Contrast 2 of 5 on parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ “I can’t believe you did that” or “I know why you did that.”

I have said it, too. Caleb makes a mistake. I spout off, “I can’t believe you did that!” Or maybe an alternate derivative – “Why did you do that?”

Don’t we know? Maybe we don’t.

I was in a training seminar this week when, as an example of how even from an early age we look for someone else to blame, the teacher showed a video of a little three year old girl blaming her 8 month old sister of drawing high up on a chair (when the little one couldn’t even stand). It is in us. Selfishness. And when confronted, the selfish act of deflecting the issue onto someone else. It is our tendency. We make a selfish choice. We want to cover it up and hide.

The Garden story is the story of all of us.

So, why do we parent as though it isn’t?

Do we grow out of this? Can we self-actualize our way out of our selfish tendencies, our relationally destructive choices? Tell Jesus that is possible. His nail-scars declare otherwise.

Stay with me. I am guilty of this just like any other parent. Having brain lapses as though my kids shouldn’t make mistakes. You may have never thought of it, but if you parent with this “why did you do that” emphasis, you will sow the seeds either of self-sufficiency or self-destruction. Either that child will reap an air of “I am okay and don’t need anyone else,” or she will reap the stinch of shame and isolation wondering why she can’t ever get it right.

Do either of these welcome the Gospel?

No wonder God had to fit into skin to do something about it. We would have ignored him altogether or just hidden in shame. John, in chapter one of his Gospel, actually wrote that this is what we did.

So, if that was not the way to welcome Jesus, then why would we parent with the mindset and habits that cultivate for that level of self-absorption?

We as parents must beg Jesus to transform our default statement from “I can’t believe you did that” to “I know why you did that.” Furthermore, we know the One who did something about why we do that.

Are we parenting our kids to be perfect or are we parenting them with a perfect love?

Paul declared in Romans 2 that kindness leads to repentance. Repentance is turning from the path I am on to walk a different path. We need to repent as parents of our default mindset, and then parent in environments that encourage repentance, simply because our kids will always need to practice repentance and confession all of their lives. Just like we as parents do. And that environment that encourages repentance is one of perfect love.

Perfect love is not perfect parenting. Rather, it is parenting with a default of grace and forgiveness and multiple chances and ongoing training and expectation of mistakes made rather than perfect behavior. AND, we are in no way capable of this perfect love unless as parents we ourselves are living dependent upon the One who loves us perfectly.

Speaking of living dependently, may I offer a word of caution?

We must be careful of buying into the lie of American culture called “self-esteem.”

Are we parenting our kids toward self-esteem or God-esteem?

Hopefully the latter. Because anything prefixed with the word “self” seems to me to be referring to something that was nailed and buried. I don’t need to believe in myself. I need to believe in the One who believes in me. I don’t need to accept Him as much as I need to accept the truth that He has accepted me. Jesus, the Gospel incarnate, declares it!

WE ARE WORTH DYING FOR TO GOD.

As parents, may we remember that being worth dying for to God implies the need for sacrifice. For sin to be covered. For selfishness to be remedied.

We know why we make selfish choices. And we know why our kids do, too. Let’s not direct them toward expected perfection. Let’s introduce them to the One who loved perfectly, in the midst of our imperfections.

My brother pulled me aside when I was in high school during a time when I was especially down because of personal sin and selfishness. He reminded me that sorrow for that sin was healthy. But moping was not. And he challenged me that expecting to make myself unselfish was not healthy either. Rather, I should smile instead of feeling shame. I should smile, because my selfish insufficiencies were glaring evidence of my desperation for the All-Sufficient One. I should smile, a smile of confession, that I need Jesus.

And He met me in my need.

May we go with Him to meet our kids there, too.

———-

So we considered when our kids make mistakes today. But what about all the mistakes we are gonna make as parents? Let’s look at that tomorrow…

Thanks to Tim @Challies for sharing this simple yet profound short film on the Gospel by @GlenScrivener.

Big thanks to Tim Challies for sharing this video this morning. Big thanks to Glen Scrivener for writing and narrating it and Jeremy Poyner for illustrating.

Breathe it in deep. Share it.

Believe you are loved.

And may we go near with His love.

Cultivating Daily for Easter: highlighting three specific chances to gather around here in Central Florida this weekend…

For the @WestpointChurch family, there are three specific chances to gather this Friday and Sunday I wanted to highlight. Below those three is a simple challenge for us as we are cultivating daily for Easter. Hope you will cultivate.

-jason

:: Good Friday at noon with the Church of West Orange at the Jesse Brock Community Center across from Dillard Elementary School.

:: Good Friday evening at 7:00 with Kensington Church at West Orange High School auditorium. This is going to be a very artistic and engaging expression of the story of the cross that we get to enjoy with a partnering church family.

:: Easter Sunday morning at 10:00 at Whispering Oak Elementary School (where we normally gather). Who will you invite to come with you to celebrate the resurrection on this special day?

Try to make it to two of these three if you can. And please pray about who God might want you to invite to come with you, someone with whom you have been walking and loving or someone who is a new friend or neighbor.

Don’t miss this chance to not just show the Gospel but share it, as well.

are southern baptists asking the right question?

A friend of mine named John holds a prominent post in southern baptist life. I love his heart to want to see southern baptists living sent and loving the world as the church should. I also appreciate some of the questions he is asking. Here is a clip from a recent email he sent out:

Consider some very sobering statistics. 56% of the growth in Florida Baptist churches from 1960 to 2008 has been through transfer growth. We all know that transfer growth may increase membership or attendance in a specific church, but the Kingdom of God hasn’t grown when people leave one church for another. The mission Jesus gave His church is very specific. We are called to “seek and save that which was lost”.  A church’s attendance and membership can increase through transfer growth while hell’s population increases also. Transfer growth doesn’t de-populate hell. We’ve got to be more missional in our churches and convention of churches.

In 1960 the population of Florida was  4,951,560.  There were 1257 churches and missions in the Florida Baptist Convention at that time.  They gave $2,584,840 to the Cooperative Program.  50% of the Cooperative Program giving stayed in Florida.  There were 62 Florida Baptist Convention staff members. There were 480,407 in total Florida Baptist Convention church membership who witnessed 25,517 people come to Christ and follow through in believer’s baptism.  They baptized .52% of the population of Florida.

In 2008 the population of Florida was 18,807,219. There were 2907 churches and missions in the Florida Baptist Convention at that time.  They gave $38,654,690 to the Cooperative Program.  60% of the Cooperative Program giving stayed in Florida.  There were 154.5 Florida Baptist Convention staff members. There were 1,016,726 in total Florida Baptist Convention church membership who witnessed 34,414 people come to Christ and follow through in believer’s baptism. (Not including approximately 7000 people baptized in our Haiti partnership.)  Our churches baptized .18% of the population of Florida.

We praise God for every witness given, every soul won to Christ, and every dollar given to missions through the Cooperative Program!! We praise God for every staff member who has served our local churches and local associations.

Statistics are not always a true indicator of everything that is happening.  Praise God He knows all that is going on for His glory!!! At the same time, we can learn some things from information we as baptists have desired to gather and report through the years through our Uniform Church Letters and now the Annual Church Profiles.

We are obviously not keeping pace with the population boom of Florida!!  Just last week, I learned from Dr. Tola, Director of Language Missions for the Florida Baptist Convention, that 60% of the population growth in the past five years in Florida is Hispanic. What a wonderful opportunity God is placing before us!!

We must ask ourselves what we see when we consider these kinds of statistics? What do the numbers show? If reaching the lost is truly our mission, how successful have we been?  Are there reasons we are falling behind in reaching our state?  Are we willing to ask hard questions that may lead us to be more effective and efficient in fulfilling the Great Commission here in Florida and globally?  These are just a few questions that come to mind, there are no doubt many others.

When you ponder the stats from the last forty years, several questions typically come to mind. These are the ones I most commonly hear. Why aren’t we baptizing more? Why are so many churches dying? Why aren’t our churches growing at a faster rate, or even growing at all? However, these may not be the proper questions. We’ve been asking these for some time now, and arriving at their answers has not affected change. Could it be that we are not asking the right question? Could it be that we are asking these questions with the assumption that our measurement systems are exactly what they should be? Could it be that the answer to these most commonly asked questions are not helping us focus on the right answer?

A friend of mine was actually on the team of engineers that helped to launch the first space shuttle. He told me the story one time, with a proud smile on his face, of a brainstorming session his fellow engineers and he had before that first launch in order to solve a very small but important issue with the shuttle. It weighed too much to get off the ground. The force of the blast off was not going to be capable to lift the weight of the shuttle and all its accessories. It wasn’t enormously overweight, but like most baptist pastors, it needed to lose just a bit. A change of some sort had to be made.

The engineers looked at the situation from all angles. Most were angles that people who completed only 10th grade geometry would not understand. A simple matter of weighing too much, and these educated engineers could not come up with a possible solution. They finally settled together that they would find something to take out of the cargo bay. However, nothing that could be spared weighed at or above the amount of weight that needed to be shed. They were baffled.

Finally, my friend asked a question. “How much does the paint weigh on the fuel tank of the shuttle?” The amount was calculated. It was just over the amount that needed to be taken away in order to get the shuttle off the ground. A simple problem. So many complicated solutions proposed. The right question. An answer so obvious it is missed. The problem solved. And the shuttle went up with an unpainted fuel tank.

We see the problem. Are we asking the right question? The question that helps us to arrive at the appropriate solution and affect change? What if “why aren’t we baptizing more?” is not the right question? Don’t get me wrong, baptizing is important. That public confession of our personal commitment is a beautiful expression of faith. But asking that for the last forty years has created an emphasis that has not created the desired result. What if the right question is simply this – HOW MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE PART OF A SOUTHERN BAPTIST LOCAL CHURCH FAMILY HAVE MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS OUTSIDE OF THAT LOCAL CHURCH FAMILY? I’m talking about with those Jesus called “lost.” Are there lost people who would introduce that local church member as “my friend.” Sadly, we have been the salt of the earth by acting as a preservative of our church stuff rather than being the church daily as “salt” that brings out the flavors of God in the lives of the lost around us. That’s the only way they’ll taste Jesus. This may be why we are not baptizing more. This may be why churches are dying and not growing.

We see the problem. Are we asking our common questions with the assumption that our measurement systems are exactly what they should be? Take a look at the annual report forms. How many baptized? How many in worship? How many in small groups / Sunday School? Again, all important. But measuring these for the last forty years has not created the desired result. Our measurement systems always indicate our definition of success. How many are coming has been our measurement system. This means that the number of people “coming to church” is our definition of success. However, Jesus sent the church. We all agree that the church is not a place or an event, and yet we keep wanting more and more to “come TO church” or “be AT church.” Both “to” and “at” are prepositions that when used with the word “church” indicate that we do not define church as people. She is a who, not a what. And how many people “come to church” may be the wrong measurement system. After all, “in worship” and “in small groups” are both INward focuses. The church was intended to be sent. How many are living sent? Are our strategies pushing people out the doors of our church buildings to be connecting with the lost or trying to get the lost into a “place” that they don’t want to go? This may be why we are not baptizing more. This may be why churches are dying and not growing.

We see the problem. Are our most commonly asked questions helping us focus on the right answer? Almost all suggestions given for church growth strategies are focused on changing aspects of the church. Better music. Better preaching. Better media. Better visitation programs. Better small group curriculum. Better facilities. Can we really make the church better? Can we make her more beautiful? Can we adorn the bride any more beautifully than Jesus already did at the cross? The answer is simply NO. And we weren’t intended to. Jesus did not expect the world to become infatuated with His church. Jesus did not intend the world to be attracted to something better. He wants no one else courting His bride. He wants the world to fall in love with Him and become His bride. Are people staring at Jesus when they look at your local church, or just some place or event you have attempted to make more attractive? Maybe that’s why we are not baptizing more. Maybe that’s why churches are dying and not growing.

Because people can become engaged with church and not meet Jesus. However, if they become engaged with Jesus, they will be His church.

These statistics are alarming. If we do not make a shift from “come and see” approaches to “church,” then I am afraid the statistics will tell a far worse story forty years from now. May we ask the right questions, define success the way Jesus did, and focus on Him.