There’s a sanctuary just beyond the sacred doors of the local church we call home. It’s where our forever family gathers together every week, exchanges smiles, soaks in truth, and worships the One who gave His life to make us His.
Church. It’s supposed to be a haven of hope. A safe place for our children to learn about Christ, deepen their understanding of the Word of God, and embrace the revolutionary, radical faith that He calls us to and equips us for.
But real people with real flesh and blood inhabit the House of the Lord. Fallible people who fall short. Some lost, looking for God. Many saved, stumbling to find their way.
Churches are full of imperfect people who don’t always say or do the right thing. People like you. People like me.
Unfortunately, the lessons our children sometimes learn aren’t the practical or profound words of wisdom that we hope will ground them for life. Instead, they leave life-long scars and are lessons they should never learn from church.
Here are 10 things you don’t want your children to learn from church…
1. To create some sort of Christian bubble out of the local church
It happens in the most innocent of ways. We begin building our Christian gyms, planning our Christian events, forming our Christian softball teams and enjoying our Christian surroundings... and the next thing you know we’ve surrounded ourselves with ourselves and we don’t even realize that we have formed a Christian bubble. We don’t know how to escape and we really aren’t even sure we want to.
But we’re called to be salt and light in the world. We are instructed to be in the world but not of it. How can we reach a world we isolate ourselves from?
God’s purpose is that we permeate the community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not segregate ourselves from it. May we teach our children to escape our Christian bubbles. (Acts 1:8 ESV, 1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV)
2. To become judgmental and critical of those who aren't like them
While the Bible tells us to judge righteous judgement, it also says that God is the Judge. Judging right from wrong is essential. But judging others is a divinely decreed role that belongs to God alone.
Imperfect people living among imperfect people aren’t qualified to judge or condemn. Preparing our children to determine right from wrong, to love well, and to give others room to fail, room to grow, and room to be human will help prevent them from becoming judgmental or from being critical of those who are different from them. (Matthew 7:1 NLT)
3. To confuse preferences with doctrine
Preferences differ from doctrine. Music is a preference, not a biblical doctrine. Church style is a preference, not a biblical doctrine. The Gospel message is our purpose and the method is the means by which we share that message.
May we consistently change our methods to reach our current culture, yet never change the unchangeable message of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 23:23-24 ESV)
4. To comfortably conform to status quo or entertain that change is the enemy of tradition
“We’ve never done that before. Why would we change now?” Words which secretly whisper the sound of a death nail for a church.
Traditions resonate with significance but the Church has to be willing to change with the culture and the community if they’re going to reach it and teach it in a way the unchurched will understand. Methods should be as fluid as the culture we are trying to reach for Christ. We should teach our children to be just as relevant as Jesus was. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 ESV)
5. To make mountains out of mole hills and miss the point of our existence
6. To be a hypocrite or think that everyone who goes to church is a Christian
Too many have been hurt by those who say they are Christians yet live as if they don’t know God. Sometimes, it’s the apparently godly, Scripture-knowing, position-holding people in the church who turn out to be the most vicious, backbiting, lying, and unloving.
God help us teach our children to live what they say they believe, to be who they say they are, and to discern the difference between wolves and sheep. (2 Timothy 2:4 ESV)
7. To think there are positions, power, and Christian stars in the church
8. To get so used to being saved that they become complacent
Complacency slithers into our lives when comfort clashes with our calling. It’s easy to neglect or grow weary in the work if we don’t focus on Christ. May our children’s hearts stay ablaze with a perpetual and unquenchable appetite to know Christ and make Him known. (Revelation 3:15-16 ESV)
9. To think that the church is divided because of denominations, color, or culture
The church is not a denomination… it’s comprised of those who have been born again and have become part of the family of God.
Denominations exists for a variety of reasons. Pride, legitimate and illegitimate doctrinal differences, culture, and even preferences. But all born-again believers are part of God’s family regardless of denomination, race, culture, or color. We are one in God’s forever family! May our children embrace the unity Jesus prayed for. (John 17:21 ESV, Ephesians 4:4-6 NKJV)
10. To substitute serving God for knowing Him
It’s easy to try to fill every need and then find ourselves burnt out because we aren’t functioning in the area of our giftedness or doing what the Lord is calling us to do. It’s easy to substitute serving God for knowing Him and then wonder where He is.
May we teach our children that more than God’s call on our lives to serve Him is His call on our lives to know Him. (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV)
Prayer: Lord, there are a million and one things I want my children to learn from church! Please filter what they need to learn from what they may experience among imperfect people who make up the local church. Amen.
Stephanie Shott is a pastor’s wife and ministry leader who thinks way outside the box and refuses to settle for status quo. In 2012, she founded The MOM Initiative, a movement dedicated to mobilizing the body of Christ to make mentoring missional. For more on Stephanie’s ministries, visit StephanieShott.comand TheMOMInitiative.com, and follow her on Facebookand Twitter.
Originally published Tuesday, 19 March 2019.