Resources Regarding Children In Corporate And Family Worship

Children In the Worship Service

This article provides a brief explanation of the importance and benefits of having our children in the entire worship service.

Children in Worship – Let’s Bring it Back

This article provides a number of different ideas on how to prepare your children for Sunday worship as well as some advice on what to do during the service to help keep them engaged.

“Children in Worship – Mom Tested Tips”


Family Integrated Church Perspective – Pros and Cons

The Reformed Forum interviews Dr. Sam Waldron on the issues of the Family-Integrated Church movement and the inclusion of children in worship. Before listening it is important to understand a couple different terms. “Children’s Sunday School” refers to the instruction of children during a time other than during the normal worship service. Think Emmaus Essentials for children. “Children’s church” or “Jr. Church” would be the instruction of children separate from the adults during the normal worship service.

The Family-Integrated Church movement seeks to eliminate the practice age segregated groups or instruction at anytime during the normal worship service or at any other time or day. Dr. Waldron discusses the pros and cons of this movement.

Family Integrated Church Interview – The Reformed Forum

Dr. Sam Waldron’s has written a number of relatively short blog posts discussing the pros and cons of the Family Integrated Church movement.

Dr. Sam Waldron on the Family-Integrated Church


Family Worship

This article provides eleven reasons and benefits on why it is important to have family worship (or family devotions) within the home.

“11 Reasons to Worship with Your Family”

This article provides very practical advice on how to lead your family in worship within the home.

“The What, When, and How of Family Worship”

Dr. Horton on the Need for a Modern Reformation

I think this post from Dr. Horton communicates the sentiments of Emmaus Christian Fellowship quite well. As I read it, I found myself saying, “amen, amen, and amen!” A modern reform is needed indeed, and I believe this is the way.

via Dr. Horton on the Need for a Modern Reformation « On the Road to Emmaus.

Children In Church – Thoughts

Since this Sunday is a Communion Sunday and the children will remain in the service, I would like to share some thoughts on this topic.

It has been a number of months since we began the tradition of keeping our children in for the entire service on Communion Sundays. This has been a new experience for most of us, and I think it has been a great experience for our children and for the congregation as a whole. While it has provided parents with additional opportunities for discipling their children, we would be ignorant to say that it has always been easy. As I mentioned, this is new to almost all of us; therefore, we are all learning how to “disciple in the pew.” In many ways, through the grace of God, we are learning by trial and error. As a congregation, we are learning how to teach our children to worship the Lord not only through song and prayer but also through the teaching of the Word.

This whole topic has been on my mind over the last three or four months, and as I was reading “Parenting by God’s Promises,” I came across this passage under the category Seize Opportunities for Teaching; I thought it was worth sharing.

“We should make good use of the means of grace dispensed in public worship… For example, if there is a baptism in church on a Sunday morning, we can talk to our children afterward about the meaning of baptism and our part in the covenant as baptized people. Likewise, we can use open-ended questions to find out what our children learned from the sermon and other parts of the service. What part of the service meant the most to them that day, and why?  Do you remember what Psalms were sung? What special needs did the minister bring to God in the prayers? Did they remember to bring a gift along to put in the collection for the benevolent fund or for world missions? We need to generate discussion about these things. If our children know we will be asking questions about the sermon and the other parts of the service, they will get in the habit of paying close attention to what is going on”.

I have taken some time to think through what the author had to say, and here are some of my thoughts.

First and foremost,we as parents we are teaching our children how to listen. We are teaching them that when they go to church they are to be actively participating and listening to what is taking place. If we want this for our child, then we must “inspect what we expect.” We must be asking open-ended questions about the different parts of the service and what was taught. As adults at Emmaus, we do this every week. You know that at your Gospel Community Group you will be asked certain questions about the sermon; therefore, it motivates you to pay careful attention to it. This sort of conversation can easily take place on the ride home from church or in a more formal setting throughout the week.

Second, teaching our children to actively listen doesn’t necessarily mean they will understand what is being taught, and that is okay. As our children grow, their understanding of the subject matter will increase.  Regardless of our child’s maturity or cognitive ability, they are never too young to be developing their skills to actively watch, listen, and think about what is taking place.

Third, as parents we have the privilege and opportunity to use the sermon as a tool to further disciple our children at home. For those who have older children, you can continue the discussion or further study the topics that were introduced in the sermon. For those with elementary age children, you can provide more clarity or more age-appropriately explain the main points of the sermon. For those with even younger children, you could extend the conversation and provide instruction based on their simple observations.

While God has given parents the primary responsibility to disciple their children, it is an endeavor that requires a “body” of support.  It would be a blessing to hear from others on how they are using the Sunday service to help disciple their children in the Lord.

God bless,


VeggieTales and Moralism

The other day Carson and I were watching VeggieTales, you know… Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, and all the other vegetable characters that “teach” lessons from the Bible. As I sat there watching, I began thinking to myself whether or not this animated show was really teaching biblical truths and concepts. Even though the characters were reenacting and explaining Bible stories, my skepticism grew the more I watched and listened. After the show was over, I did a quick Internet search to see what others might have to say about this program. What I found was rather interesting. On September 24th, 2011, published an interview with VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer in which he admitted and repented of teaching moralism rather than Christianity in all of the VeggieTales episodes.

“After the bankruptcy I had kind of a forced sabbatical of three or four months of spending time with God and listening to Him. I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality.” [1]

What is moralism, and why is not a biblical theology? The distinction between moralism and biblical Christianity is rather simple but can often be overlooked if not careful. At the core, moralism is a “religion” which teaches that man ought to live a life of good moral character by continually doing what is right. While you might be thinking there is nothing wrong with this statement, the serious deficiency of moralism is that it never presents the  gospel message. Moralism preaches that we are to do what is right, but it never addresses the fact that we are unable to do what is right before God.  VeggieTales is just one example of how teaching Bible stories and morality from scripture doesn’t necessarily mean biblical truth is being taught. We can teach our children every moral principal in scripture but if the gospel message is missing, it is nothing more than the self-righteous philosophy found in many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

As I mentioned earlier, the problem with moralism is that it calls people to live a life of morality (based on God’s law) but neglects to teach about man’s inability to do good or to point to the covenant of grace of Jesus Christ. Moralism presents an incomplete story. For a complete understanding of biblical truth, which we need to be teaching our children, we must comprehend the difference between the law and the gospel and how both impact the life of a believer.

The Bible teaches that God requires man to obey his law (morality). The scriptures also teach that all of mankind is unable to keep those very same commands.  Therefore, God intended his law to have a “pedagogical use (usus elenchticus sive paedagogicus); it shows people their sin and points them to mercy and grace outside of themselves” (Lems). While God’s law reveals his will and standards for mankind, it also brings individuals to the realization that they are in need of the gospel; this is what is lacking in moralism. What man is unable to do according to the law, Christ did in our place- by living a perfect life to the law and paying the ransom for our sins by dying on the cross. God’s law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ work together in the life of an individual to bring about a saving faith.

God’s law not only points someone to Christ but it also guides the believer on how he or she shall live. God’s law has a “normative use (usus didacticus sive normativus) which means this use of the law is for those who trust in Christ and have been saved through faith apart from works” (Lems). The law cannot save people because they are unable to keep it. But God’s law does instruct believers on how they are to behave in the family of God. God’s law is what helps guide believers in the process of becoming holy as God is holy. The commands found in scripture play an essential role in the sanctification process of a believer. While we are to keep the commands of God, we must never forget that our ability to do so comes from the work of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection has set believers free from the bondage of sin and prepared the way for the Holy Spirit to dwell within believers, to guide and direct them into righteousness.

In raising children and living the Christian life, we must guard against becoming moralistic, demanding do’s and don’ts without grace or mercy. We must also be cautious in becoming antinomian, believing that God’s law is of no use to believers since they have faith in Christ. As Christians and as parents, we must use God’s law the way he intended it to be used- to reveal his will to mankind, to point people to Christ for salvation, and to bring about holiness in those who have faith in Jesus Christ.

In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity

Emmaus Christian Fellowship is almost eleven months old (born June 5, 2011). In some ways it feels as if we have been together for a long time, but in other ways it feels like we have just begun. The past eleven months have been filled with a lot of hard work for the Elders and Leadership core here at Emmaus; lots of study, lots of meetings, lots of writing.

In particular, we have been working hard on the Foundation Documents of Emmaus Christian Fellowship. These documents will include things such as our statement of faith, confession, bylaws, membership process, mission statement, as well as other core documents which will bring clarity to the beliefs, policies, and vision of ECF.

These documents are important and I’m looking forward to the day when we will give them to the people of Emmaus for review and feedback (I have a date in mind as a goal but I rather not say given that rushing these documents for the sake of meeting a deadline would be foolish and potentially harmful to the decades of ministry that await us).

I write this post because we are approaching a time when the beliefs of Emmaus Christian Fellowship will be stated with great specificity. My concern, as we grow in our understanding of the scriptures, is that we maintain a disposition of heart where we are able to, one, stand firm upon our convictions and, two, be humble and gracious towards those who might disagree with us on the non-essentials of the Christian faith.

Maintaining this balance is no simple task. Christians have struggled throughout the ages with this interplay between standing for truth and loving those who might disagree. It has been a struggle because it is a complicated endeavor.

I think the motto, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”, is potentially helpful for three reasons.

First of all, the motto acknowledges that there are essentials to the Christian faith that all must agree upon in order to be a Christian. As a result, there are some things worth fighting for. Consider Paul’s words to Titus concerning the qualification of an Elder within the church: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9, ESV)

Second, the motto acknowledges that within the church we must leave room for liberty in the areas that are non-essential to the Christian faith. Consider Paul’s words to the Romans concerning the diversity which existed within the church of Rome: “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:5–6, ESV)

Third, the motto encourages us to do all things with charity, which I take to mean, humility, graciousness, and out of a heart of love. Paul encouraged the church in Colossae in the same way saying, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14, ESV)

We must be careful at this point given that we have made a mess of this “love” concept in our modern day supposing that it means that we are never to disagree, confront, or rebuke. To those who hold the view that love is being perpetually passive I would ask the question, have you ever read about Jesus in the gospels or Paul’s writings to the churches? These men confronted boldly from time to time and yet they did so out of love.

Consider the contrast concerning Paul’s dealings with the church of the Thessalonians. First he says, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7, ESV) And then a few verses later he says, “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11–12, ESV) Paul uses the imagery of a nursing mother and an exhorting father to illustrate his care for the believers. Both tenderness and exhortation can and should emanate from a heart of love.

In regard to the charity principle, the point is this – we must be sure that whether we are encouraging or exhorting that our hearts are truly humble and filled with love, even for our enemies. To be perpetually passive or constantly confrontational will not do. It is possible to be passive out of a heart of hatred just as it is possible to confront in love.

The issue is the heart. This is my prayer for Emmaus Christian Fellowship, that our hearts would be pure. We must stand for the truth of the gospel and do so because we possess a true love for God and our fellow man.

Click here for more thoughts on the motto, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.”

Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism

Hello Church,

I noticed that Russell encouraged you in the O.I.A. discussion questions to do some research on “Covenant Theology” in preparation for your Gospel Community Groups. It seems that I am a little behind on this (it is Thursday already and most of you have met) but here is a good resource on that subject. I assume that this will be useful for your discussions next week as well.

I recently came across this chart put together by a Pastor friend of mine from Murrieta Valley Church. I met with him shortly after we started Emmaus Christian Fellowship and he was a great encouragement to me. It was nice to see his work pop up when I Google searched, “Covenant Theology Chart”.



Reign In Us

I wanted to post a bit about a new song we are planning to do this Sunday as part of our worship service called “Reign In Us” by Starfield.

I heard this song originally when it came out a few years ago, but forgot about it until hearing it at the Marriage Conference a few months ago.  The truths this song is about have a lot to do with what we’ve been discussing in our services: God’s sovereignty and God’s omniscience.

Here are the lyrics:

Verse 1:
You thought of us before the world began to breathe
You knew our names before we came to be
You saw the very day we’d fall away from you
How desperately we need to be redeemed
Lord Jesus, come lead us
We’re desperate for Your touch

Oh great and mighty One
With one desire we come
That You would reign, that You would reign in us
We’re offering up our lives
A living sacrifice
That You would reign, that You would reign in us 

Verse 2:
Spirit of the living God fall fresh again
Come search our hearts and purify our lives
We need Your perfect love we need your discipline
We’re lost unless You guide us with Your light
Lord Jesus, come lead us
We’re desperate for Your touch

We cry out for Your life to refine us
Cry out for Your love to define us
Cry out for Your mercy to keep us blameless until You return

If you’d like to listen to it, the song is available on iTunes here.

A good portion of the verse is taken from Psalm 139 – acknowledging the fact that God, in His omniscience, knew us before we came to be. “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16). The whole Psalm is telling of this knowledge, omniscience – even David says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6). Reflecting on this is so important. It really reminds us that God is not a God of chance. He is purposeful and fully about making His glory known.

The chorus and bridge are such great petitions to God: That He would reign more fully in us and He would refine us, continue His work in us, and that He would make us and keep us blameless until His return.

In the second verse, there is more from Psalm 139 and a rare, but necessary, acknowledgement of our need for the Lord’s discipline in our lives. You don’t see that in many songs and I’m glad it’s there.

I hope that you enjoy this song, find the truths in communicates to be encouraging, and that it may spur us to give praise and glory to God for the reminder of those truths.

Posted in Articles, Songs, Theology, Posted by Mike. No Comments

Taking the Lord’s Supper Seriously

As I was preparing today to lead the people of Emmaus in the Lord’s Supper for the first time this Sunday, I was struck with the seriousness and power of this ancient tradition.

To begin with, it’s overwhelming to contemplate the fact that this ordinance was established by Jesus Christ Himself and was handed down through the apostles, the early church fathers, all the way through church history, and to us today (in fact the Lord’s Supper has as its roots the Passover feast established after the Exodus). When we participate in the Lord’s Supper we are not only considering our deep connection with one another as individuals within the local church, but also our connection with the saints around the world and those who have gone before us.  This is big! The Lord’s Supper, though it involves individual contemplation, forces us to consider our unity in Christ as the church of God both locally and universally.

As we take the wafer, which symbolizes the body of Christ that was broken for us, and the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ that was poured out for us, the symbolism reminds us that we are not islands unto ourselves. We are, as individuals, deeply connected to and dependent upon Christ; and because of our union with Christ, we are also deeply connected to one another.  As believers, we have Christ in common; He unites us as we each send our roots deep down in to Him.

This is why it is so important that we search our hearts before we partake of the Lord’s Supper. We do not want to be guilty of hypocrisy when it comes to our relationship with God or our relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. We must examine our hearts, confess sin, and do all that is in our power to be at peace with all men (1 Corinthians 11:27-30, Romans 12:18).

We can easily forget that when Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper it was in the context of the Passover meal. Jesus was sitting around the table in an intimate setting with His disciples as they shared a meal together. When the early Church participated in the Lord’s Supper, they most likely did so in the context of sharing in a full meal together. Today, most churches take five minutes out of their worship service to remember Christ by taking a wafer and juice while the congregation sits, not with their eyes on one another, but looking strait forward. Now I’m not saying the way we do things today is all wrong, but I do think we should be aware of the fact that the Lord’s Supper was originally observed in a context that was much more conducive to the sharing of life to life relationships.

As we take communion this Sunday we will do so in the same way that we always have, wafer and juice in hand we will confess sin, remember our Lord’s death, and look forward to His second coming. This is good and proper; but please add to your contemplation a deep awareness of the unity that we share in Christ Jesus. Who knows, perhaps we will change the way that we approach the Lord’s table in the future, but for now, let’s make sure that we approach with hearts that are right before God and one another.



"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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