Perhaps the reason the church struggles to grow is that we do not emulate the Early Church.  (Not  that it’s an original thought.)

There are many who say this, and then come up with all sorts of wild speculation as to what the early church was like.  But it generally has to do with style of worship (liturgical lower criticism), ignorance of the history (usually in the form of “they didn’t fight over doctrine”), or gross ignorance of the history (“they would have shown up at civic events…”).

The thing that really sets the early church apart from now is their rigor.  Why is it that Paul says, “not many of you were rich”?  Because you couldn’t work in most government positions, enter into contracts, work in some of the most lucrative industries, eat at public gatherings (no ‘business lunches’), or really conduct business in any meaningful way.  All of those things would have required an oath to the gods.  By definition, you prety much had to be a servant or low level street vendor.  There was a sacrifice involved in joining the church.

Today, there are all sorts of reasons that otherwise “faithful” parents don’t bring their children to chruch.  The most common is, of course, that they are on some sort of travelling sports team.  If you want a college scholarship, you have to do it.  Our faith today can not even survivie the promise of a maybe college scholarship.  Activities during the week?  Very few towns still have the “church night” in the school schedule.  Mine does, but sometimes the schools (or the parents) need to be reminded about it.

A professor in college said that, among children who attend Lutheran school, there was a better than 90% difference in ability to win at Bible Baffle, but only a 2% difference in lifestyle.

I promise you, the lessons the parents teach are far better learned than the lessons the pastor/teacher tries to teach.  What is really important?  The children learn that from their parents.

Pastors are not guiltless in this either.  It’s hard to tell parents of youth “no”.  They might get mad, stalk off, go to a different church, or stop coming at all.  We need these youth, don’t we?  Therefore, we try to compromise, try to be “Reasonable”, attempt to assuage guilt at not being at church so they still feel good about themselves and still show up.

At a certain point, pastors need to say, “You are expected to do this.  If you are going to be a part of it, then this is what you must do.”  I’ve had to do that in my ministry to parents of catechumens, parents of youth group members, etc.  It neve goes well.  Members have been lost.  But at some point, the church needs to stop bowing the  knee before the Basket-Baal, Basel-Baal, or even Drama-Baal.

If we take seriously our membership in the church, not in the sense of meetings, etc, but in the sense of attendance at the Divine Service, and “training up a child in the way he should go…”  then other activites will become activies on a schedule, but church will become an immovable rock, around which the others must revolve.

And yes that will require sacrifice.  It will require parents or children to miss out on some things.  But to trade the riches of our inheritance for a mess of worldy-activities pottage is simply wrong.


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