All posts by C. Doyle Hughes

Lover of Christ, wife, and children. Pastor, Reformed, Baptist.

Children, the Church, and the Pastor

I love children. I’m just not that good with them.  I love my own children, and I seek to do my best in showing my love and support to them, as well as discipline when and if needed.  But I’m not good at getting down on their level.  I try, but I usually fail.  The other day I was reading Stone Soup to a class of first graders at our local elementary school.  I tried to teach them what it meant to “think outside the box.”  I quickly realized that I had not been called to teach first graders.  That being said, I still love children and I love to see them in big church.  I get why churches tend to go for children’s church and nursery.  Which, by the way, we offer the nursery.  Children are wiggly.  They can and usually are noisy.  They can be distracting.  But that’s children.  That has always been children.

Children can be taught to be quiet, but it is almost impossible to teach children to be completely still.  For that matter, how many adults do I see wiggling around during worship service?  Legs cross, arms go up, seats are adjusted, bathrooms get walked to, notes are written, Bibles get flipped through, and sadly some statuses are checked and updated on social media.  Children just haven’t learned to fine art of refined wigglement.  They will though.

Children are wiggly.  They can and usually are noisy.  They can be distracting.  But that’s children.  That has always been children.

Here is the thing with children though.  Children are natural explorers.  They want to learn.  The reason babies put so much in their mouths is not because they are tasty, but because the mouth is their mode of exploration.  They want to learn about an object in their hand so they explore it with their mouths.  Children are interested in just about everything, including Jesus and God.  Why do we do what we do?  Who are these people we cannot see, but give so much devotion and time to?  What are these big books in the pews?  We were all there at one point in time.  At one time it was all fresh and new and confusing and great all at the same time.  We’ve lost much of the excitement and wonder that comes with worship service.  And children get it.  They may be noisy about it, but excitement tends to be a bit loud (just watch me watch the Atlanta Falcons play).

When Jesus’ disciples wanted to push the children to the side and not bother him with such as they, “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’,” (Matthew 19:14, ESV).  Jesus would not allow the children to be treated as second class, but elevated their status by healing them and defending them.  I bet that these children were much like our children.  They clamored and they wiggled and they talked above a whisper.  Jesus said, “do not hinder them.”  Children need Jesus as much as adults do.  While children can be distracting and easily distracted, adults ought have the maturity to  block out distractions.  We do so in our cars (hopefully), we do so at our jobs, we do so in all areas of life, and so we should not be so shocked when we may be called upon to muster up the will to block distractions caused by the wonderment (and sometimes boredom) of children.

Personally, as a pastor, I find it hard to be distracted.  I rarely even notice noise or bathroom-goings.  I’m in a zone.  Perhaps I owe that to my mom.  When I was a kid playing recreational basketball, she would tell me to zone out the shouts from the bleachers and heckles from the opposing players, and concentrate on what I was doing.  That’s what we need to do as adults.  Zone out what is going on around us and zone in on what we are doing: worshipping and part of that being the hearing of God’s Word expounded.

While children can be distracting and easily distracted, adults ought have the maturity to  block out distractions.

I am thankful that my church gets it.  I have not heard complaints from our members on having children in the service.  They get the need for children to hear and receive God’s Word.  Praise God for the people who will not hinder the children from coming.

As always, I’d love to read your comments.  All comments will be published as long as they are respectful.  If you liked this post, by all means share it.

A Book Review

Russell Moore, the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has ben embroiled in many a controversy lately.  His stance against President Trump during the primaries got him in a lot of hot water with the big wigs in a few SBC churches.  I remember watching the proceedings of the SBC in St. Louis (I wish I had been there as I only live about half an hour away) and remember Dr. Moore getting questioned about his protecting of the rights for Muslims to build a mosque.  His response was epic!

You know sometimes we have to deal with questions that are really complicated and we have to spend a lot of time thinking them through.  And not sure exactly what the final result was going to be.  Sometimes we have had really hard decisions to make.  This isn’t one of those things.  What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody.  And brothers and sisters, when you have a government that says, ‘we can decide whether or not a house of worship can be constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship,’ then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build.  And the bigger issue, though, is not one of self-interest; the bigger issue is the fact we have been called to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  A government that has the power to outlaw people from assembling together and saying what they believe, that does not turn people into Christians.  That turns people into pretend-Christians and it sends them straight to hell.  The answer to Islam is not government power; the answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the new birth that comes from that.

I had vaguely known of Moore, seeing his book Onward on books shelves but bypassing it.  I was familiar with his predecessor Richard Land and was not a huge fan, though not against him either.  He existed and I existed and that was about it.  After hearing Dr. Moore’s quote, I knew I had to get the book.  I started listening to his podcast “Signposts” as well.  I have just finished his book and I must say that I am happy with what I have read.  Dr. Moore articulates well what I have thought but unable to express.  His first chapter, “A Bible Belt No More,” spoke volumes as I grew up in Georgia and met many a “pretend-Christian” in my life.    In his introduction, he wrote: “We cannot build Christian churches on a sub-Christian gospel.  People who don’t want Christianity don’t want almost-Christianity,” (p. 5).

Throughout this book, Russell Moore has a “no holds barred” writing style.  He hits from every angle, and at times one may feel he hit a little below the belt, but all in all he does so in love.  He loves humanity but he loves Christ and the church.  What he writes (and says) must be taken with that truth in context.  I do not believe that this book has any hyperbole.  He does not overstate the issues for dramatic effect, but neither does he downplay the issues as if they have no effect.

The view that is expressed on human dignity was especially helpful. “To deny human dignity…is to kick against Christ himself…  When we care for the vulnerable–the unborn, the aged, the poor, the diseased, the disabled, the abused, the orphaned–such is not ‘charity.’  These are not ‘the disadvantaged,’ at least not in the long run.  These are the sorts of people God delights in exalting as the future rulers of the universe,” (p. 136).  From human-trafficking to race relations to abortion to the death penalty, Dr.Moore makes sound and emphatic arguments for how Christians are to respond.

His chapter on religious liberty goes straight to the heart of what he said at the SBC meeting.  He hits hard on the idea of the pretend-Christian, making the point that the countries in Europe that had state-churches are now so secular that one is scarce to find a Christian.  “A religion that needs state power to enforce obedience to its beliefs is a religion that has lost confidence in the power of its Deity” (p. 145).  He went on to hit us Christians on our persecution complex (though I don’t remember those words in the book).  “Not everything that offends us should offend us, and not everything that offends us is persecution,” (p. 151).  Yes!

Onward is a book that is filled with well-thought arguments and biblical truth.  Many who are in the “old guard” will probably not appreciate it, but I would ask them to humbly read it, if not to convince, at least to help them understand where men and women like Russell Moore are coming from.  The pendulum swung too far to one side over the last 60-70 years, in reaction to its being swung to the other side.  Dr. Moore is presenting a balanced, middle-pendulum approach to living in this secular world.  It is not about “keeping America Christian” but being Christ in America.  The Christian ought to be about the Kingdom of Christ more than America.  “We are Americans best when we are not Americans first,” (p. 160).

His chapter on family was thought-provoking and timely.  However, I do not believe that this chapter will be obsolete any time soon.  The issues of the family and how it relates to the world and to the church are spot on.  “Masculinity and femininity are not aspects of the fallen order to be overcome but are instead part of what God declared from the beginning to be ‘very good’ (Gen. 1:31),” (p. 167).    Moore rightly points to the roles of parents and children, the church and the need to use words that mean what we mean and not simply words that the culture uses.  Chastity more than abstinence.  Adultery rather than affair.  He confronts the church (and pastors!) on the old way of just joining two people together whether they should be joined together in marriage.  “Just because we don’t have two grooms or two brides in front of us, that doesn’t mean we’ve been holding to biblical marriage,” (p. 179).

There is so much more to this book than I can possibly write.  Please pick up a copy of Onward as soon as you can.  I have thoroughly enjoyed this book.  With the exception of a few typographical errors, it is well-written and articulated.  This is probably in my top 10 favorite books of all time (outside of the Bible).

As always, I’d love to read your comments, even if you disagree with me.  They will all be published as long as they are respectful.  If you like the review, please share it.