- Itís Time to Close
the Church Doors
- By Barrington H. Brennen
My son and his wife are always going to church. They are involved in a church
activity every night of the week. Their small children are suffering for lack of
attention. I am also concerned about their marriage, which seems not to be so
healthy these past months. I am concerned because it seems they have become so
busy working for the Lord that they are neglecting to nurture their own souls.
What can we do about it? Signed: Concerned Grandmother.
Dear Concerned Grandmother. It is true too many of us are so busy going to
church and are so involved in church activities that we have neglected to care
for our own souls. We are so involved helping others, until we have lost the
intimate connection with Jesus. The devil is smart. He knows that one of the
most effective ways to weaken Christians is to trap them in doing so much good
until they end up being good for nothing.
ATTACK ON CHRISTIAN
- Too many of our families are not setting their priorities straight.
They put church above family, and career above relationships. Yes, God
should always be number 1 in our lives. However, too often many do not
understand the difference between having a healthy personal relationship
with God and having an involvement in church activities. Some parents
literally drag the entire family out of the house every night of the
week to some church activity. This is certainly proving to be unhealthy
for the spiritual, physical and psychological well-being of growing
children and married couples.
- Research now tells us that this generation of adolescents is the most
sleep deprived ever. It is because they are up too late watching TV or
do not have a balanced lifestyle. Small children need at least 13 to 15
hours a sleep a day to grow healthily. This is why they need to sleep 1
to 3 hours during the day. Young babies less than six months need
between 18 and 23 hours of sleep a day. Children in primary school
between ages 5 and 8 need at least 12 to 15 hours of sleep a day.
Parents are you allowing your children to get sufficient sleep each day?
This is a diabolical attack on the Christian family. It is
now time for families to decide which days of the week they will keep the
church doors closed in their mindís eyes. While I served as a school
counselor, I met many children who were suffering academically and socially
simply because their parents took them to church every night. They would come
home from the meetings way past the normal, healthy bed time, and could not
get sufficient rest before they had to rise early the next morning to go to
school. They were often sleepy in classes, edgy, and nervous. Their school
work performance was poor. What kind of image will these children have of God?
Sometimes their parents are also shouting at each other, and it is all because
they would not pause to take time to rest.
I have conducted many marriage
seminars for churches and institutions. At each seminar I asked the couples to
complete a marriage survey. Each time more than 70 percent of the couples
indicated that being "too busy" was a serious challenge in their
- MANY PASTORS ARE TO BLAME
- Unfortunately, many pastors are to blame for this poor family behavior
among their own church members. They make their members feel guilty if
they do not show up to every function. They pressure them to believe
that true service for God is only shown when you are physically present
at every meeting called by the church. They make their members believe
that if they are spiritual enough, they would have no pain and all their
needs will be met. Through their own subtle tactics of control, these
all-powerful, all-knowing spiritual leaders, whip the wan of guilt over
their membersí heads by telling them "If you were out last night
to the revival you would not have the pain you are experiencing."
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, both Christian psychologists,
authored a book entitled "12 Christian Beliefs that Can Drive
You Crazy." In Chapter 1 they talk about the false assumption
of Christianity: "Itís selfish to have my needs met." Let me
share with you the opening story of the chapter they used to introduce
"Exhausted and lonely one Monday afternoon, Sarah
reached over and switched on the radio. It had been a rough weekend. Every
request she made of the children had turned into a battle, and her husband
had remained planted in front of the television. She couldnít recall if
he had said a caring word to her or the children all weekend. It was like
the old joke, she thought "Ask me how my day was," say the
comedian. "All rightĖhow was your day?" "Donít
It was a bitter joke for Sarah. She didnít even want
to think about how depressed she was. Maybe the radio would help. She
flipped through the newspaper for the dayís radio listings. The topic on
the Christian station was, "Help When Youíre Down." She
recognized that speakerís name; he was a local, well-respected pastor.
She tuned in to the station.
". . . so youíre down, troubled, lonely, youíre
under crushing pressure. You wonder sometimes if things will ever change for
you." "Is he reading my mind?" thought Sarah. He was
describing her very feelings at the moment. He understood. "My friend,
thereís an answer for you from the Word of God." Biblically based
teaching was important to Sarah.
"The answer," said the pastor, "is to stop
thinking about yourself and start thinking about others. Just as our Lord
thought not of himself, but emptied himself for others, we will find joy in
self-sacrifice and service. Get off the pity pot."
Sarahís heart dropped. "Peace in sharing? Iíve
been sharing myself all weekend, and Iím in pieces, not at peace."
She had no sooner formed these resentful words in her mind, that she
immediately felt guilty. After all, the pastor was quoting the Bible.
"I guess heís right," she told herself. "Iím just being
selfish." She reached for the church bulletin to see what additional
committee she could volunteer for. Maybe in serving more, sheíd find the
happiness she longed for. But she was beginning to despair of ever being
happy, and ever feeling satisfied about herself and her life.
Every day, well-intentioned Christians listen to messages
similar to the one Sarah heard. That messageĖ"Stop thinking of your own
needs"Ėis taught by sincere well-intentioned Christian teachers who
only want to help people obey the Savior. The problem is that itís not a
biblical message. Could this be the message many parents are hearing why they
refuse to stop and care for themselves and their families?
We can be very active in church. We can even try to be nice
and helpful to all we meet. However, the most helpful people in the world are
those who have been helped. As Dr. Clouds writes it: "The most comforting
people in the world are those who have been comforted; the most understanding
people are those who have been understood; and the most loving people are
those who have been loved."
Dear parents, please stay home tonight with your children. Give them time
to grow and enjoy life. Provide for them the environment that has a healthy
balance between leisure time, church, and school work. Remember, you can be so
busy "working for the Lord" that you can destroy your relationship
with him and your family. Some Christian husbands and wives are so holy and
heavenly they are of no earthly good to their spouses. "Letís stay home
to night baby." It is certainly time to close the church door and stay
home to nurture your soul.
I encourage you, as a dear
Christian yourself, to keep your children in prayer, but do not get overly
involved in their lives. However, it is good to take the time and express your
concern to your son about his over-involvement in church activities and what
you have observed about the affects it has on the children. Then, after you
would have done that, leave them alone and pray for them as much as you can.
- SETTING PRIORITIES
- Too often I meet individuals who have misplaced priorities. In our
society it is not uncommon for parents to put children above their
spouses or church involvement above family life. We must learn how to
set our priorities. What should be on our list of priorities? Here are a
few things we can consider: career/job, spouse, education, church,
children, God, friends, and extended family. Out of these items, which
one should come first? As expected, no one would have a problem agreeing
that God should always be Number 1 in our lives. However, what comes
next is the problem. If the person is married, the next on the list of
priority is the spouse, or his or her marriage, followed by the
children. Note carefully that the church isnít mentioned yet.
- First of
all there is a difference between having a personal relationship God and
being involved in church activities. Although they are both important,
they are both separate entities in our lives. Many think that if they
know God, then He expects us to "sacrifice everything" for
Him. They say "if we make an honest sacrifice for God, he will
never forsake us, and all our needs will be met." This is a myth.
Usually children suffer the most with this type of philosophy. One of my
favorite authors, Ellen G. White, an inspired, non-professional expert
on family life, makes an important statement on the subject. She states:
"Every family is a church over
which the parents preside. The first consideration of the parents should be
to work for the salvation of their children. When the father and mother as
priest and teacher of the family take their position fully on the side of
Christ, a good influence will be exerted in the home. And this
sanctified influence will be felt in the church and will be recognized by
every believer. Because of the great lack of piety and sanctification in the
home, the work of God is greatly hindered."
Child Guidance Page 549
Note the emphasis in Ellen Whiteís statement. She makes
it clear that if parents place their family life and children the Number 1
priority, children would grow up in a better environment that will also
influence the church life. Note it is not the other way around. Families make
up churches and not church make up families. In other words when there is strife in
the home, it is seen in the church. In fact there is no strife in the church
that did not start in the home. If we would understand this concept, parents
would be more than happy to spend as much time as possible at home with their
- TWISTED VIEW OF GOD
- Little children cannot grasp the concept of an invisible, all-powerful
God who is up in heaven ministering on our behalf. Therefore, parents
stand in the place of God to their children. The childrenís concept of
God will be gathered from the relationship their parents have with them.
Either they will grow to think of God as a rigid and a unkind taskmaster,
or they will believe he is a companionate, merciful, and kind God. It all
depends on the parentsí attitude. Dragging the children to the church
and forcing them to participate in every activity can certainly lead the
children to think of God as their enemy instead as their friend.
Letís not forget that
"The family is key in its significance because
it is the place where relational skills are learned well or poorly. And if
the family is the social organization in which these skills are learned
first, then the family becomes central to the process of disciple making. It
is a place where disciple like relationship skills are learned and it is a
primary group in which disciple making takes place."
A New Design for Family Ministry, Page 11
With this in mind, we cannot forget that in order for parents to be good
mothers and fathers they must first be happy husbands and wives.
"This would mean that the marriage comes
first, even before church activities. All other people and events come after
the marriage. Children, parents, work, and play, all benefit most by marital
priority instead of marital sacrifice, because the marriage is the central
unit to all other processes. The stronger the basic unit, the stronger the
rest of the system."
Dear reader, if you are married, engaged, or a single parent, take a pen
and paper, and make a list of the priorities in your life. I have a sample
list a few paragraphs above. However your list may differ. After doing so,
rank them based on their importance in your life. See which one comes first
and which ones come last. To make it more meaningful, husband and wife can
each make a separate list, and then compare their answers and discuss the
differences or similarities. Note also that your priority list will differ
according to your own unique situation. For instance, if you are a single
parent, your would not have spouse on it, and you might rank your children
as number (after God) in your life.
- YOUR HOME WORK
It is imperative to understand that although there can be variations in the
ranking of the priority list by each individual, yet always your relationship
with your most immediate family members (spouse and children) should always
come before any other relationship, activity or event.
LETíS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Parents, let us help make our country a peaceful and happy one by
placing our family and marriage relationships top on our priority lists of
our. Our children need us close to them. Unfortunately, although the
church may demand that you attend every activity, remember, the church may
not be there when you are down and out. Take the time to cherish
relationships close to you. Take the time to pick the roses now. Stay home
- FAMILY NIGHT
- One effective way to keep the family, and not the church first in your
life is to have "couple night" one night a week. If there are
children, there should also be "family night." The couple should
select a night that they would dedicate to themselves with no
interruptions or interferences from relatives or friends. They can go out
to the restaurant, walk down a famous street, walk on the beach, visit a
garden, watch a movie together, etc. Whatever you do, it is your night to
be together. Then in addition to that, if children are in the family,
there should be a night dedicated to full concentration on the children
alone. Wonderful activities can be planned, and it could be a joyous time
for the children.
Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist.
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