Do you worship God? Do you really worship Him? On Sunday morning, with all of God’s people, do you love Jesus in song, kneeling in prayer, while listening, eating, drinking, raising hands?
And what sorts of images come to mind when you consider this question?
If like our church, you have come to the conclusion that generally speaking, our children should worship with us, as full members of the body of Christ, then maybe you laughed when I first asked the question. Maybe slight tinges of bitterness or regret shot through your gut. Wish I could worship.†Maybe someday I’ll get to focus on God. Wish my church had a nursery, a children’s church, etc.
Now, for the record, God doesn’t give us any specific directions here. The principles are that we should let the little children come to Jesus, and for of such is the Kingdom of God and the promises of God are to us and to our children. And on the flip side, if a college student or a friend or Uncle Joe can sit with you and help bring some order to the busyness in your row, then you’ve got a mini-nursery going already, and if the elders want to offer to organize that for everyone, especially for the littlest squirrels in the congregation, I don’t have any major qualms. We don’t do that at my church, but you won’t get any Baptist hellfire from me about that. My beef is with shipping the four year old off to the three ring circus downstairs, when she’s old enough to start hollering Amens and eating the Lord’s Supper and drawing pictures of the pastor up front. Which is to say, all things being equal, there ought to be a lot of kids and kid noises in a normal Jesus-loving worship service because Jesus loves little kids and if we think they’re distractions for worshipping Jesus then we’re no better than the uptight disciples.†
Again, I don’t have any qualms about having special services or classes for adults where kids programs are provided. I don’t have any worries about occasional special services or kids classes or nurseries. But the normal, ordinary practice of the church ought to be piles of kids of all ages mixed into the congregation of God. Because God loves children and welcomes them into His presence. Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, He has ordained strength because of our enemies.
But here’s the point of this little post: That means that *real* worship, real, God-honoring, Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled worship must include the busyness of a row of little people with wandering attention spans, enthusiastic questions, and happy wiggles.
Sometimes you might be tempted to long for a worship experience that is just you and Jesus, you focusing on God, while tuning out everyone around you. But guess what? That’s actually not real worship. Or at least that isn’t normal, ordinary, regular real worship. We aren’t supposed to block out everyone around us anyway, but just in case we were tempted to, God loaded us with little people.
Now, on the flip side, this doesn’t mean you throw your hands up and just detach from worship. You don’t rope off row 17 and just hunker down and wait for the recessional. No, Jesus wants you and your children worshipping Him. Jesus loves a mom with a baby on her hip, singing praises from the bottom of her heart. Jesus loves a dad walking his toddler in the back chewing on the sermon, praying for grace to apply it. Jesus loves a big brother holding his little sister’s hand kneeling for prayer. And yes, Jesus even loves the faithful parent walking the defiant son or daughter of Adam out to the proverbial wood shed for a little proverbial loving so that they can come back in together in fellowship, walking in the light, sins forgiven, to worship the Triune God.
All I mean is that God designed worship to include other people and especially other little people, children. Real worship includes those people next to us, in the row behind us, and in front of us. It’s certainly true that without discipline or teaching, they can become distractions, but the fact that they are there, needing attention, smiling, waving, drawing pictures, and doing their own best to worship is glorious and nothing to be regretted or despised. And you, parents, if you are holding their hands and lifting your hearts to the Lord, then your worship is accepted. You are received, loved, rejoiced over by your Father in Heaven. You are worshipping, really worshipping.
Tom Brainerd says
Excellent post, Toby!
Such encouragement! Thank you! Our family usually does all that you mentioned each week…rocking a baby on the hips, walking in the back with a toddler, taking some out to the car for discipline, and I often watch the other families who have everything in order and children who are past the training stage, worrying sometimes that we’re a huge distraction. Praise God, our Pastor loves the little people and reminds me often that “Life happens here.”
This is a lovely reminder….I have been taught this as a matter of worshipping in a congregation! I think what really gets on my nerves is at one pentecostal church I visited a multitude of single people scattered apart in pews worshipped aone with arms raised …..me and Jesus only..it looked like a fragmented worship…at a glorified bible study. I am happy to know that this is something I have learned through teachers/pastors the church needs to reform..worship will be self-conscious. Segregation of individuals or families with children is simply put abstraction and distortion of worship and not cool.
Nicole Hale says
So, so good. Thank you. The thought of excluding our children literally makes me cry, and am so thankful to be in a service where they are joyfully welcomed and included.
Justin Donathan says
Great post Toby!