Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday's Faith - From "Church Orphans" to "Home Church"

Friday's Faith

"Church Orphans"


"Home Church"

Over the years as we were raising our children, our family went through many years of being "church orphans" as one of our friends calls her family now, wanting to worship, but not having a church in which to feel comfortable to worship. Don't get me wrong, we love God, we love His church (His children), and we love worshipping Him in community.

But it is the corruption of God's church we cannot and will not tolerate.

We had each been raised in very loving churches that were filled with loving people, humble people, people who gave of themselves to teach us children so much about God without the insidious seeking out of the "power and the glory" as we too often see in our churches today.

The emphasis in our childhood churches had been the discipling God's people to discern their own individual gifts given them by the Holy Spirit, and then prepare them to use those gifts in God's Kingdom, ever seeking to glorify God, not any power-hungry individuals...

So, when there were blatant problems in the churches of our adulthood and they became more and more intolerable, we tried to confront the parties in the most respectful-but-firm way possible... But after our concerns were repeatedly shut down and pooh-poohed, we felt we had no choice but to exit, and exit quickly.

So, over those years of being without a particular church, our family would have what we called "Home Church." But it only consisted of our family!

As Tommy loved to say to his aunt when she would call to check up on him, she would say,

"Did y'all go to church today?"

And Tommy, remembering the old placards that used to be on the walls of the country churches that would announce the number present in Sunday School that day, and the number of people present in Worship Service for that Sunday, Tommy promptly replied to his inquisitive aunt,

"Yes! Our attendance report says that we had 5 in Sunday School, and 5 in Worship Service today!"

As typical, Tommy's humor cut through the ritual-worship to expose its legalism, and his aunt would burst out laughing... Obviously, she had seen many Attendance placards in her day.

At the time we were doing our “Home Church”, I often felt like I was depriving my children of the wonderful church experience I had when I was growing up. So it was very important to me to present as much of that wonderful Bible teaching that I could to my own kids. As it turned out, our church "orphanage" created some of our best family memories...

I bought a flannel board with all the Bible flannel pieces that came with it, and I was going through each of the wonderful Bible stories, from

  • Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament,
  • Noah and the Ark,
  • Abraham being tested in his faith with his own son Isaac,
  • Joseph and his multi-colored coat,
  • Moses and the Children of Israel leaving oppressive Egypt with arguments with Pharaoh, each followed by a plague, each plague of worsening nature,
  • Moses and the 10 Commandments.
  • On and on all through the Old Testament.

Then we moved on into the New Testament with Bible stories about

  • Jesus' birth,
  • His childhood,
  • His family having to escape to Egypt in his toddler years because already He had a king that wanted to kill Him,
  • Jesus' family returning to Israel,
  • Jesus speaking in the Holy Temple with authority at the tender age of 12,
  • His starting His three-year ministry at the age of 30,
  • Choosing his 12 disciples, including the one who would ultimately betray Him,
  • Jesus' teaching of the parables,
  • The way that Jesus loved and ministered to the people,
  • healing the sick,
  • making the blind to see,
  • making the lame to walk,
  • casting out demons,
  • always teaching about His Father's Kingdom, mostly through stories the people could easily relate to, then
  • Jesus in His final days,
  • Palm Sunday,
  • The Last Supper,
  • The Garden of Gethsemane,
  • The betrayal from Judas,
  • The kidnapping by the Chief Priests,
  • The arrest by Rome of the King of Kings who did nothing wrong,
  • The trials,
  • The beatings,
  • The mockery, then
  • The ultimate and tragic humiliation and destruction of being hung on a cross as a heinous criminal when all He ever did was
  • love His people,
  • speak the truth,
  • challenge pretension and hierarchies in His church where they set up power struggles and corruptions that had nothing to do with His Father nor His Father's love for the world. Now because of His outspokenness on behalf of God's Kingdom that challenged the local powers-that-be, He was being killed in the most brutal way.

Then we covered

  • Jesus' death,
  • His burial,
  • His resurrection.
  • His ascension,
  • The Day of Pentecost that introduced the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit into each of His children, and
  • His revitalized church reaching out to the entire world now, not just the children of Israel, but into all the world. We even made some stabs at talking about
  • The coming end times from the last book of the Bible, Revelation.

Our lessons would be followed with singing some of the hymns Tommy and I had loved from our Southern Baptist upbringings. After doing some written assignments, we would stand close to one another in a circle, hold hands, and end with spoken prayers.

What rich stories to teach our children! After the teachings and the singing, I would hand out hand-made crossword puzzles to quiz them on what they had learned that day, with leads from the Bible they could look up for themselves. Interwoven with these clues were clues regarding the antics and pet names and goings on of our children during that week. It was fun documenting some of their antics amidst their Bible facts.

After awhile, I began to realize they would learn even better if THEY THEMSELVES were the teacher, so I would assign lessons for each of them to teach. As you can imagine, this created even more family memories of antics pulled on one another, pulled on mommy and daddy, and sometimes accidentally on themselves. So there was lots of laughter from our little comedians, usually within reverent, but light-hearted boundaries of course!

Whether they were teaching or not, I usually called on them to read the scripture passages from their own Bible. This inevitably set up more opportunities for their idiosyncrasies to reveal themselves.

When it was older brother Rollin's turn to teach, He would teach the lesson, then ask questions about the lesson. Sometimes these were written within the lesson, with some questions designed for adults, some for children. Rollin would pick out one of the questions and ask it. Hands popped up. He would call on Nathan. Nathan would answer it correctly. Rollin would acknowledge that he got it right!

Then Rollin would pick out the very simplest question and ask it, even questions like

"What is the name of God's Son?"

- Hands would pop up. He would then call on baby sister, Merry Katherine.

No matter how simple and how obvious the question's answer, when Merry Katherine would give the correct answer, big brother would love to shout out,
"Merry Katherine...WRONG!"

He did it to her so often, we would all just crack up including Merry Katherine. Our kids had to learn to laugh at themselves to survive living with us and one another (good preparations for going out into the world, I hope...).

Nathan absorbed the lessons like a sponge.

When it came his turn to teach however, it triggered the comedian in him as well.

And he would set our flannel-graph people to hop, skip, and dancing across the flannel board, sending his brother and sister into howls of laughter.

Sometimes you might call their teaching styles a form of "managed chaos," but it was clever, creative, and certainly held one another's interest.

I'll admit, sometimes it did escalate to out-of-control chaos as kids will do, and that would send them all to their rooms until they could recover.
Yes, we were learning about God, but they were still kids...

One of our favorite memories of Merry Katherine was when she was reading the scripture for us about Moses asking Pharaoh repeatedly, "Let my people go" away from Egypt's oppression to be freed up to go and build their own nation, God's "Promised Land," and Pharaoh's hard-hearted answers one after the other of "NO!" only to be followed by the ten plagues.

But as Merry Katherine was attempting to grapple with how to pronounce "Pharaoh," somehow in her own unique way, she managed to come up with the improbable pronunciation that resulted in gut-buster laughter throughout our family, contagious enough that she began laughing hard herself at the huge contrast in sounds.

Instead of Fa - roh, she very clearly pronounced "Pharaoh" as "FER - DO."

Our family hasn't been the same since. Her antics that day still get an uproarious laughter just at the mention of the word...

Now, I thank God we had "Home Church." As Nathan said regarding his childhood years,

"I learned more in 'Home Church' than I ever did in real church!"

God indeed does work in mysterious ways...

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