For parents worried about their children

My morning prayer and Bible reading brought me to the opening chapter of Job today, and these words I don’t think I’ve ever really taken time to notice before:

His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their sisters to eat and drink with them. When the period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice burnt offerings for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. (Job 1:4-5, NIV)

When we read of Job we often focus on everything that come later, but this morning I find myself reflecting on Job as a model for parents.

As a pastor, I interact with many parents and grandparents who are distressed by or worried about their sons, daughters, and grandchildren. They do not know how to reach them, and they worry over poor choices that they feel helpless to do anything about.

I wonder if Job might serve as a model here.

We no longer need to sacrifice animals, of course. I don’t want to advise grandmas to be slaughtering goats in the back yard. Jesus Christ was the final and perfect sacrifice for all sin.

But perhaps, like Job, we parents and grandparents might rise in the morning and seek purification and forgiveness for our households and our children. We can turn to God in prayer and lift them up in the name of Jesus, praying that by the blood of the lamb the Father might forgive them – even for sins we are not sure they may have committed.

Just as Job loved his family, so we might follow his lead in loving ours.

What is the church?

As I prepare to move to a new church and leave behind two that I have served for the last few years, I find myself contemplating what it means to be the church.

Here is a starting thought. What I am looking for here is not an abstract definition of the church, but a practical one — one that might challenge and shape what we actually do as the church and in the name of the church. As I say, here is starting thought:

The church is a people called together by God to live in such a way as to not cause a scandal when the way they live is compared to what they say when they pray the Lord’s Prayer.

My first thought was to end that with the phrase “when they claim that Jesus Christ is Lord.” That might be stronger, but it takes a lot more explication, which is not necessarily a bad thing but can give us lots of ways to wriggle off the hook.

My definition, of course, leads to questions about the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer and what it would mean to live our lives in ways that do not make the prayer a scandal. I suppose I find myself really enjoying the thought of doing that work with a congregation.

Preparing the soil

I’ve had the opportunity this summer to lead three people in prayer to ask Christ to be their Lord and Savior. These numbers won’t show up on my official United Methodist vitality statistics because they were not at the church I served. Two of them were not closely tied to churches at all. (I urged them in strong terms to find a church and get into a community of Christians.)

So here is the question.

How much “education” do you do before you lead someone to Christ?

In these cases, I talked with them about the story of salvation. God created us to be good, happy, and at peace. We are fallen. All of us fall short of the glory of God. Jesus Christ came to save us. By belief in him and by the power of his resurrection we can have new life. By the pouring out of the Holy Spirit we can have the assurance of our salvation. By working with the Holy Spirit we can be returned to that lost vision that God had for us in creation.

This, obviously, takes some time, but it is not like a full-on twelve-week catechism class.

So, I’m curious. What is your practice?

(In case you are interested, my training in the area has come not from other pastors or at seminary, but from this book by Eddie Fox and George Morris. William J. Abraham’s little book on evangelism has also been instructive to me.)