JACKSON, Tenn. – Oct. 12, 2006– “There is hardly any attention to the Bible there, but we want our kids to be happy.”
The gentleman rationalized his new membership at the local Baptist church and admitted his pastor’s lack of devotion to the Bible. He also quickly lauded his admirable qualities — great personality, wonderful people skills and winsome charisma. Summarizing his thoughts, he concluded, “Well, I guess no church is perfect, but the pastor is a great guy, and my kids are happy.”
Correct. No church is perfect. The local church is a body of imperfect human beings who have been redeemed by a gracious and perfect God. However, admitting that no church is perfect, appealing to the pastor’s personality and allowing children to be the leading decision makers concerning a family’s church membership are not valid reasons to endure a Bible-less church.
Children and adolescents might swarm to circus-like presentations and “high energy” Christian activities, but parents who make a habit of following their kids will inevitably find themselves in churches where style is valued over substance. Gatherings of good moral folks who sing spiritual songs, pray about their circumstances and engage in helpful acts of service are indeed encouraging, but if the Word of God is not the foundation, focus and fabric of their community, one appropriately wonders if such a people can be called a church.
The early church devoted itself to “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The Apostle Paul spoke of the necessity of the Word when he said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). He also charged Timothy to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Believers have been born again, “not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). John Calvin underscored the essential relationship of the Bible to the church when he said, “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard … it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.”
A church that does not preach the Word of God is like a hospital that does not practice health care. A hospital may have comfortable waiting rooms complete with spacious sleeping areas. Free and plenteous snacks may be available for those who wait. Janitorial services throughout the hospital may be excellent as the floors are always brightly polished. The cafeteria downstairs might serve a variety of delicious offerings. Hospital administration may provide a quaint chapel and a salaried chaplain who roams the halls to minister to guests. However, while the sign out front might identify the building as a hospital, if the organization does not offer health care, one would be right to question whether such a place is indeed a hospital.
Sure, our children might be happier at Bible-less churches, but if happiness is our primary goal, let’s shut down our churches and pour our monies and energies into Chuck E. Cheese’s, Six Flags, water parks and other such businesses. Compromising our commitment to the Word of God by joining Bible-less churches may entertain for a season, but over the long haul, prioritizing the amusement of our children over the honoring of our God will result in nothing less than disastrous consequences.
Todd E. Brady is Minister to the University.
By Todd. E. Brady