In the last post we saw that the Bible tells us we have a responsibility to raise our children in the ways of God, according to biblical principles, where they learn what it means to follow Jesus Christ. We also looked at recent statistics that demonstrate one of the best things we can do to encourage our children to begin, and remain followers of Jesus, is to ensure they regularly go to church – something the Bible commands all Christians to do.
This week I read an article by Marsha Sauls PhD who states “It is amazing how well our kids learn what we teach them. The only problem is that most of the things they learn from parents is communicated without words. This is probably why most parents have made the statement ‘If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it one hundred times and they just don’t get it!’ And that’s true, most kids don’t ‘get it’ by listening.”
As a parent I find this rather scary because it means that my children are not learning as much through what I am teaching them verbally, as they are through observing what I do and how I act. This is particularly relevant for us as a church, because we are currently studying the epistle of James in our Sunday morning 10am service, and James insists that our speech and actions must align if our faith is genuine. In fact, the research confirms the biblical perspective, that what we do is more important than what we say.
If we act in a hypocritical manner, and our actions contradict what we say, it would be nice if our children (and our peers) just listened to our speech and ignored our actions. But unfortunately it actually works the other way around – people observe our actions and ignore our speech. If a parent teaches their child not to lie, giving an excellent explanation of the reasons why this is important, but the child later sees their parent telling lies, then despite what the parent has taught and explained the child has really learnt that it is acceptable to tell lies.
So, if we tell our children that the most important thing in life is a relationship with God, and yet we don’t regularly take them to church like God commands, then what do they actually learn? If we wake up Sunday morning to beautiful blue skies and idyllic beach weather, and take the family to the beach instead of church, then despite what we say to our children, what they actually learn is that going to the beach is more important than God and doing what He commands.
I like the way Greg Laurie expresses it. He says the Bible commands us not only to go to church but also to be a functioning part of it. The Bible tells us to regularly meet together to encourage and spur one another on in the faith. Notice there is no subordinate clause in this command. The Bible does not tell us to regularly meet together, unless it’s a great day for the beach, unless you want to play sport, unless Sunday is the best day to spend with family, unless you would prefer to sleep in, unless Sunday is your only day off, unless you have an exam on Monday, unless, unless, unless. There is no unless in this command.