Saturday, February 27, 2010

Valuing Multi-Generational Church

This blog post is more of an unraveling of some thoughts that I have been wrestling through over the last few years. I am not sure that I will complete it in one post, but I look forward to the journey of attempting to express some thoughts of mine. Hopefully through this exercise, I will be able to sort through some of my thoughts.

Just over four years ago I became a father. This changed my world and my perception of the world. I began to see things that I never saw before prior to being a dad. The first thing that jumped out at me was our culture's view of children or friendliness to families. Obviously this format precludes me from addressing this subject as a whole, so I want to limit it to the church context. I immediately discovered there is a spectrum of hospitality towards children in the church.

As a pastor, I like visiting other church during off times for the sake of being ministered to, without having to be "the pastor." After Grace was born, we suddenly realized that Grace wasn't welcome to visit all churches. This created a little bit of an inconvenience for us we desired to create a culture of family time and worshiping together. I was somewhat stunned to find that there were churches that literally forbid children under 12 in the sanctuary. This began to shape me as a young pastor restarting a church. What would be our policy? How would I handle this as our young church started to develop and come to life?

I don't think I have a conclusion at this point, but I have discovered some pressure points that I am working between. I will address them in bullet form.

1. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). Clearly the Bible speaks highly concerning the gift and value of children. While our present culture may not value them, the church must view them as God views them. As I am exposed to families with multiple children, I begin to see some negative thoughts/feelings expressed towards them that are not in alignment with the scriptural teaching the children are a blessing from the Lord. With this point, I hope to cultivate a climate in the church that values the blessing of children.

2. Parents are responsible for making disciples of their children (Deut. 6:4-9). Ultimately the onus of making disciples of children lies on the parents. I have noticed that Christians conclude differently on the process of teaching their kids about the Lord. I have also noticed that parents often think their way is the best way and should be used by everyone. On this point I am convicted to help parents that ultimately they are responsible for teaching their children about God and walking with Him. This is not something that "they are to discover on their own" as many in our culture state. I want the parents to feel and understand that they are responsible before God on this point, and I want to help equip them for the task.

3. Jesus welcomed children to sit in on His teaching, even when the disciples had tried to shuffle them away (Matt. 19:13, Mark 10:13-16, and Luke 18:15-17). Elsewhere in the New Testament children are addressed in the text--it seems safe to assume that children were present in the teaching context. As an under-shepherd of Christ, I must aim to teach as he taught. On this point in means welcoming children in the Sunday service. Also, I want to encourage parents to worship with their children. I also have the responsibility to encourage a climate of hospitality to the young ones in our service. This is a main reason why all the kids are together with the congregation during the worship, which leads into my next point...

4. Sunday School. People learn at different levels and with different tension spans. We have no Sunday School during the 8:30 service, but I am not opposed to have one. As the teaching pastor, I have become more aware of a prominent group with in our culture--the single mom. While my wife is obviously not single, she is on Sunday mornings. I am acutely aware of her struggle with a four year old and a 6 month old Sunday mornings all alone. Throughout the Scriptures we learn that God has a special place for widows and orphans (James 1:27). The unfortunate reality is there are many young women out there with children and an absent father. I am burdened to help these ladies grow in the Lord.

Also, we live in a fallen world. There are many people who don't know the most basic things from Scripture and don't really even know where to begin when coming to church in search of God. There are many people in our culture who have not disciplined their kids and life is pretty much out of control. I am not speaking down to these people--for I was one of them not long ago.

So for some people, having a Sunday school (say children under 10) option for them is good in growing them and their children spiritually.

Okay, I am running out of steam here. Here are my conclusions so far:

1. Children should be welcomed in church. Having multiple generations together is good for all.

2. Families should be encouraged to disciple and worship with their children.

3. We live in a less than ideal culture and we need to help those who are not ready to make disciples, but rather need to be discipled and Sunday school is a viable option.

4. This is not a simple or easy endeavor, but is well worth it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tom Abbott Funeral and Internment

Thank you for your prayers for Ruth Abbott and her family during this time of mourning.

The funeral will be this Saturday, February 20, in the clubhouse of their community located at Bennett Ave and Toyon Glenn, Escondido. There will be a viewing from 1-2pm. The casket will then be closed prior to the start of the memorial service which begins at 2pm. In honor of Tom, the dress code has been declared "casual cowboy." Please come in a comfortable pair of jeans and cowboy boots! Following the service there will be a time of fellowship and food right there in the clubhouse.

Tom's internment will be Monday, February 22, at 11am at Oak Hill Cemetery in Escondido, CA. Tom will be receiving full military honors during the service.

Everyone is invited to attend all of the services. Thank you all again.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Contemplating Life and Death

The words of the wisest man, King Solomon, have been on my mind this week. He wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes 7:1-2, "A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart."

As a pastor, I have found myself in the "house of mourning" more than I would apart from this calling. Each situation is unique and they forever leave a lasting impression on me.

My week this week didn't go as planned--do they ever? It all started Sunday night when I was called to the house of a couple from the church. Hospice had been called in and a few guys were needed to move the hospital bed from the bedroom to the living room in order to give the Tom a more central location. He had been sick and in declining health for sometime, but we didn't see his departure coming so soon. Certainly, his death was not on my mind Sunday evening as we transferred him from his chair to his bed.

Unfortunately the next morning, I received a call saying that the hospice nurse had stated that Tom only had 3-7 days of life left. I could hardly believe it even though I knew his health was in decline. I went to visit with him Tuesday afternoon to pray and to read some Scripture with him. John 14:1-6 came to mind and so I read, or tried... I was only able to read the first verse of Jesus' words, "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me..." at this point I pretty much started crying. I new what the rest of the passage says, and I started imagining that Jesus had finished making preparations for Tom to come home and He was coming to get Tom soon. I couldn't speak. Thankfully Ruth, his wife, was able to quote the rest of the passage for me to Tom. She was so cheerful and was very helpful in helping her pastor gain his composure again...I know, great pastor who breaks down on you in your time of need! :)

I remember driving home that night thinking, "How is this better than the house of feasting (as Solomon wrote)?" I don't know that I have all the answers, but I believe the Lord is impressing a few thought upon me at this time.

First, as a Christian, there is hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 teach us that those who die as Christians go to be immediately with the Lord and this brings comfort to us. I do believe that Tom is with the Lord with his new body and free of pain. I am so thankful that this is not the end and that my journey to the next life is based on Christ's work alone and not on my striving--for I know that I could never make the mark that God requires.

My second thought is about "the dash." A few weeks ago, I was finally able to to visit the gravestone of my grandmother-in-law who passed back in August. As I was searching for her gravestone, "the dash" just seemed to jump out at me--especially those whose spouse had died, but they had not. Everything was engraved on the gravestone for the living spouse except the death date. All we get is "the dash"--or the time between our birth and our death. We have no control over the dates, but the dash we do. It is up to us to make the most of what God is giving us! I am reminded to enjoy today to the fullest, because I know not what tomorrow brings.

Finally, for now, Ruth has made a tremendous impact in my life. You see, I never knew Tom before his stroke. I only received a glimpse of who he was prior through his sense of humor and witty comments from time to time. Aside from this, I believe I saw what kind of man Tom was before his stroke (10 years ago or so) through his wife's love and care for him. Ruth took tremendous care of Tom for years. I never heard her mutter or complain about anything against him in the slightest. Tears come to my eyes just thinking about her sacrificial love for him. It was evident to all that this was her man who she loves and respects with her whole heart. I recently preached through Titus 2:3-5 which are verses about the example that older women are to set for younger women. Ruth was a living picture of the biblical example set in this passage. I am so blessed to pastor a church where there is this example to the younger ladies in the church. While, I never knew Tom before his stroke, I am encouraged to foster love in my marriage that I saw in theirs.

I will miss Tom. He almost always could get a smile or chuckle out of me. It brought me great joy to see his excitement and involvement of the restarting of Valley Baptist Church. I don't think many people saw it other than Ruth, but his joy for coming to church and counting all the people will not leave my memory. I resist the temptation to say "Rest in Peace Tom" because I am certain that he is living it up in heaven with Jesus and his new body right now.

Please continue to pray for Ruth as she mourns the loss of Tom.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Crazy Audio

A few weeks ago I was in my car going somewhere, when I heard a crazy interview on Focus on the Family's radio program. I highly recommend that you listen to it! Click HERE to listen to the 20 minute radio program.

So the deal is that there is a pastor who lost his voice, but his old church wanted to give him something to do since he could no longer preach. Well this morning he was teaching a Sunday School class. The irony is that he was teaching on healing in the Bible. He was making the point that you can't say God doesn't heal anymore balanced with the point that you can't say that God heals everyone today. In the midst of his talking, his voice was restored.

Check it out...let me know what you think!