In reading the introduction to a book entitled Training Hearts/Training Minds by Starr Meade, I was again reminded of our responsibility to pass on the faith to the next generation. I regularly visit orphans who are hospitalized, and, from time to time I am privileged to meet with them at their home (wing) at the orphanage. I primarily visit children who are HIV+ and have been either abandoned or orphaned because of the disease. I worry about these children — what will happen to them when they are forced to leave the orphanage as teenagers and have no clue what life is like outside the orphanage grounds. Most have never been on the metro or any other mode of public transportation. They have no concept of how to relate to people outside of their little circle, no thoughts about how to earn money, budget, cook.
And, on top of not knowing how to cope with the realities of the physical world, most of these children have never had anyone teach them the truths of Scripture. Oh, people visit with them and share the gospel, but the orphans have learned how to say what the visitors want to hear. They are waiting for their toy or some such prize which inevitably is the result of sitting through the program. (A little reminiscent of deals that require you to sit through a presentation offering some awesome piece of real estate, and, even if you turn them down, you get a prize.)
I’m thankful that we now have ministries available to help older orphans learn some basic life skills before they hit the streets. And coupled with this instruction they are introduced to Christ. My heart’s desire is to reach these children while they are still young…to let them know that God has not forgotten them, and that He can use even them to bring glory to His Name.
Back to this book, written in the introduction:
“In the first manual of pastoral practice ever written, the apostle Paul defined the church as “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). For many of today’s churchgoers, a pillar and support of truth is not necessarily what they seek when they look for a church. The first concern may be the warmth of the welcome, the style of a church’s music, or the number of weekly activities from which to choose. Faithfulness to biblical doctrine is becoming increasingly rare as the first thing people seek in a church.
“The supreme test of a church, however, at least from the perspective of the New Testament writers, is this: Is the church the pillar and support of the truth? Is it thoroughly acquainted with the truth of the gospel as given in the Scriptures? Does it exalt God’s Word, giving it the place of preeminence in all its worship and in all its activities? Does it defend the truth at whatever cost, proclaiming it without compromise in a world of confusion and falsehood? Does it call its people to know God’s Word for the purpose of faithfully living by God’s Word?
“In each generation, the church’s most critical task is to uphold and proclaim the truth as it was delivered to her by her Lord. One important aspect of this task is the diligent preparation of the church’s children to continue to be the support and pillar of the truth in the generation to come. God calls the church of each generation to ‘contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). When our children replace us as contender for the faith, will they have a clear grasp of the faith they must defend? When they replace us as supporters of the truth, will they know the truth well enough to articulate it clearly and to recognize counterfeits?”
The author goes on to suggest teaching the catechism to children as a way to teach them the truths of the faith in a precise fashion. Why have we stopped teaching the basic doctrines to our children?
Per Meade, “It is that doctrinal instruction in general, for anyone and especially for children, has become unpopular. In an attempt to attract nonbelievers, the church has occupied herself with providing the things the world finds attractive. In doing so, she has lost sight of her true purpose of being the pillar and support of the truth.
“From the pulpit, comfort, inspiration, and ‘spirituality’ are acceptable; doctrine is not. In a misguided attempt to maintain unity at any cost, doctrinal teaching is shunned because ‘doctrine divides.’ Churchgoers criticize sermons stressing doctrine as not being practical enough, without understanding that a truly changed life flows from a truly changed mind.”
First of all, as I read these words, I am thankful for my home church, Providence Presbyterian Church in Salisbury, Maryland…a church that takes children seriously!
But I also ask you to pray for the next generation here in Ukraine. The birth rate has only recently crept up above the death rate, and many of these children are living in orphanages or on the street. Who will do more than share the Gospel, though that’s a good start? Pray for disciplers to commit to these children. Preferably Ukrainians. To train new pillars for the future of the church in Ukraine.
Looking forward to celebrating another Sabbath Day tomorrow. And praying for those who think that tomorrow is just another day.