The FDR-ing of the Church
Americans have always been a hard-working, resilient people. That is, until FDR. Today, as a result of government social programs, we have come to depend more and more on the federal government to take care of us. Government redistribution of wealth is now accepted as “normal” (does anyone really question the legitimacy of welfare or Social Security any more?), even though it is completely unconstitutional.
I would like to suggest that the same thing has occurred in the church. But instead of wealth redistribution taking place, we might say that responsibility redistribution is occurring. That is, instead of parents willingly and gladly assuming the responsibility to teach their own children as the Scripture commands (see Deut. 6 and Eph. 6), they have handed that job over to the church, whose paid professionals are only too eager to “help.” The only problem is that, just as wealth redistribution is wrong (since it involves taking your money through government coercion and simply giving it to someone else), so responsibility redistribution is wrong (since in involves parents surrendering to others their own God-mandated duty to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord).
Both approaches, it seems to me, are based on flawed assumptions. Take welfare, for example. Most of our politicians assume that the federal government has legal authority to create or administer a welfare program. (I say “most,” because there are men like Ron Paul, a Republican Congressman from Texas, who think quite differently.) However, Congress has only those powers that are explicitly granted to it by the U.S. Constitution. If you will read the Constitution with an unbiased mind you will be forced to conclude that there is absolutely no federal authority whatsoever for welfare programs. Yet our government willfully ignores that fact. As I have noted elsewhere, “Government employs us, feeds us, regulates us, and now claims to be able to solve our problems, including gambling…. For many Americans, the state has become their church, and the federal government has become an idol, stripping individuals and communities of their social responsibilities and engaging in the immoral transfer of wealth. And since the New Deal, a trickle has become a flood.”
To no one’s surprise, Bush’s latest proposal to revamp Social Security provides no systematic justification for involving government in social welfare. The reason is obvious. There can be no justification given for the state usurping the function of private individuals and the church. I agree with Ron Paul that “the federal welfare state is neither moral nor constitutional.” The tragedy is that American Christianity has so closely allied itself with the government of the day that the transcendent Gospel has become submerged in the world’s values.
“But Dave,” you say, “if government doesn’t take care of these people, who will?” The Bible teaches it is the church’s job to fulfill Paul’s injunction to “do good to all men” by helping non-Christians in need – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, healing the sick. And no believer is exempt from this task (see Luke 3:11; 1 John 3:17; James 1:27). On the other hand, no Scripture supports an active government role in alleviating poverty or the use of coercive measures. Even Paul refused to command believers to help their less fortunate brothers, stating: “Each man should give what he has determined in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
Now let us apply these same principles to Christian education. Many parents have abdicated their responsibility to nurture their children and to teach them the things of God. As a result, the church has stepped in to provide a whole host of programs designed to compensate for the parents’ inactivity – Nursery, Children’s Church, Youth Ministry, Sunday School. The only problem is that these programs are unscriptural. They are also, by and large, ineffective. As Pastor Scott Brown of Trinity Baptist Church has noted:
The scriptures are perfectly clear: children should be trained in spiritual matters by their fathers. The father is the delivery system for the news of the kingdom of God, and when you bypass him, you reject the Biblical order for the church and the home.
As the church has followed the world system, she has nearly obliterated the scriptural role of the head of the household in church life. This has paralleled what the world has done in the broader culture. Unwittingly, the church has taken over the father’s role and given it to preachers, women, Sunday school teachers, and childcare workers.
The problem becomes clearer, when you look where the bulk of the energy of human resource is directed in the average church. Massive amounts of energy are plunged into things that secure short term attendance bumps by making low entry level slots for people to be involved, but neglect the long term activity and energy investment that secures a future for many generations.
Similarly, Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Ministries emphasizes the need for an age-integrated philosophy of ministry. Commenting on his church’s “youth program,” Doug writes:
I have the privilege of worshiping in a small, family-integrated church. When asked about our various church programs, I explain that we are blessed with more than thirty different organizations to which our members belong – they are called families. I further explain that we have more than sixty youth directors – they are called parents. In fact, we have such a full schedule of events that there is a mandatory activity every day of the week – it is called family worship.
What these men – and many others like them – are saying is simply this: It is the home, and not the church, that is the God-ordained seat of Christian education. Why, then, should the church make it easy for parents to abdicate their job? Why, in other words, should the church encourage responsibility redistribution?
In our day, parents seem to be busy with everything except the personal discipleship of their children. There’s got to be a better way. In fact there is. We can get off the church welfare dole and begin to build strong families. When that happens, the church itself will be the greatest beneficiary.
January 26, 2005
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. If you would like to know more about becoming a follower of King Jesus, please feel free to write Dave.