Over fifty years ago, A. W. Tozier wrote that worship was the “missing jewel of the church.” For many of us, it is difficult, if not impossible, to look back into the 60’s or 50’s and know what worship was like in the church, however, it is interesting to read the words of this church leader of yesterday decry the worship experience of the church as being inauthentic. In other words, according to Tozier, men, women, and children went to places of worship every Sunday morning and never really experienced worship at all. I suppose he thought they were simply going through the motions by singing the hymns of the faith and listening to sermons. In the midst of this activity, it seems that at least some churchmen thought the church was missing the whole point.
Since Tozier wrote his little booklet, the church and the nation have gone through tremendous change. We have experienced wars, lived through economic crisis’s, and endured political squabbles that have become commonplace. The church has gone through peaks and valleys as well. The Jesus movement of the 60’s and 70’s led to the “worship wars” of the 80’s and 90’s. The growth of the charismatic movement led many Christians in the theological center to question the authenticity of their worship that was more cerebral than experiential. Hundreds of books have been written on the topic of worship and numerous models can be observed not only on televisions but also the internet. After all the church has been through in the last fifty years, are we any closer to finding “the missing jewel?” Is our worship still man-centered instead of God-centered? Are we more focused on entertaining ourselves or experiencing God? Do we sing songs about the benefits of our faith, or is our worship directed to the author of our faith? Do we come to church to “get” something or to give something? Is God the audience or are we?
It seems to me that if a jewel is missing, we ought to be doing everything in our power to find it. While individual Christians may have some influence over whether or not other Christians worship, the real truth is that we can only change ourselves. Is the jewel still missing? If it is, what should we do to rediscover it?
“Look Daddy, I can tie my shoes all by myself.” I’ve heard that at least six times as each of my children mastered the life altering skill of tying their shoes. I remember using different methods to help them accomplish this feat: “The rabbit goes around the tree, through the hole…” Though my kids caught on fairly easily, it still took a concerted effort by me and my wife to prepare them for this important life transition. Maybe you think tying shoes is not really that big of a life transition, but it does mark a significant step toward independence. The reality is we spend a great deal of time with our children helping them be prepared for these “passages” of life. We want our kids to be able to take care of themselves, get a good job, make a significant contribution to society, know Christ as their personal Savior, and use their gifts to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.
I just read the alarming results of a national study that shoes that as Christian parents, we may not have fully done our job very well. While tying shoes is important, how prepared are our children to stand up for what they believe? Can our children defend their faith during high school and college before peers and professors who may be antagonistic toward Christianity, or worse, hostile toward Christians? A study completed in 2007 showed that in 712 colleges and universities across our country, there is a significant bias against Christian students by college professors. Through this study, it was determined that 53% of college professors admitted to having negative or unfavorable feelings toward evangelical Christians. Another alarming discovery from this study is that American college faculty members want Muslims to play a greater role in the American political process while wanting evangelicals to stay out of it.
It seems that some college professors have an immediate bias against Christian students and seek to convince students that faith in Christ or belief in the Bible is a crutch or a hoax. The bottom line is that we need to not only be ready to defend our faith in a growing secular society, but we MUST prepare our children to do so as well.
Tying shoes, potty training, and balancing a check book are important life lessons, but in the grand scheme of things, teaching our children to defend their faith is critical as well. What ideas do you have on how to help our children grow in this area? Can you share some thoughts with your responses?