Suffer the Little Children
Yesterday I had a wonderful time preaching (i.e., teaching) at a small church in Southside Virginia during the congregation’s children’s emphasis Sunday. These precious children comprised the choir, took the offering, read the Scriptures, and prayed. Afterwards they sat with their parents throughout the sermon. Present were children and youth ranging from nursing infants (one was a month old) to high schoolers. I spoke on the myth of adolescence and, more specifically, “Jesus and the Age Twelve Transition,” showing how at the age of 12 Jesus became a young adult (not an adolescent) in His culture (cf. 1 Cor 13:11).
How refreshing it was to see families worshipping together as God intended! In my message I noted that children were consistently present in the worship of the people of God in both the Old and New Testaments (note how Moses anticipated the literal “children” of Israel to be present when the Law was read [Deut 31.12-13]). Paul’s letters always assume the presence of children (Eph 6.1-4; Col 3.20), and children were present when our Lord taught (Matt 18.1-5; 19.13-15). In fact, when the disciples were concerned that children were becoming a distraction, Jesus specifically commanded that the children be present when He instructed His followers (Mark 10:14-16):
At the first Uniting Church and Home Conference held in 2002, Mr. John Thompson addressed “Ten ways churches are harming families.” He noted that modern churches have “unconsciously and unintentionally” adopted the unbiblical philosophies of the world as their model for church life. Mr. Thompson said, “Sunday schools, children’s church, and youth groups are, interestingly, based not upon the Bible but upon humanistic and evolutionary theory applied to education.” He noted how churches have chosen to follow the failed child training model of the government schools rather than following the clear pattern of Scripture.
Those who believe in excluding children from the meetings of the church often use the false argument that the matter must be decided only on the basis of convenience and expediency. Since when did portions of the revealed will of God become optional for the church? Such an approach is a blatant denial of the Word of God, which says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). If one argues that we should have children’s programs as a way to reach their parents for Christ, I would point out that we do not need to employ unbiblical methods to accomplish biblical goals. A better solution is to obey Paul’s command in Titus 2:1-8 and focus on teaching parents how to teach their own children. Our goal as parents in training our children should be to disciple them in the truth of God’s Word and teach them how to walk in the Spirit.
The bottom line is this: No matter how well-intentioned and sincere we may be, there is simply no biblical justification for children’s church or nursery care.
If this is true, then why don’t we “suffer the little children to come unto Him”?
April 26, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book, Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon, will be released this year.