|Volume 21 Number 6 June 2019||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Turn in your Bible to any passage of Scripture that mentions the “Trinity.” Are you there yet? I’ll wait, but how long must I wait? Have you turned to even one verse of Scripture that uses the word “Trinity”? Why not? Don’t you know your Bible? Where in the Bible can you find the word “Trinity”?
If you do know your Bible, you are aware that the word “Trinity” does not appear anywhere in Scripture. Yet, the Bible does teach about what we refer to as the Trinity—three persons in one Godhead. There are numerous verses of Scripture that refer to one, two or three persons of the Godhead or Trinity (Matthew 1:18). Concisely, some passages mention all three persons of the Trinity together at once (Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; Acts 2:33; 10:36-38). Our word “Trinity” and the biblical word “Godhead” are equivalent (Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9; Acts 17:29 KJV).
So, though the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, nevertheless, the Bible teaches about the Trinity. Likewise, the phrase “Youth Ministry” does not appear in the Bible. However, the Bible does teach about what we call “Youth Ministry,” using other words.
Children debut in the home—years before there is any prospect of their church membership. Furthermore, the home has the primary responsibility for attending to the needs of its children—all physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs. Any responsibility that the Lord’s church may have regarding children of its members is secondary and occurs later than the introduction of children into their families.
Children are first a blessing to the home. “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them…” (Psalm 127:4-5 NKJV). To be true and lasting blessings to the home, children must learn to conduct themselves in an orderly manner. First Timothy 4:12 advises youth, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Furthermore, children need to disallow temptations in their lives for which they are particularly susceptible. Instead, they ought to purposely learn godly traits. “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Youth should become “sober-minded” (Titus 2:6) in a world that heartily pursues every sort of sin (Romans 1:18-32) to the uttermost (1 Peter 4:4).
The home has the responsibility for properly rearing its children. This includes instruction and discipline. Especially the Book of Proverbs addresses parenting or childrearing. “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24). “Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction” (Proverbs 19:18). “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). “Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14). The word “beat” means “to strike,” but the context determines the intensity of the striking—lightly or heavily, which in this case is lightly owing to correction rather than to harming. “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). Here, verbal correction rather than only physical correction appears. “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17). Parental responsibility toward children intends to promote their general welfare—and the wellbeing of the family, too.
The New Testament notes that especially fathers bear the responsibility for the development of their children. “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). That treatment of children must be responsive but controlled. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). The consequence of not parenting one’s children is twofold—God’s disapproval of both the parents (fathers in particular) and the children. “For I have told him [Eli] that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (1 Samuel 3:13). “And his father [David] had not rebuked him at any time by saying, ‘Why have you done so?’…” (1 Kings 1:6). As dependents in the home, children must learn to be subject to and to obey their parents—as the boy Jesus did (Luke 2:51). Of course, the parents need to be responsive to rearing their children, and willing to train them in the ways of God—revealed in the Bible.
The home must provide the moral or spiritual compass for its children. Every waking moment when children and their parents interact is a potential occasion for teaching one’s offspring about God and His Word.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
Abraham was a godly patriarch who lived prior to the institution of Judaism and before this passage in Deuteronomy was written. Yet, Scripture records that Abraham was an outstanding father to his children. God said of Abraham, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him” (Genesis 18:19). God expects parents to not only influence their children but to encourage their grandchildren to adopt the ways of God (Deuteronomy 6:2; Psalm 78:4-6).
Parents do not relinquish their parental responsibilities to the local church. By the word “church,” the local assembly of Christians is the intended meaning—not the church building. Parents should not expect the church to take over for them their childrearing responsibilities. The church can augment or add to what the home does, but it cannot and should not be expected to replace the home and be primarily responsible for the spiritual maturity of children. The comparatively few assemblies of the church (e.g., maybe three times on the Lord’s Day, an hour on Wednesday evening and occasionally youth gatherings) cannot compare with the number of times children are exposed to their parents in the home.
The local church ought to provide age-appropriate instruction and encouragement to all Christians and non-Christians who assemble at the appointed times. Therefore, many churches of Christ have Bible classes (e.g., Sunday morning and Wednesday evening), preaching during worship, Gospel meetings, Ladies’ inspiration days, workshops, seminars, lectureships, vacation Bible school and youth events. The seasoned Christian, the new Christian and youth all need to know God’s Word more perfectly and be encouraged by others of “like precious faith” (2 Peter 1:1). Whatever the church can provide youth should reinforce the efforts of the home to instruct youth and to lead them to become fruitful and faithful Christians.
One of the primary reasons that our children either do not become Christians or after becoming Christians fall away from the church is because parents did not take seriously enough the responsibility to train their children with God’s Word and to live God’s Word consistently in their own lives. Making a living, seeking prosperity beyond family needs and pursuing recreation or entertainment often consumes the majority of family life and crowds out God and His ways. If parents do not prioritize their lives to seek spiritual things first (Matthew 6:33), neither will their children put God first in their lives.
Another significant reason that our children do not become Christians or do not remain faithful Christians is because of the overpowering influence of the ungodly world upon them. Children spend more time with the world than they do with their families (e.g., interacting with other children who are not the products of truly Christian homes, in school at the feet of teachers and educational studies that may be counterproductive to Christianity, inundated with diverse media that often is anti-biblical in its message, etc.). Since the world spends more time with our children than we do as parents, it is especially important for parents to maximize the impact of their time spent with their children—particularly pertaining to teaching them to know God and His Word.
The Lord’s church cannot develop Christian youth satisfactorily through entertainment alone. In the first place, entertainment of our children is the responsibility of the home—not the responsibility of the church. Secondly, neither the church nor the home can satisfactorily compete in entertainment, amusements and distractions with the world. The world can always do it bigger and better regarding entertainment, amusements and distractions than what either the church or the home can do. Therefore, the home and the church must focus on spiritual maturity rather than on entertainment, etc. Christian youth ought to be taught by word and by example in the home and in the church from an early age the importance of being godly.
Yet, youth activities should be pleasant rather than unpleasant. All of us at any age find it agreeable to be accommodated with pleasantries as we practice our Christianity. Adults might appreciate a comfortable setting in which to worship or to study God’s Word. Youth (as well as adults) may find it a suitable environment for gathering to include eating or social activities. However, the spiritual side of youth events, etc. ought to outweigh fun and games. Certainly, if youth can play together, they can and should also work together for our Lord.
Christian youth are not the church of tomorrow! As long as the church views Christian youth as the church of tomorrow, they will not be the church of today. It is folly to segregate Christian youth from the church today, and then to wonder why years from now that they do not become active in the church. Baptism does not make a boy into a man or a girl into a woman, but it is the point at which a person becomes a Christian. All newly baptized Christians, irrespective of one’s chronological age, are babes in Christ. In addition to teaching them more perfectly (Matthew 28:20), every male and female Christian ought to be assimilated into the local congregation according to their abilities (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:14-27).
All Christians, young and old, ought to be fitted to tasks, not only corresponding with their abilities, but also according to the God-given roles that differ for men and for women. For instance, when we teach young men, we should not forget to teach the young women, too, in areas in which they can serve our Lord in the local congregation (e.g., communion preparation, teaching ladies’ and children’s classes, benevolence, evangelism). Christian young men can participate in the worship services; they don’t have to wait to some later time in life to begin participating in worship and service. Give our Christian youth, males and females, tasks that they can do and which correspond to the God-given roles of male and female children of God.
Adult mentoring of youth (or any other babe in Christ) can provide important encouragement and guidance to promote spiritual maturity and faithfulness. Not haphazardly, but purposely align adults with specific youth as the go-to-person on whom youth can rely. This should not supplant the family but provide an additional spiritual family member to help youth along the godly path to Christian maturity.
Encourage the local congregation to prayerfully inspire Christian youth. One congregation of which I am aware placed the name of each their youth on the backs of cutout hands. The procedure is to get a hand and pray for the youth whose name is on the reverse of the cutout. The church becomes particularly mindful of the young people overall and especially aware of the young man or the young woman for whom each is praying regularly. In a turnabout, the youth could do something similar regarding the adults, the sick, the bereaved, the nation, etc. Prayer is an activity in which any and every member of the Lord’s church ought to be and certainly can involve himself or herself.
We will not stop loosing our youth to the church until parents and the church take Christianity seriously—seriously enough to make Christian living and Christian service the priority of their lives. Only then is there any likelihood that parents and the church can persuade our children regarding real Christianity more than the persuasion otherwise bombarding them daily by the ungodly world.
In addition, new Christians, youth or even older ones, must be assimilated into the life, worship and service of the local church immediately upon conversion and consistently thereafter—according to their abilities and God-given roles for men and for women. The abilities will increase in time and with increasing spiritual maturity. Every Christian, young or old, is part of the church of today—not merely the anticipated church of tomorrow.
Relationships in the Church
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
The church of the New Testament is made up of relationships. One of the greatest joys of the Christian life is to have eternal relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Philippians 1:3). While these relationships are but a foretaste of Heaven itself, sometimes these relationships are not what they should be scripturally. Often, differing personalities are the root cause of problem relationships in the church. How should our relationships be as “fellow heirs” and “partakers of his promise” (Ephesians 3:6)? The Holy Spirit did not leave us to guess how we are to treat one another in the church.
Firstly, consider inspiration’s instructions on the matter. God was not silent about how our relationships should be in His family. In fact, the New Testament is inundated with “one another” passages. “Be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50), “don’t grumble among one another” (John 6:43), “be like-minded one toward another” (Romans 15:5), don’t bite, devour, and consume one another (Galatians 5:15), be kind, tenderhearted, and forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32), “love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12, Romans 13:8). One cannot study the New Testament with an honest heart and miss the fact that inspiration’s instructions are clear about our treatment of one another. Healthy relationships in God’s family are propagated when each member is sincerely concerned about one another!
Secondly, consider the divine demonstration on the matter. There is no better example on healthy relationships than that of our Master, Jesus Christ! It was written of Jesus, “…having loved his own which were in the world, he loved unto the end” (John 13:1b). Even at the point when mankind cruelly nailed Jesus to the cross, He said, “…Father forgive them…” (Luke 23:34b). Jesus’ life centered around others and doing what was best for them. That is exactly what real love is! “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). If each Christian strives to be like Jesus (Hebrews 12:1), healthy relationships can be a reality!
Lastly, consider an applied approach on the matter. While it is clear that inspiration has clearly penned that we must be concerned with one another and treat one another properly, and while Jesus showed us this divine demonstration perfectly, how does that look each day in our lives? Consider the following very seriously.
Firstly, never miss an opportunity to shut up! I would guess that a loose tongue has lost more healthy relationships than by any other problem. Speaking of young widows specifically, Paul wrote, “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1 Timothy 5:13). While young widows were the subject here, this command certainly applies to men and women, widows and widowers, young and old (James 1:26)! Idle talk is never healthy!
Secondly, never miss an opportunity to speak up! As a Christian, I have the responsibility to speak up and discourage idle talk. Have you ever experienced someone who was “chewing your ear off” about another? What did you do? While it is certainly uncomfortable, Christians need to speak up and end such a rant. We become a partaker in this gossip and idle talk when we fail to speak up. For more verses on gossip and idle talk, see 2 Corinthians 12:20, Ephesians 4:29, Exodus 23:1, James 1:26, James 4:11, Proverbs 10:19 and Proverbs 11:9, 13.
Lastly, never miss a good opportunity to build up! Healthy relationships are nourished when we build each other up! There is plenty in this sin-filled world to tear down, but God’s family is busy building up and encouraging! When was the last time you built up one of your brothers or sisters in Christ? Are you a builder or a destroyer? Encouragement changes everything!
Our relationships in God’s family, the church, are important. We must never be guilty of dividing relationships, but rather each one must work diligently to build and maintain healthy relationships. Healthy relationships are the result of each one heeding inspiration’s instructions, by each one following the divine demonstration and by each one daily using the applied approach. May God bless us with healthy relationships that honor Him!