One of my earliest memories at church was seeing my father on his knees in a church pew praying before every service. Every week, he would enter our church sanctuary and then pray. I never forgot that image. He did not do this as a means of looking “holier than thou”; he did not do this for any other means than to enter into God’s presence recognizing that he was a sinner saved by grace. Coincidently, what he was also doing was implicitly leading by example. To this day, I am reminded that whenever I enter into public worship, the most appropriate place to begin is on my knees in prayer.
As parents and as grandparents, we have a tremendous role in leading our children spiritually. Whether we like it or not, our children want to be just like us; whether that be for better or worse. We bear the unique responsibility of leading them well. Sadly, however, in my time as a pastor I’ve encountered all sorts of people who have no concern for the spiritual trajectory of themselves or their children. They think that they don’t need to go to church, everything in their world is great – what need do they have for a savior? Others think that God has abandoned them and so they run. Others have seen people who have claimed to be Christians, but their words and actions reveal anything but Christ. And so, with these varied groups, typically their journey towards spiritual apathy is inherited by their children, unless by the grace of God someone else intervenes.
If you don’t go to church, don’t be surprised when your children know nothing about Christ. Instead, parents must lead their children by example because children have a special place in the congregations of Christ. Whenever we consider the Apostle Paul’s letters to the churches, we find that he often writes to children (see Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20). They are not to be relegated to the outskirts of churches, hidden in the dungeons known as the “crying room”. But are to be welcomed right in the very heart of worship to participate. We are reminded that even in the Exodus, God commanded children to play a part in the Passover liturgy. They were to ask the fathers what was the significance of the Passover meal (cf. Exodus 12:26). In addition, God commanded the Church in the Old Testament to labor in teaching or discipling their children everywhere they went (cf. Deut. 11:19).
But bringing our children to church is no easy matter. It can be frustrating. It can be exhausting. It can make you ponder why you even try. But as I often tell my son, anything worth doing is going to be difficult. To this end, we need to occupy ourselves with the difficult matter of bringing our children to church. I don’t just mean drop them off in Sunday School, nor simply have them miss out on the service for some other children’s program. I mean have them come, sit in during the service and participate, for your children will never learn how to worship God until they watch you do it.
We must model for our children what we expect from them. They will learn to sing to God with their whole hearts as they see us boldly sing of the Father’s love towards us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, the God-Man. We must model our reverence in prayer for them, by bowing our heads in prayer and heartily proclaiming “Amen!” We must model the sanctity of the Lord’s Supper, as we feast upon the body and blood of Christ by faith. But they will never learn these things as long as we are too busy or too unconcerned with showing them the Master. And so, we must learn to take up our cross weekly by the perilous task of bringing our little ones to worship.
And by God’s grace, perhaps little by little, we will begin to see the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Then we will be reminded that our pain and sacrifices are always worth it for the eternal harvest in seeing Christ glorified in their lives. But the blessing goes beyond them, and even unto their children’s lives as they recount someday of our godly examples.
To aid this pursuit of a godly example, Christ Reformed Church is hosting a seminar on Family Worship on August 17, 2019. To check out more information and register, click the banner on the side of this page!
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