First, some housekeeping. We’re likely going to put on hold any more work on Ponderings from the Porch. We are always trying new things in order to figure the best way to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world, and also to encourage those He has already saved. We’ll be trying various things moving forward to try to find out the best approach.
One approach is more blog posts! 😀
I read a terrific article recently by Peter Berfeind. It was ostensibly about how Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs tend to be very cartoony, silly, shallow, and basically a poor knock-off of some formerly trendy thing that is only now being noticed by American Christendom.
His point was that, compared to the seriousness that the world bestows on its attempt to undermine Christianity, the way God and The Bible are presented are simply silly. As a result, when a child gets to an age where they are more discerning, they compare the presentation of things like evolution, the Big Bang, and other secular and cultural concepts, to what (and how) they were taught in church, and the secular ideas seem much more serious, mature, and reasoned. Cartoon animals aboard a cartoon ark do not appear to have the same gravitas as a person with lots of letters after their name.
I will let others debate the merits of approaches to VBS. I found the underlying concept more interesting; namely, the need that the church seems to have to mimic the things of the secular (worldly) culture. One could speak at great length about the secularization of the modern church under the guise of bringing more people into a building one day a week. I’m sure we’ll touch on these things in future posts.
The most amazing thing about this approach is its complete and utter failure, especially with the young. The number of people with a Biblical world view continues to decline. Children raised in the church continue to leave, at a rate of 80%, the first chance they get. Fewer and fewer professing christians believe the things that The Bible says, especially professing christians under 40, the very group that has been most exposed and most targeted by this worldly approach to christianity.
To use a baseball analogy, it’s like playing all of your home games in your opponents ballpark. Technically, you may get to bat last but you’re surrounded by your opponents’ supporters all game long. And those supporters would much rather have season tickets to watch their favorite team than watch you. So, why do we let the world into our ballpark and expose Christians to worldly things that are expressly meant, by the world, to drive people to sin?
This is especially troubling when it comes to children. Are we really going to teach them to like the sounds and sights and amusements of the world…in church? Is church where they get a taste of these things and learn to like them, and are then offered more and more of these things by the world as they get older, only without the “uncomfortable” Christian parts?
The problem is that the adults like these things too. So, not to be seen as hypocrites, they bring in their favorite things from the world, sprinkle in a few Bible verses to quiet their conscience, and try to live with one foot in both worlds.
The sad thing is, again, this has been an abject failure. Even the people that remain in churches know very little about what God says to us through His Word. Others know but do not agree. Because they derive such joy from the world they are hesitant to offend the world by standing up for things…the things of God…that directly contradict the values of the world.
I have a book of hymns by Isaac Watts. Isaac Watts has written some great hymns. One of my favorites is, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God”. This particular hymn book, for children, was first published back in 1715. It’s called, “Divine and Moral Songs for Children”. It was the most popular book in children’s literature for over 200 years.
It is amazing to read the lyrics to these songs. One can tell that they are aimed at children, however, they are rich with doctrine. Actual doctrine! Because at one time, hymns were meant to praise God, thank God, and convey doctrine to those who sang them. From this rich heritage we now have music in many churches that is simply used as a marketing tool to draw more people into the building. Tragic.
Isaac Watts’ songs speak of sin, and hell, and our desperate need for a Savior. They talk about right behavior and wrong behavior, and the consequences of both. They are not made to make people feel comfortable. They are not meant to mask the reason for our need for a Savior. They are not meant to generate euphoria in order to put people into a pliable state.
Here are just a few samples:
For The Lord’s Day Morning
This is the day when Christ arose
So early from the dead;
Why should I keep my eyelids closed,
And waste my hours in bed?
This is the day when Jesus broke
The powers of death and hell;
And shall I still wear Satan’s yoke,
And love my sins so well?
To-day with pleasure Christians meet,
To pray and hear Thy Word;
And I would go with cheerful feet,
To learn Thy will, O Lord.
I’ll leave my sport to read and pray,
And so prepare for Heaven;
Oh, may I love the blessed day
The best of all the seven!
(Remember this one the next time your team plays the early game on Sunday.)
Obedience to Parents
Let children that would fear the Lord
Hear what their teachers say;
With reverence hear their parents’ word,
And with delight obey.
Have you not heard what dreadful plagues
Are threaten’d by the Lord,
To him that breaks his father’s laws,
Or mocks his mother’s word?
What heavy guilt upon him lies!
How cursed is his name!
The ravens shall pick out his eyes,
And eagles eat the same.
But those that worship God, and give,
Their parents honour due,
Here on this earth they long shall live,
And live hereafter too.
Against Evil Company
Why should I join with those in play
In whom I’ve no delight;
Who curse and swear, but never pray;
Who call ill names and fight?
I hate to hear a wanton song,
The words offend mine ears;
I should not dare defile my tongue
With language such as theirs.
Away from fools I’ll turn mine eyes,
Nor with the scoffers go;
I would be walking with the wise,
That wiser I may grow.
From one rude boy that’s used to mock,
They learn the wicked jest;
One sickly sheep infects the flock,
And poisons all the rest.
My God, I hate to walk or dwell
With sinful children here;
Then let me not be sent to hell,
Where none but sinners are.
This is just a small sampling of the lyrics to these songs. They are extraordinary. How often do you hear children today being taught songs like this? Even more, how often are they taught lessons like this? How many adults in churches would sing these songs today?
Modern christianity has specialized in the trivial, the superficial, the throw-away. It is truly a reflection of the culture. All the more reason to extract the culture from our churches. We have 2000 years of history to draw from. Countless people have been saved by God’s grace through the foolishness of preaching and the simple, clear truths of The Bible.
When we use contemporary culture to manufacture christian-ish people, then all we get are cultural-christians. Those with a loose affiliation with some of the notions of Jesus. The real thing is better. It doesn’t have to be manufactured because it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. And that belief comes from God, not from the culture, and not from a marketing plan.