Recommended: Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction

I have already talked about a great Bible that seems to be very attractive to boys (here and here), The Action Bible. And now I present another resource, one that is much less spiritual, but just as engaging.

Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction: Build Implements of Spitball WarfareMini Weapons of Mass Destruction: Build Implements of Spitball Warfare provides step-by-step instructions to build over two dozen simple (and mostly safe) weapons, like catapults, guns, and crossbows. All you'll need is about $9 for the book, plus some common household and craft items. (And I hope you have better handyman skills than I do. But that would include about 87% of mankind.)

This book will be fun for boys of all ages (even the boys that are Dads now). Definitely worth having.

Should Non-Christians Serve in Children’s Ministry? More Ideas

In the last post, I presented both sides of this question, but making the case that I think non-Christians could serve in a church’s Children’s Ministry.  Here are some other thoughts:


If They Can Serve, Where Should They?
image courtesy of planetka via sxc.hu
Obviously, I always wanted my stronger leaders and Christians teaching the older children. We were a lot more selective for our elementary programming, and even upper preschool.  But I think the nursery is a great place for a new volunteer and for non-Christians. Think about this -- does someone really need to be a Christian in order to lovingly care for an infant? Of course not. 

Even with young preschoolers, when we would start using a curriculum, there is not much that someone can do to mess up the program, as long as they follow the lesson. Just about anyone can read a lesson, do crafts and activities, and love on kids. Preschoolers are going to collect small nuggets of truth. And besides, could this be a good opportunity for the non-Christian teacher to learn some biblical truths?

image courtesy of tome213 via sxc.hu
Non-Christians could also run the audio-visual equipment for our band and drama teams. I know that there are lots of men who would feel comfortable here, and happy to be a part of something.

I could see where you could make a case where a non-Christian should not serve on welcome or hospitality teams, but I am good with them serving in this area, too. Especially how we structured this service area, serving on the Welcome Team gave the volunteers a great chance to connect with other folks during the “down time.”


Conclusion
I think there is a spectrum of possibilities of how a church could address this question. There are many factors involved, and more than likely, perspectives and operations will change over time. I encourage you to be open to doing something different, even if you’ve “never done it like that before.”  

But I have also learned to be careful of my own motives. Many times, I was caught up focused on the need for a “warm body” – anyone – who could fill a spot. So I had to be reminded (from others on staff or from nudges from the Holy Spirit) that I needed to focus on the needs and best interests of the adults in our ministry, not just the kids and weekly programming. We need to develop leaders in our church, for the long-term.


In what areas in a church would you be OK with a non-Christian serving (if any)? What cautions would you have?

Should Non-Christians Serve in Children’s Ministry?

My perspective, that non-Christians could serve in a church’s Children’s Ministry, probably puts me in the far minority among church leaders.

Most evangelical churches say that non-Christians should not serve in Children’s Ministry, or even in some other areas of the church. In my time as a pastor, I had a viewpoint that was different than most of my fellow pastors. I loved hearing their perspectives and learning from them, as it made me question my own motives and biases. 


Why They Shouldn’t
Wayne Stocks wrote a series of articles for Kidmin1124 on the topic of volunteers in Children’s Ministry. In one post, he listed some non-negotiable qualifications, including that the volunteer should be a “professing believer of Christ.” His concern, rightly so, is that “the spiritual nourishment of God’s children is at stake.” After all, how can someone lead another (especially a child) to a place where he is not at himself?

In a related article, Michael McKinley states that churches should exclude non-Christians from certain privileges (including serving and small groups) for the sake of protecting the flock. While I agree that protecting a flock is a core responsibility of elders and other church leaders, I suppose that how we define “visitor,” “flock,” and “small groups” can vary from church to church.


Why They Could
Notice I say that they could serve, not they should serve. Whereas I rarely hesitated to challenge non-serving Christians to step up, I would not do this for non-Christians. I might ask, but just to give them an opportunity. Here’s why I think it was often good for them to serve:
  • Opportunity to connect with others in the body.  One large multi-site church that I talked with used serving as a chance to help visitors feel included. The idea was not to put the visitor in a place where he felt isolated, but to partner him with a friend who was already serving. The mindset was, “Come serve with me.”
  • Be under the leadership and shepherding of other leaders.  We’ve had leaders who have connected with parents and volunteers, encouraging them to attend church, go to membership classes, and be a part of Bible studies.  If this non-member didn’t hear this from the Volunteer Coach that they were serving under, who would they have heard it from, on a personal level?
  • Use gifts to meet a need.  There is always a need for more volunteers. When we “needed” 240 volunteers my first year on staff, we had 220.  When we “needed” 550, we had 520. Needed 770, had 720. It’s just how it goes, right?  But think about it from the volunteer’s perspective. Serving is a great opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself.  When you are using your time and gifts for a good purpose, it just feels good. You would want to come back.
  • Do we really know?  Especially at our large and growing church, I struggled with the concept of how we would always know if someone is a believer. Especially for folks growing up in a church setting, they could recite the language that they needed to, and sign a covenant agreement acknowledging certain biblical truths. But this doesn’t mean it is real in their heart. Yes, you could make the case that if you know someone is not a Christian, that would eliminate them. But I would rather deal with an honest seeker, than someone who is either deceiving themselves or others out of fear, apathy, or laziness.

Be sure to read some concluding thoughts, including where non-Christians could serve and what we need to remember if we do allow non-Christians to serve.  For now, I’d love your thoughts:

Do you think it’s ok for a non-Christian to serve in Children’s Ministry? Why or why not?


Related Links:

Two-Month Update on the Boys & Girls Club

Painter Emily Clarke came down for an afternoon
Now that we are two months into the re-launch of the Boys & Girls Club, it definitely feels like we have gotten a lot better, especially from our Day 3 update. The leaders and members have become accustomed to a more regular routine, including designated times for homework, play, and specific programming.

I am excited that we were able to bring Marvin Love on staff earlier this month. Marvin is a teacher at Fairfax Elementary School, and someone whom Grace Church has been connected to for a while now. He is a member at Vision Ministries (with Pastor Joe Mole), and one of his plays was performed at Grace's Pelham Road campus last fall. He brings Boys & Girls Club experience, plus strong leadership skills.

Some children who came early on have chosen to not return, or only sporadically. In most of these situations, they have stopped coming due to a "misunderstanding" of what the Club is about. Some members thought we were doing a sort of after school babysitting, and they could come in and do whatever they wanted. Marvin (even when he was just volunteering) let them know that this is not Burger King; "you CANNOT have it your way."

We really have three general groups of kids who are members of the club:
  1. Over half of the kids that come regularly are really great. They follow directions (mostly), don't have serious attitude issues, and try their best. 
  2. About 10% of the members are, well, poison. Major attitudes, don't want to do schoolwork, physically aggressive (including at least 3 serious fights that we've had), and bully others.
  3. The rest (maybe 25-50%) are mostly good, but they caught up with negative attitudes and behaviors.
Where I feel tension is that the ones that most need to be a part of the club (the poison, group #2), are the ones who are most difficult. So I am torn. I want to help these kids so much, but when I have to spend 80% of my time and energy on dealing with these negative situations, it is not fair to the rest of the kids who also want my attention.

As much as I am a perfectionist, I have to realize that we'll never have a "perfect day." I have to remember that if 3 or 4 kids are horrible, but 50 have a good day, that's a win. Our goal is not to eliminate all the bad, but to pour in positivity and hope.

As we begin to prepare for the summer (did I mention that it is an all-day program?), we'll continue to do our best to minister to these kids, to balance what they might want with what we think they need.

Is Depression Purely Biological?

Two months ago, I had a post about The Most Depressing Day, sharing some thoughts and personal experience with depression.

I'm happy to follow that post up with this video from CCEF.




In short, yes, depression can be rooted in biological causes. God has programmed into our DNA a whole spectrum of personality and tendency. And there is no doubt that the brain is a complicated and mysterious organ.

But just as we cannot ignore the biological aspects of depression, we must also not discount the emotional and spiritual aspects as well.

Talking to Your Kids about the Sermon

This article seems to be written for parents who a part of churches that have families be together for worship (as opposed to separate Children's and Student Ministries). However, I think the principles can apply in other situations as well, such as helping you engage what your kids are learning in their programming, or for your own family devotions.

Here are the 8 principles the author discusses:
  1. Remember the outline.
  2. Know the one, main point.
  3. How is Jesus the hero?
  4. Engage your kids with open-ended questions.
  5. Make sure the gospel is clear.
  6. Be the first to pray and confess.
  7. Chase rabbit trails.
  8. Remember that our kids retain and understand more than we think they do.

Along these lines, one of the biggest things that has helped me is to tell stories and use real-life situations to help drive the point home. As much as we can, we should role-play situations before children are in them, and ask them how they should react. We need to take biblical principles and lead our children into application.


Related Link:

Fairfax Friday: How You Can Help

Now that I've been here in Allendale, SC for over two months, a lot of our direction and needs have become more definitive, compared to the post What We'll Do, and What We'll Need.


My Role
image courtesy of Eastop via sxc.hu
My job is to make the Boys & Girls Club of Allendale County a success. I feel like we are off to a good start; whereas we began averaging 80+ kids per day (usually with only 2 adult and 2 teenage leaders), we are now having a more manageable 60-70 children per day (ages 6 - 13). We are all more settled into a routine.

My biggest project now involves developing and recruiting for a variety of roles that volunteers can serve in, no matter what their skills and time commitment. I have come up with about 25 different roles someone could choose from. It should be no surprise that the three main areas (Small Group, Programming, Hospitality) are similar to the areas that we had during my time in Children's Ministry (Small Group, Big Group, Welcome Team).


How You Can Help My Family
Here are some of the main ways:
  1. Pray. We need strength, peace, and comfort, especially with the nature of our transition to Allendale.
  2. Financial Support. Read more about our need for financial support (why and how much). We are happy with the response so far (about $900 per month), and are looking for another $900 per month.  If you plan on giving but haven't filled out this anonymous survey, please do so, to help us plan. Here is how you can be a part of helping us reach this total:
    1. 19 people to give $20 per month = $380 per month
    2. 8 people to give $40 per month = $320 per month
    3. 2 people to give $100 per month = $200 per month (or 4 people to give $50 per month)
  3. Buy Our House! OK, maybe not you, but you could know someone. We have an MLS # (1218107) and a listing. We could probably give a really good deal to someone, in the right situation.

How You Can Help the Boys & Girls Club
Even though you may not live in Allendale, there are a number of ways that you can support the mission of the Club. 
  1. Pray. Most of these children are dealing with immense challenges, including poverty, one or both parents not in their lives, a struggling education system, poor nutrition, intense peer pressure, and a sense of hopelessness and oppression. There is little that I or anyone can do. God must rescue them.
  2. Supplies. With a very limited budget, we depend heavily on donations. We've already had generous donations of snacks, coat hooks, jump ropes, balls, a new vacuum cleaner, craft supplies, and more. I have a couple of people who will be the administrators for regular and semi-regular needs. You could be on the email list, so that about every couple 6-8 weeks, you would get an email with the needs. Here are different categories of supplies:
  3. Mark Galloway hung out for an afternoon.
    1. Regular. Paper towels, pencils, paper, tape, snacks, etc.
    2. Semi-regular. Batteries, coloring books, educational worksheets, craft supplies, craft kits, etc.
    3. Single "big ticket" items. These are the more rare needs, like when we needed a vacuum cleaner or coat hooks. 
  4. Volunteer. Consider what it might look like for you to come down for a day or two or three, in order to serve at the Club. (Note that we are currently only open during the week.) We have already had some people come down to help out for a single afternoon. They give a refreshment to the current leaders, and bring joy to the kids. We are also working on bringing folks down who can use their unique gifts (art, dance, science, etc) to enrich these kids' experiences. Let me know if you would like to take a trip down, and we can work out the details.


"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few."
Matthew 9:37

Related Link:

The Inerrant, Infallible, Inspired Word of God . . . Or Not?

“Infallibility and inerrancy are important for the health of the church, but are not essential for the life of the church. . . .  Personally, I believe in inerrancy. However, I wouldn’t consider inerrancy to be a primary or essential doctrine for saving faith.”

The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of ChristInerrancy: Is It Critical to Faith?
When I read that a few months ago, I was shocked.  I was working through Lee Strobel’s The Case for the Real Jesus, and read this in the second chapter.  As I worked through this section, which was an interview of Daniel Wallace, I was confronted with the teaching about how inerrancy isn’t all that.  As I kept reading, I had to continually flip back and remind myself that Dr. Wallace is a professor at the conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, and that Strobel is an evangelical Christian author and former teaching pastor.  Here they were, making the case that inerrancy isn’t critical to faith.  Definitely a new thought for me in the 15+ years of being a Christ-follower.


Definitions
Trust me -- the last thing I want to do is give a dissertation about the meaning of inerrancy, infallibility, and inspiration.   (Maybe someone can leave a comment with some suggested links and resources.)  But here is a quick overview, given in this book:
  • Inerrant:  The Bible is true in what it touches.
  • Infallible:  The Bible is true in what it teaches (in matters of faith and practice).
  • Inspired:  God has done great acts in history, and He directed men to write about some of those.

Two Word Pictures
Dr. Wallace gives two images to use to help us understand the nature of these three terms.
  • Pyramid:  Inspiration is foundational, at the bottom.  Then, infallibility is in the middle.  Finally, inerrancy is at the top.  Inerrancy is important but not foundational, so let’s not try to flip this pyramid over.   From both atheists and ultraconservative Christians you tend to hear this, “Find me one error and I’ll throw out the whole Bible.”   
  • Concentric Circles:  Inspiration is most important and is at the center, then infallibility.  Inerrancy is a protective shell; again, it’s important but not essential to salvation.  

Here are examples of how this plays out with truths from Scripture:
  1. Jesus was human and divine, and died for my sins.  This is essential doctrine.
  2. Demons in the Gospels were real.  It will be hard to dismiss this, but this is not essential to salvation.

Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical TruthI recognize that if you really wanted to auger down, someone could make the case that this could lead to a slippery slope of dismissing selective parts of scripture.  That is the perspective of Charles Ryrie (author of Basic Theology, another book that I’m working through), and others.  But in this process of examining my own thoughts and perspectives, my faith in the power of the gospel message has actually been strengthened.  Everyone comes with their own set of biases when it comes to interpretation.  The issue is whether you are willing to challenge those biases.


Conclusion
If you want to read more, I encourage you to buy a copy of The Case for the Real JesusFor now, do you have any questions or comments?  Also, are there any concepts or biases that you have challenged, or maybe need to examine?  It’s OK to debate and disagree, of course.  

Let us not fret over differences in the Gospels or other books in the Bible.  The core message of the Bible is consistent, and very revolutionary.  Remember that among the several hundred-thousand variants of the New Testament, there are no foundational beliefs that are in jeopardy.

To close, here is another summarizing quote from Dr. Wallace:
“Inerrancy is important, but the gospel is bigger than inerrancy. . . . The Bible wasn’t hanged on the cross; Jesus was.”

Related Links:

Bible Stories with Legos

For the last couple months of 2010, our dining room table was a massive Lego table. It was great to watch our kids play for hours at a time, having their imaginations stretched.

Ever-wanting to spiritualize things, before Christmas I told them that half of the table had to be dedicated to making a scene of Bethlehem. They did great -- making a stable and a manger, setting up shepherds and angels. I was so proud of myself for this idea.

But we did not go the extreme of these 10 Disturbingly Violent Biblical Stories Depicted with Legos. These are very creative, and mostly accurate (there is only so much you can do with Legos, and a few of the accounts distort the truth somewhat). My favorite is number 8, but maybe that's just because I am Jewish. (Obviously, some of these are definitely drastic, so you might want to check them out before showing them to your young kids.)

David Collects and Delivers Philistine Foreskins

 
Here is another one that my son Elijah enjoyed:

Canaanite Kings Executed


And another one from The Brick Testament (I think there are several thousand pictures at that site); Sender loved this one:

The Dragon Chained and Thrown in the Abyss




(And speaking of Elijah, he has now read his The Action Bible at least 5 times all the way through. Not only that, he is retaining what he reads, even hearing a verse in a song, and knowing that it was Paul writing to Timothy. I talk about it in my post on Recommended Children's Bibles.)


Related Link:

Project Kenya Update

I am so excited about the response we got for Project Kenya, both at Grace Church (Greenville, SC) and at the Boys & Girls Club (Allendale, SC). Our Club members donated 190 points and tickets, which Grace Church converted to a donation of $190.  This project was helpful as a tool to teach the kids to think bigger than their usual world, and to teach them that they can positively impact the lives of others.

Here is a great video of some children and parents from Grace Church, talking about Project Kenya:


Is My Child Ready to Take Communion?

This post was originally written on the Grace Children's Ministry Parenting blog, as the post Can My Child Take Communion? Since we have been discussing the connection between baptism and communion, I figured it was a good time to re-post, with some edits. More specifically, the question isn't really can a child take communion, but whether he should.


Communion is an act in which we remember Jesus’ perfect life and sinless body (represented by unleavened bread) and His redemptive sacrifice and blood that paid the price for our sins (represented by grape juice or wine). Jesus gives this ordinance to His disciples (Luke 22:19-20), as a way to remember what He did for us. We should only participate in Communion if we believe and admit that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was for our sin. Once we personally and publicly identify with Christ in both His death and resurrection, we are part of the family of faith and welcome to partake in the Lord’s Supper. 

At Grace Church, we typically partake in Communion (also called the Lord’s Supper) on the weekend of the first Sunday of the month. Additionally, we will also use this in worship in other occasions, such as during Good Friday worship services. Based on questions we have received in the past, I want to give direction to parents who will be bringing their young children to the worship services that include Communion.  

As a parent who is the God-given authority for you child, it is your role to determine if your child is able to take Communion. If you are not sure (as best you can discern through prayer and godly counsel), if your child is a true believer in and follower of Jesus Christ, you should not allow him or her to partake in the Lord’s Supper. If your child is a believer, then we welcome him to join us in Communion.  And if he or she has not been baptized as a believer, then you should consider baptism as a next step, maybe even before they take Communion. See this site about baptism for what this process looks like at Grace Church.

As a personal example, our daughter, Hannah (who, as best we can tell, is a follower of Christ and professed this by mouth and by baptism in November 2008), regularly takes Communion with us. Our son Elijah has not take the same steps as Hannah, and we are still discerning the work of the Spirit in his life. He has with us during Good Friday services and other worship services that included The Lord's Supper, but we do not allow him to take Communion. This has been a struggle and brought tension for him, and probably will again. But in that tension, our goal is to shepherd him towards the struggle to die to himself and live a Spirit-empowered life for Christ.

If you have questions about whether your child is a true believer, the best thing you can do is seek counsel from your Community Group leader, a pastor, or a respected God-fearing parent who has been through this season. Here are a few starting points that may help guide you in determining whether your child is a true believer or not:
  1. Is your child characterized by knowledge of the gospel message, unsolicited repentance for sin, and an indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in his life? For more help, read this post about the theology of baptism.
  2. Here is a blog post to a similar question about salvation for children.
  3. Based on a parent equipping event that we had several years ago, here are 10 principles for shepherding my child through salvation and baptism.

What’s the First Obstacle in Working with Youth? You Are.

As explained in this article from The Resurgence, among those who work with youth, two widely-divergent perspectives are common -- those who serve out of obligation, and those who just want to hang out.

People in the first group (serving out of obligation) “measure their success by how long they’ve been engaged with young people.” Those on the opposite extreme (hanging out) “measure their success by whether they are included and accepted.” 

The answer to both extremes is that ministry must start in our own hearts. Above all else, we must be worshipers of Christ, not worshipers of our idols of works or sense of security. And like our Good Shepherd Jesus, we must be motivated by a God-honoring compassion on those that we minister to.
Read the full article here.


Related Link:

The Struggles of Some Boys - Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about the struggle of a boy in Allendale who cannot read and understand. Here's the story of another young man who has a different challenge.

Struggle with His Emotions
On the same day I was dealing with the young man above, another boy the same age was having serious attitude and respect issues. I can put up with kids talking and getting loud (to a point), but not with disrespect to leaders. I had pulled him aside after he smart-mouthed to a volunteer, but he refused to talk to me, or even look at me.

I could not get through to him. I explained that I was going to write him up, and if he still refused to engage us in dialogue, he would be suspended. After 5-10 long minutes of my best efforts, I finally got a slight acknowledgment out of him. Progress!

(This refusal to talk is common among the kids at the Club, especially with the boys. When they get mad, they often storm off, refuse to look at you, or even pull their shirts over their face and clam up. In the heat of the moment, they’ll do everything but talk to you. And after writing the first draft of this post, I read an article about how young boys especially need help dealing with negative emotions.)

When this boy was getting picked up, I was about to tell his dad about the issues we had with him. But when I walked up to his truck, I heard Dad yell things like, “Get in the back seat or I’ll beat the _______ out of you! Boy, you heard me; get your ______ back there! Don’t make me slap the ______ out of you!” 

Okaaaaaay. I kept my mouth shut. I saw all too clearly why this boy could not communicate his emotions. He had never been taught how to, or seen a healthy model. 


The Rest of the Story
The first boy comes every day (except for being suspended for the time he hit another boy – “He hit me first,” was his reasoning), and continues to try to do his school work, but to little avail.

The second boy has not returned.  The interesting thing is that this boy is one of the handful of members whose parents earn more than $40,000 per year.  Obviously, money does not solve all problems.

I don’t know what the future holds, but if I had to bet money, I would say that neither of them are going to “make it.” If a boy cannot read close to grade level by 3rd grade, he probably will not catch up. If a boy isn’t learning to control his emotions at age 9, will he learn on his own by age 15? Nope.

What does their future look like? Well, I think they are doomed to fail.

That is, unless God rescues them.  

The only hope for these boys, and for all the children in Allendale, is in the power of the gospel to rescue and to change. Pray for God’s mercy on this next generation.

Correction to Donations

I wrote last week about supporting our mission in Allendale. After talking more with leaders at Grace Church, we've decided to change what should be written on the memo line.

If you want to donate, make your check out to "Grace Church" and put "Allendale Boys & Girls Club" on the memo line.

If you plan to donate regularly (we are looking for over $1000 per month of support), please fill out this anonymous form, so that we can plan accordingly.

As always, let me know if you have any questions, or email Jeff Randolph.

The Struggles of Some Boys - Part 1

In just a short time working with kids at an after school program in Allendale, my eyes were opened to some sad situations, where kids are seriously struggling.

In the first post, read about the struggle to read and understand.

You Could Take Communion If You Haven't Been Baptized. But You Shouldn't.

image courtesy of lumix2004 via sxc.hu
I intentionally published this two-post series on Communion and Baptism by Jeremy Keever this week because today is St. Patrick's Day and Jeremy has an Irish heritage. (It's also when many Jews celebrate the Fast of Esther, before Purim, but I'm the only one here that's Jewish.) He has written several articles on the Grace Church Pastors Blog, including a brief but informative piece about St. Patrick.

For all you Irish folks, I honor your heritage with a link to this video from Tripp & Tyler.

Hey, what a great reason to read this blog and tell your friends about it (and what great evidence that the gospel is real): where else can you find a southern Irish boy and a yankee Hispanic Jew come together to talk about Jesus?

Even more, I'm excited to be spending much of today and the weekend with Jeremy, as he is leading a group of college students down here in Allendale for a mission trip.


As you can see from the last post, baptism and communion are the two ordinances that all Christians have historically observed. Both are commanded in Scripture and both proclaim the gospel message of grace and acknowledge our need for Jesus. Participation in these two ordinances does not make you a Christian. In fact, both of them proclaim the message that Jesus death, burial and resurrection is all that makes salvation possible for mankind.  

So with that background information in mind, here is why I believe “the norm” should be baptism before communion: 
  1. Baptism is intended to be one of the main marks of a Christian. For those who claim to be Christians and partake in communion without baptism, they send mixed signals to non-believers, those with a weaker faith, and to the Christian community they are identifying with.   
  2. It is the first act of obedience. Throughout the New Testament, the first thing that converts are told to do is to be baptized. All non-baptized Christians need to seriously ask themselves why they haven’t been baptized.  
  3. It signifies blessings/coverings without identification. You can be married and enjoy the benefits of it without a ceremony, exchanging rings, sharing the same name or telling anyone that you are married. But you won’t find anyone that recommends it. In fact, it would take another blog or two to unpack why it is such a terrible idea. Likewise, there is something wrong with those who want to participate in the benefits of the cross but are unwilling to identify with Christ through baptism.  
  4. It provides a false sense of comfort. When we take communion, we take comfort in partaking in the benefits of Christianity. However, without being baptized, we need to seriously ask ourselves if we truly are covered by the blessings of Christ if we are being directly disobedient to such a specific biblical mandate.  
Can someone be a Christian, not be baptized and partake in communion. Absolutely. Should it happen as often as it does? Absolutely not! Can we all think more seriously about the biblical mandate of baptism, what it signifies, and why all Christians should observe it? I think so.  

For a closer look at baptism within the NT study the following texts:
Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, Acts 8, Acts 10:48, Acts 16:33, Acts 18:8, Acts 22:16.


Related Links:

Should I Take Communion If I Haven't Been Baptized? Theology

image courtesy of lumix2004 via sxc.hu
I started to write about why baptism should precede communion, before realizing that I am a woefully inadequate theologian to cover a topic like this. That is why I am thankful for Jeremy Keever, one of the pastors at Grace Church. He is not only a talented teacher and writer (for elementary-age kids, teenagers, and adults), but also a good friend. He and his wife Kelly have already contributed to this blog, sharing their perspectives on why they have intentionally chosen to have their kids in public school. That has been one of our more popular posts and series, and I'm sure you'll enjoy this 2-post series as well.


At Grace Church, where I am a member, we observe the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper monthly. I have always enjoyed the freedom and worshipful environment that is created as we “go to the table.” The pastoral team is very clear that this is meant to be a family (those who are in Christ) event. As a church we encourage all people to be a part of our weekly gathered worship services. In fact, we take very intentional steps to make sure non-Christians, de-churched and people of all faiths feel welcomed with us. (Side Note: Good thing that is what Jesus did!) 

However, the very act of taking communion is divisive. There is really no way around it. Those who take communion are acknowledging their love for Christ, communicating their daily need for his broken body and his spilled blood to cover their sin, and proclaiming the gospel message. Those who don’t are non-verbally choosing to not identify with him.  

Over the years I have become increasingly concerned at how many people actually observe The Lord’s Supper. We know that people regularly get up and take communion who claim to not be a Christian or who have never been baptized.  

In order to adequately answer the question at hand, we need to first be clear on what we are talking about:
 
Baptism is one-time act of obedience and worship to identify with Jesus in his death and resurrection for those who have received the benefits of the saving work of Christ.  A few important components:
  • It is a one time act
  • It is commanded by Jesus and the Christian Church
  • It identifies you with the church body
  • It proclaims the gospel to the world

Communion (The Lord’s Supper) is an ordinance that celebrates the breaking of Christ body and the shedding of his blood for sinners.  We remember the event, celebrate the covering it brings and are nourished by partaking in worship.
  • Is to be observed continually
  • Is a sign of continued participation in the benefits of Christ’s death
  • Signifies unity with the church
  • It proclaims the gospel message to the world



Be sure to read the rest of the interview


Related Links:

Awkward Questions About Jesus

Does this clip (from the British comedy show "Outnumbered") make you feel a little uncomfortable? 


Of course, the writers' intention is probably not to seek truth, but to try to poke holes. But we know that our children do say things like this. The important thing to remember is not to be afraid when they do, but to give a clear and age-appropriate answer. Invite their questions, as long as they are respectful, and work with them to discover God's truth.


Related Link:

Haikus

On Mondays through Thursdays at the Boys & Girls Club, we start out the afternoons doing Power Hour, which is our homework time. More often than not, we hear, “I don’t have any homework.” The members know (at least we’ve said it many, many times) that if they don’t have any homework, they should pull out a book to read. Sometimes, if they are goofing off, we may assign a short essay or book report.

Recently, to enrich their experience, I had the older students (4th – 8th grade) write haikus. Every child had to write two before they could go out to play. A haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that has three lines; the first and last line has 5 syllables and the middle line has 7. The poem can be about any topic, and does not need to rhyme. 

Here was the example I gave the class:
Summer. It is hot 
and sweltering. Allendale 
summers are not cool.

Some kids got the concept right off the bat, and some needed reminders about syllables. Some were not too bad for their first time, but some were really good.  Let me share some of my favorites.

The boys and girls are 
at home eating mac and cheese 
with me and my fams.  (J.J.)

I love to play games 
like kickball, baseball, stepping. 
We have so much fun.  (K.J.)

Moose are very big 
and slow. They can eat a lot. 
They live in Yukon.  (A.B.)

Baseball is a sport. 
Balls make me very happy. 
I really like it.  (R.P.)

Winter has cold days. 
Sometimes it snows in Fairfax 
but not very much.  (T.J.)

I like sports better 
than staying home because it 
is boring at home.  (K.S.)

I like the boys and 
girls club. I will respect my 
leaders and my mom.  (Z.J.)


Care to give it a shot?  Leave your best haiku in the comments. 


Related Link:

Children Discipling Parents

I've been saying the same thing for a couple of years now (it's always been a topic that I brought up when doing baby dedications), but Dale Hudson articulated this extremely well in an article called Children Discipling Parents.

We normally think that Biblical parenting is about God using us to shepherd our children, and we would be correct. However, God is just as purposeful for using our own children to expose our hearts and help us worship Him more.

Want some examples?
  • I get frustrated when one of my child is too "busy" or distracted to talk with me when I try to engage him in conversation. Then God reminds me of my tendency to not take time to listen to and talk with Him.
  • My kids whine and complain, and they fail to be grateful. I am sick and tired of them thinking they deserve so much. I don't deserve to be taken for granted. I deserve respect. I deserve. . . 
  • I am amazed to near laughter when my child gets upset when his sibling takes something from him. After all, it is just a piece of candy (or Lego piece, or whatever). But then God reminds me of my recent selfishness.
  • My child would rather ignore or at least dawdle with her responsibilities, wanting to daydream or just enjoy some leisure time. Well, the apple doesn't fall too fall from the tree.

If you work or serve in a church setting, I encourage you to read Dale's full article, to gather some ideas of how to reach parents through child-oriented events and programming.


Related Link:

Top Parenting Concerns

In case you haven't seen it yet, I created a page listing parenting concerns and posts that drew the most attention on the blog.  The topics covered are:
  • Gospel-Oriented Mindset
  • Being a "Perfect" Parent
  • Santa
  • Salvation, Baptism, and Other Theological Issues
  • Priority of Marriage
  • Children's Ministry in a Church


Make sure you visit the Top Parenting Concerns page.  If there are other topics or links that you think I should cover, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Being Salt and Light in Allendale

image courtesy of laurih via sxc.hu
We all know that reading the Bible to our kids is important, but it sinks in so much more when they can connect what they are learning real life examples. This is the case with me and my kids earlier this year.

Sometime in January, before I started with the Boys & Girls Club in Allendale, but after we were sure that we would be moving down here, I was reading through the Sermon on the Mount (starting in Matthew 5) to Hannah and Elijah.

When we got to verses 13-16, things really started to hit home. Here's what Jesus says,

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

We talked about the purpose of salt (to be poured out and used up, to make something taste better). We talked about the purpose of a light (to shine in the darkness). When I asked, "How can we be salt and light to the world?" they responded, "We can be salt and light in Allendale."

Brilliant. Thankful to God for revealing His truth in their hearts.

Notice in this passage that Jesus puts the emphasis on you, the hearers. The emphasis is not on what salt can accomplish, or the effects of the light. The point is that we are to be used by God to make the world a better place. It's the same idea as pouring in good, clear water.

From my perspective, I need to remember that God is more concerned with my heart and my submission to Him, than He is with me doing good deeds. My focus is not to cure rottenness or to dispel all darkness; that's Jesus' job. My role is to say to God, "Yes, I will go. I will be used by You."

I'm thankful that God has called us to this role, and that my kids get to experience Him more in this culture. I am thankful for the two dozen college students that are coming down next week, giving up their spring breaks to serve the people of Allendale County. I am thankful for a church (elders, staff, and members) who have trusted us enough to send us down here.

People have asked me how I can communicate the Gospel in a "spiritually-neutral" organization like the Boys & Girls Club. I think the opportunities will come, not by doing and altar call every Friday, and not by doing Bible memorization with the members here.

Over the long-term, the greatest impact will be how much we love people here. We are called to evangelize by loving others.

We are called to be salt and light.


Related Links:

Baptism Before Communion?

Just baptized Hannah (November 15, 2008)
I have already stated that I believe that someone should first be baptized before taking communion, including our children. I know that is a strong statement, and one I didn't fully buy into for a long time.

And I have a feeling that most people don't get this either, which is fine. (If you haven't done so, please that the two polls -- one about baptism, and one about communion to the right.) Ever the scientist, I always like gathering data. If you are lucky, I'll even make a graph.

For now, I want to present a case for why I think that baptism should precede communion, for adults and for children. But the problem is that I'm not a theology expert.

So this is what I'll do. I'll give my own perspectives, and then next week I'll post what Jeremy Keever (a pastor on staff at Grace Church) wrote. I appreciate his willingness to take the time to help me out once again, (since he and his wife already gave me their perspectives on why they have their kids in public school).

Here's my two simple thoughts on this issue:
  1. Communion is about partaking in what Christ offers (His body and blood). Baptizing is identifying with Christ. You cannot (or at least shouldn't) partake in something unless you first identify with it. It's reaping the benefits without a commitment and cost.
  2. From a personal or parenting perspective, taking communion is relatively easy, but being baptized requires more effort and trust. To be baptized (at least to be baptized at our church) requires giving a public testimony and taking a step of humility by being immersed in front of hundreds of people. I have told parents that if their child is not ready to trust Jesus with doing a video testimony, they are probably not ready to trust Jesus with being baptized, and they are probably not ready to partake in Communion.
 
Not saying all this is perfectly accurate; it's just where I land (for now). Be sure to stay tuned, as I will publish what Jeremy wrote about this issues.

What do you think? Should baptism precede communion? Why or why not?


Related Links:

How Much Information Did God Put in Your DNA?

This post was on The Gospel Coalition blog, quoting an article from ScienceDaily.

As a science nerd, I love this.  As one of God's valued creatures, I am amazed.  As a Christ-follower, I am worshipful.

Think about it, with almost 7 billion people alive today, and billions more that are now deceased, no two people have ever had the same exact information.

Do You Want to Support Us In Allendale?

A lot of folks have been asking about how they can be a part of our Mission in Allendale. As you may know, my main role will be working at an after school program. My job as the Unit Director will be to focus on the daily operations of the Club -- from staff and volunteer management, to facilities, to ensuring that we do our best to give each member a rewarding and positive experience.

I have heard over and over (and seen first-hand) how big of a need there is for this program in Allendale; there is not much else for kids to do in this area. We want to provide these children with a safe and positive place to be, and to give them hope and encouragement for their futures. In the past 6 weeks, I have been privileged to be a part of these kids lives (we started out with an average of 80+ kids per day, but have now leveled out to a more manageable 70 each day).

We would love for you to be a part of what God has for us in this area. Here are three ways that you can do so. They are exclusive, so pick the one(s) that is (are) the best fit for what God wants from you.


Electronic Newsletter
Fill out this form so that we can make sure you stay connected with what is going on with our family. We will keep you posted with what is going on in Allendale and with our family, and be able to share prayer requests. You will get no more than 1 or 2 emails per month.


Financial Support
The Boys & Girls Club is just re-launching in this area, and we rely almost completely on donations. Therefore, although I am grateful for what the organization can pay me, it is nowhere near enough for our family to live on. We have looked into several options, including a mornings-only job working in the public school system or teaching at USC-Salkehatchie (in chemistry) in the fall. Even if that works out, we think that we need to find additional sources of income.

Through our church (Grace Church), who has been working in Allendale for a couple of years now, we are working to raise support as missionaries. From my rough estimates, I think we need to raise somewhere between $1000 - $2000 each month. If we can bring in closer to the upper end of this range, that would give us a lot more flexibility with our time (that is, I wouldn't need to work so much at a second job). It would give me more time with my family, more time to volunteer (such as in the schools), more time to build relationships, and more time to write (and think and plan).

If you want to support us financially, you can make your tax-deductible check out to "Grace Church" and write "Allendale Mission - Espinosa" in the memo line. If you are not a part of this church, you can mail the check to:
Grace Church
2801 Pelham Rd
Greenville, SC  29681

Note while we do need a number of folks to support us monthly, any one-time gifts will be gratefully accepted, too. To help us plan as we move forward, if you do plan on donating money to this cause, please take a moment to fill out this anonymous survey


Other Ways to Support Allendale
We are working on other ways that you can be a support, whether through donation of supplies for the Boys & Girls Club, through serving in short-term projects, and through other avenues. For opportunities in Allendale that are outside of the Boys & Girls Club, feel free to check out the Culturally-Engaged website, or email Jeff Randolph.


As always, if you have any questions, please leave a comment or email me.

Response to "A Case for Homeschooling"

The timing of the article couldn’t have been better. On this blog, we had just finished a series on education options for children, including perspectives from families who have chosen home, private, and public schooling. Each family explained why that option was best for their own family, and how they have seen God work in it for His glory.

Then, within a few days of concluding our series, I saw this post on another blog: A Case for Homeschooling: Is There A "Biblical Model" for Education?

I was interested not only because we had just finished our own series where a balanced view was presented, but also because we ourselves have homeschooled our own children. 

The author starts out by saying that while she sees a strong Biblical support for homeschooling, she is not saying that other options are sin. She then goes on to explain how homeschooling lines up with some Biblical principles, especially on the need to shepherd and protect the hearts of our children. Additionally, she equates homeschooling to a traditional, Hebrew mindset, and public school to a Greek approach to education.

In a number of points that the author brings up, I agree wholeheartedly. I do feel like one can make a case that homeschooling lines up with some core biblical principles. However, I have a number of objections to the author’s rationale.  I addressed some of these in the comments section on that post, but will elaborate more here:
image courtesy of ba1969 via sxc.hu
  • Be careful of Bible references used out of context. Yes, the principles that are brought up in the verses presented are true. But in none of these passages is the writer (inspired by God) saying, “This principle is true. Therefore, you should home school your child.” Deuteronomy 6 and Proverbs 1, for example, are passages about worship, not education.
  • We need a better definition for “home school.” Going along with the above point, I would make the case that those passages and principles apply no matter what schooling option is chosen. In truth, we all “home school.” We all need to be equipping our children with life lessons. But this is true regardless of who teaches a child reading, writing, and arithmetic.
  • We all need to engage our children. I’ve heard this before (and saw it especially in the comments section on that post), that people tend to equate public school with “throwing your kids in the wilderness and hoping they survive.” This is true if the parent is not continually engaging and equipping the child. But I would defend certain families that I know who have their kids in public school, who have wonderful opportunities to talk about their days in the context of the gospel and God’s kingdom.  In fact, I am a little envious of their opportunities, and I applaud their efforts.
  • Neglect can occur in any education system. God does not want us to “throw our kids in the wilderness” of public school, but I have seen this happen a lot. But I have also seen parents use private “Christian” school as a crutch or substitute. And I have even known neglectful homeschooling parents, who give the kids some worksheets and videos every day, but don’t really educate their children.
  • Traditional does not always mean biblical. The author says that Hebrew families homeschooled (Yay!), whereas the Greek philosophy incorporated public school (Boo!). Hey, I love (almost) all things Jewish, but let’s not equate tradition with Bible-certified. That’s one of the issues I have with the parenting resource Parenting by the Book.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a fan of homeschooling. I am just not a fan of someone saying something to the tune of, “The Bible says Christians should homeschool.” Even more relevant to this article, I think it's worse to say, "The Bible says that Christians should not send their children to public schools."


Related Link: