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  • Eric Rutherford

Shuttered Windows Can Be Opened

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

This is where the text foA few years ago, I drove through part of the town where I grew up and saw a for sale sign on a church. I remember the church well because it was fairly large and prominent in that area of town and the building itself had distinct stonework and sat on a busy thoroughfare. Yet when I drove by it that day, the grass needed cut, there were weeds and grass sticking up through sidewalks and parking lots, and the building looked forlorn and abandoned.

I do not need to tell you the name of the town or the name of the church because even as you read this, you are thinking of a church that you know. We all know of churches that closed their doors and ceased operation.

It is important that we separate the facilities from the local church. A local church is a group of believers – followers of Christ – who gather together to worship Christ. The building is not the church because churches can meet anywhere, even with no facility – as we are doing today amidst COVID-19. In many parts of the world, a local church cannot own or rent a facility or even make their gatherings known publicly because of the danger of persecution or arrest. Yet, in the United States, we often think of the church as the physical structure or building.

Churches close for many reasons. Sometimes, the population simply moves away and there is no one left in that area to gather together. This often happens to small country churches when the town population dwindles or in cities when business replaces residential property or the land is re-developed. Sometimes though, the church ceases because the people failed to do their job as believers.

We are told, as followers of Christ, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV). We have heard this, but we do not apply it.

Going Out by Going In

Going out with the message and making disciples is needed, however, I want to address a specific subset of the group of which we need to make disciples, and that is the group that resides within our homes. Are we making disciples of our children?

Scripture makes it very clear that we as parents are responsible for teaching our children and provides numerous examples and calls to action. Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV).

Another example comes from the Psalms, where the Psalmist writes:

“He established a testimony in Jacob

and appointed a law in Israel,

which he commanded our fathers

to teach to their children,

that the next generation might know them,

the children yet unborn,

and arise and tell them to their children,

so that they should set their hope in God

and not forget the works of God,

but keep his commandments;

and that they should not be like their fathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (Psalm 78:5-8 ESV)

These are just two examples, but there are many throughout Scripture that tell us not only what to do but why we should do it and the results that are likely to happen based on our actions.

Consequences for Our Action or Inaction

LifeWay did a study recently and found that 66% of young adults who attended a protestant church regularly in high school stopped regular church attendance for a least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.[1] This was their conclusion:

“There was nothing about the church experience or faith foundation of those teenagers that caused them to seek out a connection to a local church once they entered a new phase of life. The time they spent with activity in church was simply replaced by something else.”[2]

Let that sink in for a minute . . .

Now, we need to pause and ask a very specific question about faith influence. What has the greatest influence on children in their understanding of what it means to follow Christ? The local church? No, even though it does and should have an influence. Their peers? No, even though they do influence them positively or negatively. What then? The greatest influence on our children’s walk with the Lord are their parents, which means us.

Let me make it very clear – we cannot save our children. Christ is the only one who provides salvation through faith in Him alone. Yet, we show our children His importance and preeminence in how we walk with Christ and what we teach them about Christ. We cannot make them believe, but we are responsible to teach, equip, and model. The next generation will be influenced by us either for Christ or against Him.

When we visited family over Christmas, I drove past that church building which I mentioned earlier. Imagine my delight when I saw that a new church was using the facility for ministry. My joy came not from the use of the building because it is just that – a building. No, my joy came from seeing a group of believers seeking to share Christ with those around them and to teach the next generation about Him.

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