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What Does the Bible Say About..Children's Worship?

In answer to a question on the website about Children in Worship, you replied, "Although I personally object to children's worship because they lose the opportunity to observe their parents in worship, I can find no clear scripture that can be used either to support or condemn the practice."

I personally have wrestled with this one off and on for several years. Recently I saw an online article by Rusty Stark that addressed this issue. I am not acquainted with the writer of the article, but I thought you might be interested in what he has to say about the issue. He lists several scriptures that seem to condemn the practice. I welcome any of your further comments on this matter after you have considered his statements. http://www.eastcorinth.org/stopn01.htm

Answer

There is much that I personally agree with in this article. However, there are some conclusions with which I must disagree. When he expresses his opinion that children who attend "children's worship" do not learn how to act in the assembly he is expressing a perfectly valid opinion (which, although he doesn't mention it, is supported by strong evidence in case-studies). When he takes scriptures out of context to make them mean what they do not say, however, I must disagree with him. I will point out specific areas of disagreement, and also make some observations about his conclusions and about the publication from which the article came.

He talks of "the biblical imperative to come together" and says "we must have a general assembly for the purpose of worship, where all in the congregation come together." While I agree that the assembly of the believers is taught, and important, I don't agree that the scriptures he uses, primarily from 1 Corinthians, form a "biblical imperative" or constitute a "must" for the church. The passages he quotes prove that the Christians in Corinth WERE coming together. "When you come togetherů" "If you come togetherů" But the fact that they were coming together does not necessarily mean that they, or we, must come together. After all, the Corinthians were doing a number of other things that Paul wrote them that they must not do.

He does later talk about part of the congregation not being at the assembly as "a violation of Hebrews 10:25." When you take that verse in the context of the previous verse, however, you see that the primary purpose of the assembling together was not to worship God, but to encourage one another. To take Hebrews 10:25 out of that context leads to worshipping the worship, rather than worshipping God!

Brother Stark quotes Ephesians 6:4 about our obligation to our children to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." He then equates sitting still, concentration, and "having an attention span longer than a 30 second commercial" with the training (nurture) and exhortation (admonition) of the Lord. I don't recall reading in scripture where the Lord exhorts anyone concerning having an attention span longer than a 30-second commercial or spends time training them to sit still and concentrate like the Buddha did. Brother Stark asks, "can we not see the obvious truth that providing entertainment instead of contemplative devotion for the first years of their life is failing to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?" No, I can not see that as an obvious truth. Since when is "contemplative devotion" the same as teaching a child to be honest and generous? Teaching passive worship is not an "obvious" part of the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As I said earlier, I agree with him that children's worship is generally detrimental in this area, but I certainly wouldn't use this scripture to say that, when other studies are more to the point.

I agree with Brother Stark that each child must "learn what true worship is." But I would also ask his definition of true worship. Is true worship sitting still and listening to a preacher? Or does worship include "visit[ing] widows and orphans in their affliction; and keep[ing] oneself unspotted from the world?" (James 1:27)

I also agree that it is no surprise that our youth "find a "traditional" worship service boring." Maybe that is not because they are used to something "more fun" but because our traditional worship services are boring. Most of our worship services are just what he calls them-"traditional." We probably wouldn't recognize the assemblies of the first century, since they probably were significantly different from our tradition, taken from the Roman Catholic Church, of what an assembly should look like.

He talks about youth rallies containing skits, concerts, and entertainment, and says that that is not "decently and in order." I wonder when the last time he attended a youth rally was. Most are done "in order," which does not preclude the skits, concerts, and entertainment. If he had attended one, he would also have seen gospel preaching (in the traditional mode), Bible classes, and singing praises to God (as opposed to merely mouthing words of fifty or sixty songs we have sung over and over for fifty years).

Brother Stark says the Bible "clearly requires a general assembly," but fails to show where such is clearly required. It is important to assemble to encourage each other. We do follow the example of congregations that did assemble, although we generally don't do it as often as some of them did. But there is no "clear requirement." The logical conclusion of Brother Stark's position would demand that all members assemble every time, regardless of whether they are sick, working, out of town, or teaching/ministering to another person. This position would require one to say to the Samaritan by the roadside, "I can't take you to the emergency room; I'm on my way to church."

I was a member of a congregation that used the same passages Brother Stark uses to come to the conclusion that they would not offer the Lord's Supper on Sunday nights. The reason was that these passages taught, in their view, that if anyone was to partake of the Lord's Supper the whole congregation must do so. I am not saying they were wrong. At least they didn't relegate the Lord's Supper to an inferior status, in their view, by sending people to a back room to partake on Sunday nights. But this shows that some people can take the same scriptures in the same context to justify their own preconceptions about what they mean, even when those preconceptions differ significantly.

One final word about the publication in which Brother Stark's article appeared. I have read many of the articles in the "Seek The Old Paths" publication. It is no mistake that the editors and writers use the acronym STOP for their publication rather than writing out the quote from the word of God. Their whole focus is on the word "stop" rather than on a careful, loving exposition of the scriptures. The tenor of the publication is divisiveness. The authors bandy about terms like "liberal" and condemn preachers, organizations, and congregations because they disagree with their view of certain scriptures. I have spent half my life as a "liberal" in conservative (using their denomination) congregations, and the other half as a "conservative" in what these authors would call "liberal" congregations. I have seen both sides, and strongly object to using these labels. (See my article, Reading the Labels.) This publication has some value when the authors teach the clear, true, unadulterated word of God. It loses its value when men teach opinions as gospel; when they bind on others that which is not bound by scripture. In this case, it loses value when the author makes the assembly more important than obedience and declares "worship" to be the primary focus of the assembly instead of encouragement (Hebrews 10:24-25). We worship all the time, not just when assembled. Can we give money, time, or other valuables to the church on days other than Sunday? Can we not assemble as part of the congregation on days other than Sunday? Can I ask another Christian family to my house for dinner on Tuesday and sing and pray and study the Bible? He, according to another article in this publication, seems to think not. At such times, this publication loses its value.