Friday, May 18, 2007

Suffer the Little Children

How lucky is Nashville this weekend?

Not only is the smiling-feel-good-God-wants-you-to-win-right-now pastor Joel Osteen going to fill up the Nashville Arena, Billy Graham's former Spanish translator Luis Palau is doing a huge city fest called Nashville CityFest downtown this weekend. It's like going to heaven for evangelicals, except without all those people you wouldn't expect to see in heaven.

Ok, I say all of that kind of tongue in cheek, except for the fact that both guys are coming here to town and I'll make sure to not be downtown this weekend, mainly for the traffic.

One thing that I will say about this. Otter Creek hosted a counselor training session last Saturday and I needed to be there for the technical stuff. They talked through how to talk with people who respond to Palau's invitations for salvation on the main stage and where everything is going to be. One of the places is a Kids Zone with Veggie Tales and bouncy games and the like.

And they talked about how they were going to stop all the games periodically to tell the kids the gospel story and they needed counselors there as well, in case any of the kids decided to get saved and follow Jesus. And here's where my real problem is.

I don't have a problem with kids following Jesus. Sheryl and I are trying to teach Kinsey everyday what is means to be a follower and hopefully will instill the same mindset in Connor. The problem I would have with the Palau strategy is if they make this a heaven hell thing. I cannot imagine teaching 6 and 7 year olds that if they die they would go to Hell because of their sins. It's literally unconscionable to me and not only that, but to do this without the parents or guardians of the kids around?!? If someone did something like this to Kinsey, I would be very angry.

A lot of this comes down to the idea of what salvation is. The general Christian sense is that it's this one time event that if it doesn't happen then something just wrong has gone on in someone's life. And understand, I'm not discounting the idea of a decision. And I'm not even discounting a conscious decision to follow Christ, but I really really think that it's something that as much as possible needs to be discussed with family, especially when that family is a Christian one. I have to think that a child needs to understand the nature of the decision that he or she is making and I'm not convinced in the slightest that a 6 or 7 year old understands the gravity of the decision. I'm not even sure a 20 or 21 year old understands that, but at least then they have a better grasp on what life will throw at them that could keep you from living up to that decision.

Part of me really likes the Catholic practice of confirmation. I know that Kinsey and Connor are going to grow up hearing about Jesus and what it means to follow him and I don't doubt that whatever "reward" happens after death that they will be a part of it. But I do like the idea of them at some point making a decision and weighing the consequences that they want to follow Jesus as the focal point of their lives. I even like having baptism be a part of that decision.

In the Church of Christ, we have this idea called the Age of Accountability. I jokingly refer to it as the "Mystical Age of Accountability." Because the idea is that kids reach this age where they suddenly become responsible for their actions. It varies for each kid, hence my Mystical designation. I don't really like this idea in general because it puts a ton of pressure on a kid to get baptized (not the least of which is that you don't want to be the only kid on your row not taking Communion) but I do like the idea of kids understanding and accepting the decision to follow Jesus. But God knows that it has to be considered a step in the process of salvation, and not a scare tactic about avoiding Hell. To me, that borders on mental abuse.


David said...

This may sound strange, but I wish there were some way to not talk about Jesus with our children until they are in high school or even college. I think we water down the radical, life-altering message that is represented by Jesus to make it palatable to kids.

Can we teach them just the Old Testament as kids and then introduce the New Testament later? I wonder what difference that would make having a base knowledge of God and his people before ever being introduced to Jesus.

Why does my 6-year old concern herself with baptism when she doesn't have the slightest idea what it means to surrender her life to live as Christ?

In my opinion, we do our children a great disservice by innoculating them to the true deep discipleship that the radical message of Jesus calls them to.

Jeff said...

I see what you're saying David, although I don't know if the OT is the place to start, and that's not a reference to Phil's earlier post on creationism in re inerrancy of the Bible.

Of course, I know you are talking about some of the more tame stories (creation, Noah, Abraham, David, etc.) but there is a lot of rough stuff in the OT. I know I've been challenged by my reading (some for the first time) of the early OT books (Lev. through Joshua) and how bloody and violent Israel's move from Egypt to the promised land was. I forgot just how much God called them to utterly obliterate the Hivites, Jebusites, and so on. Burning towns, killing men and women, etc. If I have a hard-time swallowing some of that in the context of Jesus' message, I can't imagine how my kids would take it.

To Phil's original comment, I'm with you that I want to have a significant influence on what my kids learn about Jesus and Christianity, and help them understand how adult of a decision it is. I don't think I've understood it until recently, and it is a process that started in college. I'm glad that OC has put less of the conversion/baptism responsibility on the 5 minute "invitation" each week ("let's sing 'O Why Not Tonight' one more time!), and stressed the role of the parent and community as a whole.

Christy said...

I don't disagree with the fact that many of the stories we read to our children are a watered down version, but I don't see anything wrong with bringing it down to their level. As they get older you introduce harder concepts. I think they need to know the truth and you as a parent can decide what your child is ready for.

I was 9 years old when I was baptized. I begged my parents for a year before they even let me talk to the preacher about it. After talking with me, he said that I was one of the most knowledgable 9 year olds he had spoken with and if I wanted to do it my parents shouldn't stand in my way. I know that many will say I didn't understand the total ramifications of surrendering myself to Christ and I agree. I know much more now 20 years later, but I think we all change and grow no matter what age you first come to the belief that you need to be living differntly.

As a parent, I would not tell my child that they were too young to be baptized if they could show me that their heart was in the right place and that they had a basic understanding of what they were doing. I don't think God calls us to anything more than that basic understanding--at first. After you have committed yourself I believe He demands that we continue to grow and search.

Phil, I would agree that I wouldn't want people scaring my kids into the decision--that's not the way to go about it. A constant message and example goes a lot further in my book.

gavin richardson said...

i think we will be doing some contemplative pentecost worship for our youth.. not sure how that will work yet, but it'll be different i am sure. &:~)

Template Designed by Douglas Bowman - Updated to Beta by: Blogger Team
Modified for 3-Column Layout by Hoctro