THE OBJECTIVE IS TO SPIRITUALLY NURTURE
My oldest son decided after entering college that he wanted to be a preacher.
Shortly after that decision, he decided he wanted to be a missionary to a French
speaking country. His college degree is in missions. Though he preached full time for
a few years, his life did not develop in the ways that he planned.
Though his life has not worked out as he planned, he maintains interest in
meaningful, spiritual involvements. For years he has devoted one week of each year to
working with young people at camp. He and I share that experience in common. I
spent a week of my life most of my years from age 26 to age 40 working in youth
About ten years ago after finishing a week at camp, he talked to me about what
he learned that week. He said, "Dad, I finally understand something. I finally
understand why kids who are bored with the church and often resent the church
genuinely enjoy their spiritual experiences at camp. Their spiritual experiences at
camp teach them the joy of worship. Their worship at camp is relevant and heart filled.
When they return to church, they find no relevance, no joy, no heart in the church's
I found his insight more than just interesting. I also found it sobering.
- We can ignore his observation, or we can emotionally react to his observation,
or we can be sobered by his observation.
- That observation came about a decade ago.
We can ignore that situation.
- I personally can remember struggling with the same understanding more than
30 years ago.
- That is not a new phenomena; it is a decades old reality.
- In past years it was a problem.
- Today it is a crisis.
- If you are tempted to say, "In no way is that a crisis; that is just a kids'
problem," let me ask you to put the situation in perspective.
- The teens who struggled with the same situation that I knew almost 40
years ago are now well over 50 years old, and many of them do not even
pretend to be Christians.
- The teens my son spoke of 10 years ago are now all in their twenties, and
you can be certain many of them do not pretend to be Christians.
- For years we have had a lot of teens who hated worship assemblies.
- When they reached age 21 they did not suddenly love worship
- They became adults who hated worship assemblies.
- Do you personally know someone like that?
Or, we can emotionally react to the situation.
- We can think it is just a few Christians who feel that way.
- We can even think only weird Christians feel that way.
- We can even ignore that fact when our children feel that way.
Or, we can be sobered by the reality that creates actual spiritual needs.
- We can get angry because anyone discusses the situation.
- We can refuse to make any effort to understand the situation or the needs.
- In our strong feelings we can label the whole situation as ridiculous and
refuse to be a part of any discussion.
- We can admit to ourselves, "I need to understand what is happening."
- "I cannot be blind to what is happening any longer--I must look at the
- "When I look around, it is obvious that a whole lot of people are not here."
- "It is equally obvious that far too many Christians I know are spiritually
inadequate to handle life."
- "I cannot keep living in the church like there are no unmet spiritual
As Christians, why do we do what we do? What is the bottom line?
- Look at all the things we do.
Why do we do all that--and more?
- We build buildings.
- We have programs.
- We encourage Bible study.
- We fund missionaries.
- We hire staffs.
- We appoint leadership.
- We assemble several times every week.
Read with me.
- Is there a reason for doing those things?
- Is there a bottom line objective?
- What are we trying to accomplish? Are we trying to do something more
significant than perpetuate ourselves, our preferences, and our traditions?
Ephesians 4:14-16 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there
by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by
craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all
aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted
and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each
individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
- Bottom line: the objective of the Christian community is to nurture every
Christian toward spiritual maturity in Jesus Christ.
- Bottom line: in the Christian community, no Christian is a "write off."
[Here Ted Edwards shared a new initiative to spiritually nurture our children in our
Consider two statements.
- Thousands of years ago Moses under the guidance of God's Spirit wrote
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall
teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and
when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind
them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall
write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Almost two thousand years ago Paul under the guidance of God's Spirit
wrote these words:
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the
discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose
Do you know anyone who dreads attending worship? (We commonly call it
"going to church.")
- Do you know anyone who "dreads" coming?
What have we done?
- Do you know anyone who comes simply to please their husbands or wives?
- Do you know any children who come only because their parents make them
- Do you know any teenagers who long for the day they leave home and can
stop "going to church?"
- How many of our children have done that?
May I share what I want for Christians at West-Ark?
- Why has "church" become synonymous with an hour assembly on Sunday
morning instead of being God's people every day of our lives?
- Why has "worship" become a performance that we observe instead of a time
of praise when every Christian glorifies God?
- Look at how we have confused the Bible's concepts: we "go to church" to
attend a "worship service."
- "Church" is something we are, something Jesus died to make us,
something we are twenty-four hours a day seven day a week three
hundred and sixty-five days a year.
- "Worship" and "service" are not the same thing: we worship to praise God
for what he has done and is doing for us; we serve to fulfill our mission in
- I want every Christian who is a part of this community of Christians to be
spiritually strengthened by his or her awareness of God's work through Christ
in his or her life.
- I want each of us to know without question that God forgave every past
sin when we committed to God through baptism--God committed to me in
Jesus' cross, and I committed to God when I was baptized into Christ.
- I want each of us to know that when Jesus' blood began to flow in our
lives destroying sin through forgiveness that it keeps on flowing, keeps on
forgiving if we will acknowledge our mistakes (1 John 1:5-10).
- I want each of us to know that our salvation is real, not because of what
we do, but because of what Christ did for us.
- I want us to dress ourselves in God's armor so that Satan's attacks cannot
destroy us (Ephesians 6:13-17).
- I want each Christian to face every distress, every discouragement, every
hurt in the certain knowledge that God's grace will sustain him or her.
- I want us to love each other so genuinely that we never minimize each
others' struggles and hardships.
- I want us to be the greatest support system to each other that you could
find anywhere on earth.
- And I want our children to be better prepared spiritually to live in this
ungodly world than we were.
- I know that their world is more difficult than my world.
- There is only one thing I can do about the complexity of your realities.
- The one thing: encourage you to mature in Jesus Christ.
Public worship should be a time of joy, encouragement, and strength for all of us.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 9 December 2001
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