I suppose it might seem like an odd title for a post written by a guy that neither has kids of his own, nor has much of a high opinion about “church” as most folks know it. Well, recently I was reading an article on another website (which I first viewed through a friend’s Facebook post). The article was called “I Won’t Force My Kids To Go To Church.” While I would agree with that title, the article was actually suggesting the opposite. If you’d like to read it yourself to have a clue what I’m talking about, here’s the link, but I’m not endorsing the article or the website (just FYI). I’m not really putting the author down either because I don’t know them and I have no idea what the rest of their website features. I’m sure they’re nice people and have good intentions, despite the terrible advice in the article being referenced. All I know is that this article got my dander up just a bit and so I first attempted to post a comment to the author’s website… The author, however, didn’t seem interested in including my post, so I figured I’d just talk about it here. Maybe a few of you will be interested to add some conversation to the comments on the other site, or here.
For those of you too sleepy to bother with reading the above mentioned article in preface to my own response to it, I’ll just summarize that the article’s point was essentially to shame parents for not forcing their kids to go to church. The author even insisted that to neglect doing so was a matter of life and death and eternity! After I read that statement, I had to respond. So, following, are my remarks in response…
Response by Dave of TruthForFree.com to the article called “I Won’t Force My Kids To Go To Church” by James Uglum:
Wait, wait, wait a second here, hold the phone. This article is absolutely ridiculous! The author makes the statement: “This is a matter of life or death for your child. Eternity is at stake.” WHAT? Going to church is a matter of life, death and eternity? There is not a single reference of Scripture by Jesus or any apostle that even remotely suggests that a child who doesn’t go to church may not go to heaven. This is one of the most disgusting statements I’ve ever heard.
Does the author even understand that, in the first century, there was no such thing as a church building or a church organization? Does the author have any idea that the word “church” didn’t even exist until a couple of hundred years after the apostles had all died? Just because “church” is used today to describe a “church building” and weekly meeting places where people go to hear sermons, doesn’t mean this is what Scripture teaches. We need to go straight to Scripture and get the facts from Jesus.
Jesus used the Greek word “Ecclesia”, which was a direct reference to His family (a spiritual assembly that exists in HIM). The word “ecclesia” is a compound of two words together that mean “a calling from out of”. The Scripture teaches that Believers in Christ are those who have been CALLED OUT OF darkness into the Light of Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:9). These are the “called out ones” or the “Ecclesia”; the Lord’s Assembly. He said nothing about man-made religious organizations or temples called “church buildings”. In fact, the apostle Stephen said:
Acts 7:48-49 – “But, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool. What house will you build Me, says the Lord, or what is the place of My rest?'”
Of course, that statement made the religious folks listening so mad that they stoned Stephen to death.
Paul echoed the same message later in the book of Acts:
Acts 17:24-25 – The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of Heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is served with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives life and breath and all things to all.
Paul told the Corinthian believers:
1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you, whom you have of God? And you are not your own?
YOUR BODY is a temple, NOT some religiously-dedicated building.
There is not a single line of instruction in the entire Bible that directs anyone to become a member of a church organization or to attend weekly meetings, nor is there even a single passage that suggests that going to church is how someone gets spiritually fed each week.
Please understand, I am not saying that visiting a religious organization each week is evil. I am simply saying that the Bible give NO INSTRUCTION to do so, and it certainly does NOT tie people’s salvation to such practices.
This author should be ashamed of themselves!
But let’s think about the passage this person used to justify church attendance… Proverbs 22:6. Was this talking about making sure your kids are in church so that they don’t go to hell? NO! Tell me, whose responsibility is it to raise a child? THE PARENT’S right? A little earlier on, Solomon (the author of Proverbs) said the following:
Proverbs 1:8 – “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching”
So who do you suppose Solomon is talking to? THE PARENTS right? Fathers and mothers are expected to teach their own children, right? Isn’t that what it says? We want to make sure we get the right context here. What else does the Bible say about instructing children?
Ephesians 6:4 – “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Who’s supposed to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord? Doesn’t it say “the father”?
Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (regarding the Instruction of the Lord) – Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night.
Here again is instruction for parents to teach God’s way to their own children and to do so AT ALL TIMES! That means every moment of the day provides opportunity to instruct a child in the way of righteousness and God expects parents to honor this holy task He gives them.
Colossians 3:20-21 – Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master no end. Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.
So, how does a person get church out of this? These passages expressly identify the responsibility of the parent to teach their children. As a parent, isn’t it my own responsibility before God to raise my child to walk in the ways of the Lord and to know Him? That’s MY JOB to train my child, NOT SOME RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION’S JOB! It’s the solemn task my Heavenly Father has given me to accomplish! Too many parents today are completely shrugging off the responsibility God has given them to raise their children and leave it to church leaders and the programs employed by religious organizations. Is it any wonder that the statistics show that MOST church kids leave church behind in their later years and even give up on God? God NEVER ordained some religious institution to be the parent of other parent’s kids.
This should be a simple admonishment… If you want your children to follow Jesus, THEN DEMONSTRATE THIS YOURSELF AND TEACH THEM YOURSELF HOW TO ENGAGE A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD!
And to compare, as the article in reference does, not forcing a kid to go to church is said to be just as careless and dangerous as letting them play in the freeway is, in my opinion, really a sick-minded comparison. I dare say that mindlessly sending your kids off to be trained up by some religious institution (rather than teaching them to go to Jesus as their Master and source of life and truth) could be far more dangerous. Jesus called His apostles to go and make disciples OF HIM, not disciples of church leaders. Paul himself clarified this when he said:
Galatians 1:6-9 – I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to Himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.
The Gospel the apostles preached was not “the good news of participating in organized religion”. It was the Good News of Jesus Christ! This was an introduction to intimate relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ and by the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who tries to manipulate others away from that relationship by inserting anyone or anything else in-between it, are dabbling with darkness!
By saying this, I am not speaking against the value of godly leadership from those whom, like Paul, can genuinely say:
1 Corinthians 11:1 – Follow my example, just as I follow the example of Christ.
I am simply reminding us all that we are disciples of JESUS and it is JESUS of whom we are to make disciples. I am not suggesting that a church program can never be involved as a component of instruction, but it cannot replace the instruction God requires from the hands of the parent. Remember that, even without human parents (and even without “church”), GOD HIMSELF is the most capable of parents! He may use other people and things in the course of our learning, but He Himself must remain our only Master and anyone following Him should be teaching others to do the same, NOT to draw disciples after themselves. I do not suppose that all churches have this sinister objective, but they often fall prey to it very easily and, as the author of this article demonstrated, they have been led to believe that attending church is connected to salvation! They have been deceived to imagine that a child may actually go to hell if a parent does not force that child to attend church! That is the error I am seeking to expose! No parent should suppose they ought to force a child to attend church, especially based on some crazy fear that their child might not enter heaven if such is neglected. This is a most devilish lie! Church cannot save ANYONE! Christ is the one who saves us! No Scripture directs anyone to send kids to church so that they will know Jesus and learn to walk in the truth. The Scripture does, however (time and again) admonish parents to be diligent in teaching their children how to walk in the ways of God and the parents ought to also be demonstrating this with the example of their own lives!
To just send a kid to church and expect that this satisfies the Lord’s desire is very naive at best… What happens if that organization teaches doctrines and concepts that are not of Christ and do not clearly line up with Scripture? Some say, “oh that wouldn’t happen,” and yet this happens OFTEN in churches. Even the best churches often tend to teach concepts that stray from or at least are not present in Scripture. And what would such a parent expect to have as their response to God on Judgment Day when the King says, “Why did you neglect to raise your child to follow Me? Why did you allow them to be led into false teachings? Why did you shed the responsibility I Myself gave you?” Do you suppose the King would accept an excuse of, “Well Lord, I read this article that said I should force my kids to go to church, so talk to that author and I blame the church for teaching them the wrong thing.” Sigh….
If I am a good parent, I will accept God’s commission to raise the children He gave me and not expect some other institution to do it. By the way, I have the same conviction about schooling. I favor home-schooling. I think this is the parent’s job as well. But I am not against parents sending their kids to public or private schools (or even church for that matter) but I sure won’t compare school or church to a requirement of God and suppose that if my kids don’t go to one or the other they will be in danger of hell.
The author of the article states the following: “Church isn’t just one good choice among many. Church isn’t a building. Church, properly understood, is the body of Christ; the gathering of believers in a specific place. And as such, it is a place where we all belong.” The author is mixing concepts and thus presenting a deceptive message. On the one hand the author admits that church isn’t a building, but then he immediately says it is by laying emphasis on THE PLACE. The church is neither a “place” nor a “gathering”. It is, however, the body of Christ – PEOPLE. Whether or not they physically gather someplace is not what makes them the Church. What makes them the Church is that they are IN CHRIST. That’s it! That’s why I can be sitting at home, talking on the phone to my brother in Christ over in another state and WE ARE THE CHURCH. The meeting isn’t what makes us the Church; CHRIST IS WHAT MAKES US THE CHURCH.
Jesus indeed said that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there among them. He did NOT say “when a few hundred of you attend church each week and force your kids to go also, then I’ll show up (and, by-the-way, I’ll keep your kid out of hell).” Jesus said TWO or THREE. Notice how small of a number that is (and keep in mind this is LORD JESUS talking). That could indicate my child and I. It could indicate a husband and a wife. Two friends. A brother and a sister. But then WHERE are they to gather? In a church? Does it actually say that? Does it indicate at all that if they don’t meet in a church that their eternity is at stake? NO! What did Jesus say?
HE SAID, “WHEREVER TWO OR THREE GATHER, I AM THERE.” Do you suppose that He means that? Do you supposed that wherever means wherever? Could that wherever be home? Could it be a park? Could it be two people in completely different places talking over the phone? Did Jesus say, “When a bunch of you attend a church, listen to sermons, pay tithes and offerings, sing songs, and get involved in religious programs, then I will be with you?” Nope, He not only didn’t say that, He NEVER SAID THAT AT ANY TIME EVER! Neither did any apostle of Jesus say anything like this EVER! So, where does this author get off suggesting this? Is he presenting “another gospel of Jesus Christ”? Sounds a little “Joseph Smithy” to me. Is this some new brand of Mormonism (i.e. “another testament of Jesus Christ”)? It’s certainly just as ridiculous!
Again, I’m not saying that going to church is prohibited or evil… Not saying that at all! I’m just saying that Scripture describes no such thing! The thing that Scripture refers to as “church” is not a building, not a program, not a meeting, not a place, not an activity, not a membership club… It’s THE FAMILY OF GOD! While members of that family may choose to, at times, gather here or there (even in a church building), they are THE CHURCH even before the gathering and they don’t need the building or the meeting to be THE CHURCH. They are THE CHURCH because Christ is the Head of His Body, which is the Church.
This is why the New Testament talks about “the church which is in the home of so-and-so.” This is a reference to people who are members of Christ’s body who are gathering someplace. The place or the gathering is NOT the Church. The Church is they who are gathering. This is an important detail because if you get it wrong, you will make mistakes like this author and come up with false doctrines and false gospels that teach others they might go to hell if they don’t go to church. So it’s not semantics. It’s critical!
The author closes by saying: “Don’t give up and don’t give in to those outside voices that tell you how much more important sleep, or schoolwork, or band, or sports, or anything may be than church.”
What if that “outside voice” is the voice of the Holy Spirit of God Himself? What if God has a purpose He wishes to accomplish through someone while they are outside of church, perhaps while that child is with the band or performing sports, at home with family, out with friends, or ANYTHING else? What if that “outside voice” happens to be God warning that person to not get entrapped in a particular environment where false teachings, false fellowship, or some other danger is present that could damage that person’s process of spiritual growth or calling? If a parent is training up their child in the way they should go, isn’t it reasonable to expect that they would want that child to mature in their understanding that God isn’t just God on Sunday in a little church meeting, but He is Lord of every day and we can expect to engage a full relationship with Him every moment of life. God desires to know us, to walk with us, to speak to us, and to speak through us to everyone we come in contact with. By saying this, I am not despising the benefit of true fellowship with other members of the body of Christ, but I will NOT limit it to church meetings. I will leave the assembling of believers to the Holy Spirit. I know for a fact that church (as some religious organization and building) is NOT necessary at all for fellowship to occur. It (i.e. organized religion) is NOT necessary for discipleship and spiritual growth to occur. If it was necessary, Jesus and His apostles would have told us so. THEY DIDN’T! So people like this author should stop speaking where Scripture does not speak. If you, as a parent, have a conviction that God wants you to involve your child in some activity as a part of that child’s spiritual development (whether it’s at a church or something else), I’m not going to suggest that God wouldn’t ever do that. I simply want to encourage you to be certain you do not pass off the responsibility AND PRIVILEGE God has blessed you with to be the primary agent (next to the Holy Spirit) in your child’s spiritual instruction. My father and mother were this for me and I cannot thank them and God enough that they did not pass off their task to someone else. It changed my life to see my dad (when he had no idea I was watching) on his knees crying out to God in prayer for me as a teenager. Dad also actively invested in my spiritual training by teaching me the Word, praying with me, challenging me, admonishing me, and disciplining me. My mother as well. I know this is surely one of the major reasons I am following Jesus today, because my parents didn’t merely introduce me to religion… They introduced me to a relationship with Jesus and they took time to nurture it along the way. It infuriates me when I see so many people just passing their kids off to all these religious programs and activities, hoping the church will do all the hard work of raising their kids for them.
By-the-way, just because I don’t have children of my own right now, doesn’t mean this is easier said than done for me. My wife is a new Believer and God has blessed me with the task of helping to disciple her. I never passed her off to a church program. The task has been as challenging to me as I’m sure her, but the rewards are phenomenal. God has been teaching me as I am also teaching her. He is changing me and doing a transforming work in my life as I yield to the responsibility He has given me to love my wife by helping her grow in Jesus day by day. When the time comes I will do the same thing with my kids! I can promise you that, especially because God has already been putting me through boot camp for it. My wife is young in the Lord, but she is already much sharper than many church folks I know who have been doing the church thing for years. So I know it doesn’t take a church program to grow in Christ! I know that for an absolute fact!
Ironically, considering how this author suggests that letting kids go out into the streets is a bad thing… the Bible, in contrast, does tell us to go out INTO THE HIGHWAYS AND THE BYWAYS (Luke 14:23) to compel people to come into relationship with HIM and to be a part of His Family; his Household – the household of faith. This isn’t a “church building” or some kind of religious program; it’s the body of Christ!
The closing verse that this author references is Hebrews 10:25, which is the all-famous “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as is the habit of some.” Somehow people still manage to pull hidden messages out of that verse. They suppose that “not forsaking the assembling” must mean to get plugged into a religious organization and attend weekly… even though, of course, it says no such thing. As I pointed out earlier, THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AT THIS POINT IN HISTORY! The point of the passage is an encouragement for Believers to stick together as the days grow darker because we need each other. The thing is, how can we accomplish this “sticking together”? Do we need a religious organization to authorize it, manufacture it, control it, manage it, verify it, house it? I dare say NO! If the passage says “yourselves together” than it’s as simple as that. Jesus said TWO or THREE is sufficient. The Hebrews text says nothing about attending church, let alone any command to do such weekly. It just says, “this is a good thing to not forsake your brothers and sisters in Christ.” Some Bible scholars suggest this passage isn’t talking about gathering physically together so much as it’s talking about not apostatizing from the faith. But I wager that both concepts fit together just fine. There may be others that go the way of the world (i.e. they turn away from Christ). We should stay strong and stay true to Jesus and one another. This is 100% attainable by simply following the directives Jesus and His apostles gave us and by truly walking in them, not just trying to live something out according to some adherence to legalistic principles of some religion. We don’t need to add stuff to it.
So when this author tries to scare readers to force their kids to attend church or else they’ll wind up in hell, it saddens me to think that maybe this person doesn’t have a close relationship with Jesus and doesn’t know what the Bible actually teaches and so they resort to such deplorable notions… or for some reason they don’t fully trust that Jesus is competent to be the Leader of His people without man to help. Perhaps they just weren’t thinking it through and let their pen get ahead of them instead of opening their ears to the Master. Perhaps they’re just repeating what they’ve been programmed with, rather than drawing their resource from the Word of God and relationship with the Holy Spirit. I don’t know, but I do know that what they’ve suggested is nonsense and no one should be intimidated by it.
If you love your children, your family, your friends, your co-workers…. then lead them to Jesus. Let them see the example in you and come to find out how wonderful He is.