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    Turning Hearts Toward Home

    August 29, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    Si and I are nearing the end of our current reading journey. The current chapter we are studying in To You and Your Children is an essay by G. Mark Sumpter {pastor of Faith Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Oregon} titled The Church’s Ministry of Nurture to Children, Youth, and their Families. It’s been a fascinating read, especially since it began with a history lesson which explained how the model for “doing church” was hijacked by the parachurch structure, something which flooded the ranks during the Youth Movement of 1880-1930. Don’t you remember the Blah-Blah Volunteer Societies in the Little House books? That was the very beginning of this new way of organizing church services and methodologies for conducting the business of the church. Churches, fueled by American individualism and pioneerism, began to see themselves in this spirit of volunteerism {1880s} and by the 1930s, we had the model we see today: the effectiveness of a church’s youth ministry is judged by how well it conforms not to Scripture, but to the framework of the parachurch model {which is, incidentally, a model existing outside of the normal authority of the Church}.

    Though the history lesson was interesting, that wasn’t really what I have been thinking about. The second section in the essay deals with recovering a thoroughly biblical grid for thinking about the relationship between the church and her lambs. One of the verses focused upon is Malachi 4:5-6, where the ministry of John the Baptist is foretold:

    Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

    We can know that this foretells John the Baptist because this passage has a mirror-image twin in Luke 1:16-18:

    Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

    The chapter goes on to flesh out what the implications of this passage in regard to family ministry within the Church, but I have found myself mulling it over in regard to my interactions with various children in general, and my educational endeavors in specific.

    What we are told here is not prescriptive, and yet it would be foolish to think we cannot learn from the passage what it looks like to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” It is interesting to me that making people ready involves healthy families–families in which the hearts of fathers and children are turned mutually to one another. I think we have learned through observation that when the relationships between children and fathers fall apart, the culture becomes very difficult to preserve in general.

    Malachi pointed out earlier {by implication} in his prophesy that divorce, for instance, threatens the passing of the faith from one generation to the next. He explains that God made the husband and wife one because he sought godly offspring, and the treachery of the husbands toward their wives seems to threaten this.

    I don’t want to read anything more–or less–into the text than is there, but suffice it to say that I found myself thinking that turning the hearts of children toward their fathers was a beneficial thing as a general principle, and I wondered what exactly that would look like. We have the added dynamic this year of Neighbor M., who visits us for a few hours most mornings. What does it look like for me in regard to my interactions with her?

    When it comes to my own children, there are times when they grumble or complain. Perhaps they disagree with their father in regard to something or other. Perhaps they complain that he is at work when they would rather he be at home {they became used to his presence during his recovery period at home this summer}. I found that, after reading and thinking, I was convicted that I should use these complaints to encourage the children outright in their relationship with their father. Instead, for instance, of just saying, “Yes, I miss Daddy when he is at work, too,” I can explain how God commands a man to provide for his household, and are we not happy to see Daddy obeying the Lord in this way?

    When it comes to Neighbor M., I simply decided I should seek ways to bridge her visits at our home with her life with her family. If she makes a craft, I can suggest that she take it to her mommy. We can delight with her in what she shares about her family {she has a wonderful family}. I can encourage her to use what she has learned {this week we talked about forgiveness} at home in her own household.

    It is such a simple thing, really, the idea of supporting family relationships as we interact with children, and yet I have witnessed people before who have not taken this seriously. Instead, they decide to befriend and commiserate with the child. I am not speaking here of extreme circumstances, like abuse, in which our response must be swift and in defense of the child. In normal life, with its normal challenges, the goal should not be to improperly endear children to ourselves {as teachers or nursery workers or whatever}, but instead to support a child’s family relationships.

    This is one-sided, to be sure, for naturally the turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children {and also to the wives of their youth} is imperative for a healthy culture within the people of God, but my thoughts pertain primarily to my own opportunities. Who do I interact with throughout my day? Where is the reach of my influence? It is here that I must seek to apply what I have learned.

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  • Reply Mystie September 2, 2009 at 1:15 am

    We bought Creation in Six Days at the Canon Press sale, too. 🙂 Ah, so many books to read!

    I’m getting back to this book now, and looking forward to the third section. 🙂

  • Reply Brandy August 30, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Oh! I just thought…one of the other books we purchased recently when we encountered a sale was Creation in Six Days. We are trying to finish some other books firat, so we haven’t started it first. This is a defense of the doctrine of traditional creationism, and it is supposed to be quite good. I’ll write some reviews as we get into it…

  • Reply Brandy August 30, 2009 at 3:19 pm


    If you find a good treatment of women on the mission field, I’d be very interested. That subject has come up amongst friends a number of times, and I never have thought through it biblically, though I’ve met admirable people on “both sides.”

    Si and I have been “chasing controversy” lately, if you will, but not for the purpose of arguments. We have noticed that when we ask the tough questions, it is refining as we seek out truth. Not knowing the answers keeps us reading our Bibles more than usual because we are looking for them in its pages. It has been fun! 😉

    I do think To You and Your Children is well done, but we required some tutoring in the language because we were both schooled in Baptistic theology. Thankfully, Mystie was kind enough to answer all of our questions and define terms for us!

  • Reply Dana August 30, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Book sounds interesting…. I may have to buy one 🙂

    I’ve been tuned into the 19th century church and its *failures*, if you will: failure to maintain doctrine like creationism and male headship.

    One area that interests me is women on the mission field. So very popular at one time, especiallly among the Brits.

    Just musing in GA,

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