Monthly Archives: January 2012
I did something yesterday that I hadn’t done before. I went to a model train exhibition. Shaun’s “Pop” had created a model railway in an old suitcase. He had another in a briefcase – even finer and smaller. It was very impressive. Many of the exhibitions were amazing to behold: a combination of hobby, craft, technology and imagination.
These people obviously had a passion for model trains that far outweighed any simple curiosity I had. Once again I see a lesson in this and it relates back to the posts I have written on family. If only we put the same time, energy, enthusiasm and care into the nurturing of our kids. I am sure that each individual who built the layouts, the engines and the trains didn’t learn their skills over night. They worked and worked until they got it right.
Our families deserve the same passion and endurance, and more.
P.S. I loved the way that dads and their children were mutually mesmerised by the exhibition. You could see father and child enjoying its wonder together. This too, is another lesson!
In this post I want to reflect on two books that I read over the summer holiday break – one from the UK and one from Australia. They both tackle the same issue: the relevance and mission of the church today.
Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (IVP, 2011) continues on from an earlier book Total Church . The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne (Matthais Media 2009) looks at how churches are often busy maitaining the trellis upon which the vine should live but forget about nurturing the very plant that should grow upon it. The metaphor suggests that we are so involved in institution and organisation, we lose sight of the mission of the church.
I am not going to summarise the books, rather, if you are interested in the health of the church I encourage you to read these challenging and practical books for yourself.
Everyday church is a study of 1 Peter and applies these lessons to us today. It asks, what should characterise church, how should it appear to the world in which we live and how do we the live the gospel in that world? It urges followers of Christ to be an active leaven in the environment in which God has placed us. Whereas the Everyday Church comes from more of a “home church” background, The Trellis and the Vine confronts the church as most of us would know it. It suggests a paradigm shift for those in pastoral and leadership roles which emphasises “equipping the saints” rather being the “service providing” clergyman.
The reason that I don’t want to précis these books is because both are valuable and have many practical lessons. They need to be read, studied and digested, if not by every church member, certainly by every church leader and person interested in the health of the church.
My challenge: read these books and ask, how the health, vision and impact of your part of the body of Christ can be invigorated?
“Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
The following is an added thought to my post on “parenting” the other day.
This proverb contains a profound, yet simple, principle. It is not a guarantee – an absolute money back gold plated pledge. No, it is a principle. Train your child in the manner suggested in the post a few days ago (Some random thoughts on parenting) and it will be rare and unusual for your child to turn from the morals, behaviours and values that you have instilled in them. The child who rebels will do so intentionally because he or she has chosen to move from the standard set before them. But again, this occurrence is rare. However conversely, if you do not train your child intentionally from the start, it is rare for the child to find a straight and healthy path (faith, values, attitudes and behaviours) in life. Of course, some will, but they will have to consciously chose to move from the valueless and directionless beginnings they have been raised in.
Parents often say to me, “In the area of faith I want my child to make their own decision when they are older.” At first this has the ring of reason, but in no other area of our parenting do we do this. “Dear, you chose to read and write when you want to.” Or, “You chose if you want to wash your hands after going to the bathroom.” And so on. If God’s Word is true, and I believe it is, then the principle placed before us is crucial in all areas of the child upbringing, including, and especially, the area of faith.
“Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Some one asked me, “Off the top of your head, what are some key pointers on being a good parent?”
Well here goes:
- My first point will hurt some of you. This is not intentional but I still have to say it. Work on a healthy marriage relationship. It needs time and effort. The better this is, the more at peace your children will be. It gives comfort and security.
- Set a consistent examples in all matters – not only, but especially spiritual. If you muck things up with your child, confess your sin/mistake seek their forgiveness. That is a powerful example.
- Set clear boundaries and have consistent consequences when they are overstepped. Kids can’t handle parents whose boundaries are hot and cold. It creates uncertainty and a multitude of issues.
- Know your child. Be aware of their temptations and weaknesses ( and look beyond the obvious as they can be sneaky while appearing upright – in other words they are sinful like us!). Chastise, nurture and correct accordingly. You don’t have to use identical methods with all children. Being sent to their room might be a pleasure for the quiet child but unbearable for the social child.
- Don’t give young children too many choices. Giving choices is not a sign of good parenting. With young children it gives them a power and authority they cannot handle.
- Parent according to the age and maturity of your child. Don’t give too much freedom to a young child and when an older child shows trustworthiness and maturity expand their freedom.
- Take an interest in your children. This is especially true for fathers who often have a hands off policy. Show them love and appreciation. A simple practical example: boys who don’t see their father read, seldom like reading. So, make sure you read to and with your children – especially sons. Also dads, remember you are the model of being a male to your sons and your daughters.
- Have regular times of serious and fun worship. Teach (and memorise) the Bible, have times of prayer and singing. Don’t make it a chore as this leads to legalism.
- Finally,but not exhaustively, create intentional memories for your family and work on family identity. I’ll say more about it some other time.
Family is intended to be a place of warmth and pleasure and not the snarly back biting jungle it too often becomes. My prayer is that your family is a source of joy and pleasure, despite the hard work.
My wife and I went camping for a few days to escape the hurly-burly of the last few weeks. We went to a camping ground with lots of young families. As I was sitting reading a book I could not help but notice the parent-child interactions around me. If I had kept score I am sure that the children would have won most of, if not, all the battles. Nagging, tantrums, playing parents off against each other and many other youthful skills were in evidence.
I asked myself, why is there so much poor parenting? The only conclusions I could come to was that people have not been trained by their own parents and with family breakdown there is little continuity of parenting skills. Also, we have moved away from Biblical injunctions. Sadly, I have observed all three to be true within the church too – not just in a camp ground.
Church communities have a huge task. I say “communities” and not just leaders because I believe the whole church has a role to play. Let me suggest 3 strategies:
- What the Bible says about parenting needs to be taught intentionally. Families are crying out for this wisdom.
- Older (wiser) parents who have raised their children should mentor younger families – using their own experience of success and failure.
- The church itself should be a family friendly body acting as a beacon of hope for those who are struggling. Showing what “family” means, is a role that the church can play in in a disintegrating world.
But before we go rushing in we must ask ourselves, how Biblical is our parenting? A good starting point would be to remind ourselves what a Biblical parent and Biblical family looks like.
Gwennap Pit is an open air “church” where John Wesley preached in Cornwall during the late 1700s. Many thousands would flock here to listen to him preach. The depression was caused by mining subsidence and was shaped into an amphitheatre.
John Newton, the writer of “Amazing Grace,” was a curate in Olney in 1779 when he wrote his famous hymn. He had grown up listening to Charles Wesley.
The Bunyan Meeting and Museum (next door) celebrates the life and work of the writer of Pilgrim’s Progress and many other works – John Bunyan. Bunyan lived in the 1600s and established this congregation , but this building dates from 1849.
and you know me. Psalm 139:1 It is he who made us, and we are his … Psalm 100:3
I was reflecting the other day how we as adults are like little children who wilfully try and pull away from their parent’s when the parent is trying to guide and protect them.
We pretend to be the boss. We live as though we are not under any authority. However, two verses from the Psalms (out of many) remind us that we are created beings. God fashioned us for His glory. But we live in a most arrogant age. We have decreed that “God is dead” and that the universe is an accident. We decree which baby lives or dies. As a society we live as though God is dead. In the US they have the bizarre contradiction where the official motto is “In God we trust” but you can’t pray to Him in schools and public places! In Australia we are no better. God is seen as an irrelevance.
Before we get too sanctimonious as Christians and declare that is not us but “the world”, we should look at our own attitudes and values and ask, “How have I been affected by these values of autonomy?” Consider the way you use your wealth and time. What are your priorities? If you are honest, do you live as though these verses are really true? I know I have to pull myself up constantly.
Too often there is that rebellious young child in me. What about you?