: “It is not good that the man should be alone,” the Lord said (Gen. 2:18). While it’s certainly not a sin to remain unmarried, the person to whom God has given the gift of lifelong celibacy seems rare indeed. Parents should teach their children from a young age which qualities are godly in the opposite sex, and which are not. Parents should also teach their children to marry a Lutheran. Having mixed confessions of Christ within a marriage leads to marital strife and to passing on a watered-down faith to the children who are the fruit of that marriage.
Parents should also raise their children to desire children of their own. Parents spend a good deal of time talking about their children’s futures in terms of employment. Sons need to hear as much about marrying a godly Lutheran woman and having children as they do about the workforce. And daughters need to know that being a homemaker is a high calling from God. Don’t speak condescendingly of homemakers, calling them “stay at home moms,” as if they’re sticks in the mud who need to get out and do something with their lives, such as dumping their children in a day orphanage and letting them be raised by strangers who don’t love them.
That’s what parents should teach their children so that marriage and procreation are valued by the next generation. Now what shall congregations do as a whole? Our daughters need to hear that the greatest thing they could possibly do with their lives is to become a homemaker, and they aren’t to hear it from their parents only. Older women are charged in Scripture to teach such a thing to younger women. Paul writes to Titus, “Older women…are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Tit. 2:3‑5).
Ladies Aid groups could make these verses their mission statement, and they should consider how they can instill these things in the young women of the congregation. Their greatest service would simply be modeling godly marriage according to those verses from Titus 2. In addition, faithful older women could mentor younger women one on one. Women who have been homemakers their whole lives are also in a unique position to speak highly of that life.
Within our congregations we should never make jabs at our spouses or at the opposite sex in general. Husbands are to be like Christ, who covers the sins of his Bride and does not spread them around. Wives are to be like the Church, who only has praise and thanksgiving for her Husband, with no complaint or accusation of wrongdoing against him. There should be no jesting about the typical woes of marriage, as if marriage were some cheap trinket that only brought trouble. The frequency of this jesting has no doubt contributed to the low view of marriage that now spans several generations. Terms like “divorce,” “ex-husband,” and “ex-wife” should be regarded as profanities among Christians, and those who insist on talking about such things openly and publicly should be reprimanded, especially if there are children present.
Congregations should celebrate the anniversaries of couples who have remained faithfully married and the weddings of first-time couples who have remained pure. Congregations should assist families with young children by holding babies or hymnals during the service. Congregations should expect that parents and children will be together in church and should never remove the children from the service for “children’s church.” Such a practice drives a wedge between generations, whereas in church children learn to be faithful churchgoers simply by watching their parents. Congregants should never scowl at the mother of a noisy child, nor distract children from paying attention during the service.
Baptisms should be a high cause for celebration within a congregation. At a Baptism we watch a person being saved, being brought out of the devil’s kingdom and into Christ’s kingdom. At the Baptism of an infant we see the greatest form of Church growth: the Lord has added a child to a human family, and now has added that child to God’s family.
These are all simple ways to uphold marriage and procreation within a congregation. And when congregations uphold marriage and procreation in their midst, they should know that they have done a great deal in the way of congregational outreach.
Steadfast Lutherans will soon be publishing a book titled “Be at Leisure: A Lutheran Approach to Outreach.” The book will be available as a free PDF and in print for the cost of printing at Lulu.com. The chapters of the book will be published over the next several weeks as posts here on the blog. This post is chapter 5 of the book: Procreation.