The Importance of Community

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on Deuteronomy 6:7–9. This passage begins by describing the ways parents can diligently teach their children at home:

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

You can read that last post here. The latter half of this passage unpacks what teaching kids a lifestyle of worship looks like in a community context.

You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

God commanded the Israelites to put their faith on public display—on their hands, as frontlets between their eyes, as signs on their doorposts and gates. The implication is that our faithful words and actions should be publicly demonstrated in the context of our communities. Our worship should be on display for the world to see. This doesn’t mean that we should be hypocritical show-offs (Matthew 6:5). Rather, Moses recognizes the fact that we have a public responsibility to our community, and it’s displayed through our actions.

Each believer’s life of faith and obedience impacts other people around them. Moms and dads aren’t only spiritual influences for their kids, but also for their kids’ friends. And each member of your church community is an influence upon the kids in your church’s care. The kids are watching your life, even if you aren’t serving in children’s and student ministry.

So, is your faith visible?

As Christians grow in their knowledge of God’s love, that love should overflow in one-another-ing. The Bible calls us to service and love for one another (John 13:22, 34–35; 15:12, 17; Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 4:8, 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11–12; 2 John 5). We’re commanded to live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16), to not pass judgment upon one another (Rom. 14:13); to instruct one another (Rom. 15:7), to welcome one another (Rom. 15:16; 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Peter 4:9–10; 5:14), and to comfort one another (2 Cor. 13:11). We must serve one another (Gal. 5:13), guard ourselves from provoking and envying one another (Gal. 5:23; James 4:11; 5:9), bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2; Eph. 4:2), be kind to one another (Eph. 4:32), and submit to one another (Eph. 5:21). This list of one-another’s goes on and on. We’re told not to lie to one another (Col. 3:9), to bear and forgive one another (Col 3:13), to admonish one another (Col. 3:16), to encourage one another (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11; Heb. 3:13; 10:25), to seek to do good to one another (1 Thess. 5:15), and to spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). We must confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) and clothe ourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)

Romans 12:1–5 reminds us that the church isn’t a club where we pay our annual dues but a body to which we belong. We’re called to be living sacrifices with transformed hearts and minds. And we’re called to serve the whole. We tend to think of ourselves more than we think of others as if we’re above them and their concerns. When we do this, we’re forgetting to practically apply our faith. But God has uniquely gifted each of us to be a blessing to the body—to be a blessing to one another. Everyone within the community has a role to play.

That includes our kids. We should be intentional about leading them to serve as well—giving them opportunities to love their church family both on Sundays and throughout the week. What does that look like practically? I’ll close with this quote from Robert J. Keeley’s book, Helping Our Children Grow in Faith:

Children and young people should participate in the life of the church through authentic tasks. By authentic I mean tasks in which they give as well as receive. They should feel that if they aren’t doing their part, the whole group will suffer… In some churches there are a number of high school students who love to work with the sound and video equipment. These students take their work very seriously, and if given the chance, really take ownership of that aspect of church life. They arrive early to set up for worship and they come in during the week to try things out and make things better with the system. They realize they are needed and important in the life of the church and play and important role enhancing worship. When children and teens are serving the church, they feel like a real part of the body of Christ instead of a grow for whom special programs are created until they are old enough to really take part.

Let’s invite the next generation into the community life of the church. Let’s let them experience all of the one-another’s. Let the way we worship and demonstrate our common faith be ever visible and public before them so that as they grow, they’ll embody everyday worship themselves.

Family Friday Links 6.16.17

Family

Greg Baird at Children's Ministry Leader Blog wrote a post about 4 Ways To Help Parents Want To Engage With Your Children’s Ministry. Greg writes, "Cast a clear and compelling vision. In other words, there needs to be a good reason to engage. Most parents are selective about what they invest their time in. If they view your Children’s Ministry more like childcare, forget about engaging them." Do you have a vision for your ministry? Is it compelling? 

Christianity Today shared a post by Alvin Reid about Reaching the Next Generation. Reid says that the Next Generation is starving for community. He states, "One of the primary reasons those in the next generation stay in church after their teens is because they develop meaningful relationships and develop a sense of community. They are twice as likely to be engaged in church if they have a close friendship with an adult in the church. And they are two and a half times as likely to be engaged if they have a mentor." Are you developing lasting relationships? 

If you haven't made a summer reading list Kristen Ivy at The Orange Leaders Blog wrote about the 17 Inspiring Books About Working With Kids and Teens. You should check it out and maybe add a couple for your summer reading list. Post in the comments some of your favorite books about working with kids or teens. 

As I am studying more about helping people connect with the church Carey Nieuwhof writes on How to Lose a Guest in the First 10 Minutes or Less. Carey writes, "Before they hear the first note of music, before they hear the first word of a sermon or before anyone stands up and says “welcome” in the service, most first-time guests have already made a conscious or subconscious decision about whether they’re coming back." Are you being intentional on creating a welcoming culture at your church? 

Declare Your Dependence

Throughout their journey to the Promised Land, God tested the people of Israel. In Exodus 17:8-16, they faced the first military test of their sojourn. A group of bedouin raiders, the Amalekites, came and attacked the Hebrews. When that attack came, rather than complaining and grumbling like they typically did, Moses and all Israel responded in faith.

At the end of the battle, Moses set up an altar as a memorial. It wasn't what we normally think about when we imagine an altar. I think of large stones built together to make a grill for burning sacrifices. Bible scholars believe this memorial was more like a tall obelisk or flag pole. There may have even been a flag flying at the top of it, because Moses called it, "The Lord is my Banner" (17:15).

As an American, that picture surprised me. When I think about flying a flag, I think about how we celebrate and declare our independence. This Bible story show us our need to do exactly the opposite. The banner memorial is a declaration of dependence on God and one another. The battle teaches us two key truths:

  • First, we can't win without God.  When the Amalekites attacked Israel, Moses spoke to his field general, Joshua, "Choose some men to go and fight the Amalekites" (17:8a) Then Moses said, "Tomorrow, I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands" (17:8b). Moses didn't hang back because he was an old man. He went to the top of the hill to intercede for the battle. By attacking Israel, the Amalekites had "lifted their hands against the throne of the Lord" (17:16). They had called into question God's plan to give the promise land to his people. Moses lifted up his hands as an appeal for the Lord to remember his promise and fight for his people. And, while Moses cried out in desperation on the hill top, Joshua, whose name means "God saves" fought in the valley.

    The scene is a picture of the gospel. Sin and Satan wage war against our souls. Sometimes we think we can fight in our own strength. If we know enough gospel truth or sin-fighting technique, we'll have victory. But we can't beat sin without God's intervention. Like Moses, we must cry out for help. God gives us the new Joshua, Jesus, to fight for us in the valley. Israel couldn't win without God, and we can't either. Like Moses, we're most victorious when we cry out in brokenness and appeal to his promises.
     
  • Second, we can't win without each other.  The Hebrews only experienced victory to the degree that Moses expressed his dependence. "As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning" (17:11). But, lest Israel be tempted to place their faith in Moses, God used the battle to show the leader's weakness. Before the battle was over, the energy in his arms and the strength of his prayer ran out. Moses needed other men to support him. He needed  Aaron and Hur. "When Moses hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it" (17:12a). Then, "Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset" (17:12b) 

    The scene is a picture of the church. In the church, God has given us a band of brothers and sisters to hold up our arms. We strengthen one another. But, incredibly, strength and victory only come as our friends and fellow sojourners  help us to courageously declare our weakness.

After the battle, God gave Moses a final instruction. God said, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered." In other words, God said, the next generation needs to hear this message

So put a flag in the ground and ask yourself today...

  • Do my kids see me declaring my dependence on God or my own independence and freedom?
  • Do they see me embracing weakness or relentlessly projecting strength?
  • Do they see me leaning on the church for help when I'm attacked?
  • Would they describe me as someone who lives a life characterized by trust?

Michelle Anthony on Kids in Community

I’m reading Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today's Families by Michelle Anthony. Yesterday I finished chapter 5. It was all about kids in community. My heart is so full of joy and hope that I had to share these quotes:

Our kids desperately need the faith community because it is the one place were there are other people who worship the same God, believe the same things, and are dedicated to living the same life. Our children need to know they are not alone. (pg. 83)

When these two places, home and faith community, work together in harmony, they have lifelong influence. Neither home nor faith community can do it alone, but together they offer the best opportunity for faith to take root into the adult years. (pg. 87)

It’s imperative that we put our children in close proximity to the faith community, because the work is hostile toward their faith. (pg. 90)

The faith community is a place to be strengthened, to be known, to remember God, and to celebrate in worship. In order for the faith community to retain its vibrancy, however, it must continually be increasing in new life and authentic transformation. (pg. 96)

All quotes taken from Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today's Families by Michelle Anthony © 2010 and published by David C. Cook.

I love when people say things that I’ve been thinking. I (sort of) hate it when they say it better than I could. So, I settle on being thankful for these words. May we continue to find creative ways to include kids in faith communities. This post originally appeared at pataldridge.com