There are a couple of families that have recently left our congregation for greener pastures. Friends of their’s (who are still members of our church) say that there just wasn’t enough going on at our church for them. So they left for much larger churches where they have huge youth programs and lots of activities.
We have Sunday school, and we have a Word and Sacrament ministry and basically that is about it. No youth programs (other than Sunday school). We have maybe 8 or 10 little kids, and no teenagers. We do, once a month when the weather is warm, have a ‘fun day’ when we have a barbeque and rent a jumper for the kids and pinatas and games.
But these families have decided that what they want is more important than what they need. What do I mean by that? Well, they want ready-made programs without having to build them themselves. Understandable. They want lots of choices and lots of kids the same age as their children. Understandable. They want their kids to be excited about going to church. Understandable, even if it is for the wrong reasons.
The real danger in all of this is that they have chosen churches that are law driven. The churches they have chosen are very large, “successful”, non-denominational churches where the Sacraments are not present. These churches deny the Sacraments, they despise and preach against infant Baptism. They deny and preach against traditional worship. They deny the salvation process and instead put all thier hope in their “free will decision” for Jesus.
One mother in one of those families told me that they (their new church) really do use the Bible and follow it very closely and already their children “are guarding themselves against sinning”. There it is. The law. I wish them good luck in their “sin guarding” endeavors. That kind of exercise will only bring them to despair, or to phoniness, or to self-righteousness.
That kind of a “church” is a dangerous place to be. Those churches, as my pastor says, have in common with us the same vocabulary words… but the meanings vary greatly. Yes, they use the Bible, but they come up with a radically different message than the message of the forgiveness of sins for sinners (the gospel). Their message all boils down to… ‘you’, and what you do or don’t do, and what you think about and feel about God.
This is dangerous.