Scott Gage

PO Box 3425
Fayetteville, AR 72702



January/February Issue 2012 - Volume 31   Number 1

Fathers...Bring Them Up

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-7

A few years ago I attended a meeting of various church leaders from throughout the USA. There was concern about the future for the congregations represented. Some congregations had been consulting various church growth experts on what they could do to grow the church. The advice the experts gave had prompted them to move in directions that some of the other congregations felt were not scriptural. I was among the more conservative attendees who thought that the experts may have known quite a bit about what people want, but that they may have fallen a little short on what God’s word requires. However, I was a little surprised at one of the points raised during the meeting. Some of the speakers questioned the wisdom of dividing congregations into age groups for the purpose of teaching. They pointed out that the generations need to be kept together and not separated. I remember thinking at the time that this was not really a new idea. In fact, the arrangement for teaching the church when it comes together as given in the Bible calls for all the generations to be together (1 Cor. 14:26-40).

The Bible clearly states that the primary responsibility for the upbringing of children rests on parents, and not on the church or any other organization. Paul writes, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). The modern practice of Sunday Schools, and dividing the church into age groups for the purpose of teaching, had at least some of its origins in England in the eighteenth century. Robert Raikes started his first school for the children of chimney sweeps in Sooty Alley, Gloucester (opposite the city prison) in 1780 (http://www.infed.org/walking/wa-raikes.htm). Sunday Schools were not practiced in churches of Christ in America until the early twentieth century.

I recently received an email that directed me to a link that relates to this matter of generations and parents’ responsibilities for teaching their children. I will give the Facebook link later, but my search led me to an article posted by USA Today entitled “Some Churches Cancel Sunday School, Put Parents in Charge.” Here is some of that article:

Don't look for children's Sunday school classes at Ridgewood Church in Port Arthur, Texas. And forget about scavenger hunts and water park trips: the youth ministry is no more. Sound like a dying church?

No, it's a family-integrated congregation, whose leaders wanted parents — rather than Sunday school teachers and youth ministers — to spiritually train their children. Driven by statistics about youth leaving church after high school, they've turned to the Bible as their sole educational text and shunned age-segregated structures.

"Nobody disagrees that there's a problem," said Ridgewood's Pastor Dustin Guidry, whose church started the transition seven years ago. "What do we do about it? It's just going back to the basics, relying upon the sufficiency of Scriptures."

Guidry later learned other congregations were doing the same thing — shuttering classrooms, demanding parents — especially fathers — take on more of a spiritual leadership role and sometimes canceling Sunday schools.

In Divided, a controversial video circulating online and a related book called A Weed in the Church, the movement's leaders warn that "unbiblical" age-segregated activities can lead youth away from the church. Pastor Scott Brown, director of the North Carolina-based National Center for Family-Integrated Churches and author of the book, said many of its close to 800 affiliated churches have either stopped or reduced traditional Sunday school classes.

"When Jesus gathers people together, he gathers the generations," said Brown. "He doesn't segregate people by age. He's famous for saying 'suffer the little children to come unto me' because his disciples wanted to banish the children. Jesus wasn't that way."

Pastor Paul Thompson of Eastside Southern Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, was influenced by Brown's book when he presented a resolution to his church in April calling it to "repent and cease" its past age segregation, acknowledging that "few in our city, state, region, or nation may understand."

Brown and Thompson say the disappearance of youths from their pews was a catalyst for change.

"Probably the hard, hard questions were 'Where are the students and the children who have grown up in this church?" Thompson said. "A lot of them live still here in Twin Falls, and they don't go to church at all and they don't live what we taught them when they were children."

Pastor Josue Raimundo of Iglesia Biblica de la Gracia (Grace Bible Church) of Arlington, Va., agrees with the principle that Brown's movement espouses but thinks churches can apply it differently. There's still Sunday school at his church but youth and parents sit around a big table together, taking turns reading and discussing the Bible.

"The issue is for the parents to have the charge of instructing their children," he said.

The family-centered movement is part of a broader trend of churches struggling to respond to statistics that claim a youth attrition rate of 40-88 percent. Christian Smith, director of the National Study of Youth and Religion, said there is cause for concern but those statistics are sometimes wildly exaggerated.

Smith has found that 14 percent of youth ages 13-17 identified as "not religious." That number nearly doubles five years later. And he notes that those numbers could change as these young adults marry and have children.

Yet he doesn't consider Brown and others' age-integrated approach extreme. While it's not the "silver bullet," it fits his findings about the key role parents play in influencing children's lives.

"Parents are so crucial that if you just split them up from their kids and the parents think that some ministry professional is taking care of it, that's not going to be very effective," he said.

A range of ministries are responding to the research with books, lessons and conferences. The third conference of D6, a movement that explores how churches can encourage parents to spiritually train their youth, will meet Sept. 21-23 in Dallas, expecting more than 2,000 people from about 700 churches. It's named for the sixth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, which is also cited by the family-centered movement for its admonition to teach children God's commandments.

"I do believe there is an overbalance of age-segregated programming and that overbalance must be corrected," said Richard Ross, a D6 presenter and professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. "But it is throwing out the baby with the bath to suggest that those groupings should never happen."

Daryl Nuss, chief ministries officer of the National Network of Youth Ministries, also thinks the family-centered movement is too strict. "That may work in a small segment of churches but what about all those students who do not come from a healthy family, do not come from a nuclear family?" he asked.

(USA Today Posted 9/14/2011 5:42 PM   http://www.facebook.com/dividedthemovie)

It is encouraging to hear that people want torely upon the sufficiency of Scriptures.” In fact, rather than trying to determine what people want or listening to what experts say people need, the Scriptures should always be the first place we look for information and direction.  The early church assembled together and all the generations were together with men only doing the teaching. There were plenty of teachers and rooms could have been arranged so that the church could have divided the assembly into age groups for teaching; however, by inspiration Paul instructed the Corinthian church to have one man speaking at a time while the others listened and judged what he taught. Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit when he wrote these things to the Corinthian church. Did the Holy Spirit not understand that the teaching could be better accomplished by dividing into age groups and placing teachers over each group? It appears that the Holy Spirit directed Paul to instruct the Corinthians on the best way to accomplish this task of teaching.

Of course, in the assembly of the church is not the only place that teaching occurred in the early church. Paul told the elders from Ephesus that he “…taught you publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). There was teaching that took place in an assembled capacity and teaching that was done outside the assembly. As the Deuteronomy passage suggests, a parent teaches not just with lesson plans and lectures, but in the daily activities of life around the house. Perhaps the greatest lesson that a parent can ever teach is the influence of a Godly life lived out in front of their children.

Our children can very often reel off the entire lineups of football and baseball teams; they remember the lyrics to countless songs; they are techno savvy and they have the ability to memorize everything from telephone numbers to menus. Let’s be sure that they know the stories and characters of the Bible just as well. Above all let’s be sure that they know Jesus and what it means to be called children of God.



Where is the Church Headed?

I have a file at home filled with scores of publications, articles and so forth addressing the divided class arrangement.   Such authors as J.M. Keele, G.B. Shelburne Jr., Pat Ethridge, Ralph Gage, George Gray, Irvin Barnes, Alva Johnson, J.L. Cutter, Lendal Wilks etc. all stood together in opposition to this movement, a movement that ironically divided the churches of Christ as it encouraged congregations to divide themselves into what it believed to be a more effective arrangement of teaching.  And, of course, the use of women to teach these classes was at the heart of the debate.

However, it is not my intention to address this issue.  Instead, I would rather address what this practice is leading to. Years ago, defenders of the one assembly arrangement argued against the divided class arrangement and the use of women to teach those classes because of what it would lead to.  “The Sunday school” they said, “is one step away from the pulpit.”  They feared the Sunday school would lead to a female ministry.  And it is indeed heading that direction as more and more churches allow their women to ask questions, make announcements, lead singing and even teach from the pulpit, both men and women, in their public assemblies.  No longer are they tucked away in separate rooms somewhere teaching just children but they have stepped out of the closet, so to speak, and onto the rostrum.

I believe this to be, to say the least, a very confusing trend. The word of God says: “God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor.14:33).   A few verses later He said: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (v.40).

Let’s first look at some of the things that were causing disorder in the church at Corinth. From Paul’s illustration in 1 Cor. 12, and the context surrounding it, the members all seemed to desire the same spiritual gifts.   If the whole body were an eye, he said, where would the hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the nose be, and so forth?  Yet we see from that same context that the most coveted gift was that of tongues.

“Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place and all speak with tongues and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?” (I Cor. 14:23)  This was very confusing.

Second, according to 1 Cor. 14:26- 27, all wanted to be heard.  But Paul specifically limits speakers of tongues to two or at most three and puts limits on the number of those who prophesy as well. (v.29)  Otherwise, this created confusion.

Third, they all wanted to speak at the same time and, needless to say, this confused everyone.  Therefore they were admonished to speak “in turn”. (v.27)

Fourth, tongue speakers did so without the aid of a translator.  Anyone who has traveled to a foreign country certainly understands this.  To dispel the confusion, Paul wrote if there was no interpreter present they were to remain silent. (v.28)

Fifth, they seemed unwilling to yield to others who wanted to speak. “…if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent.” (v. 30) So how did they know if the person next to them was really receiving a revelation?  They didn’t, but to avoid confusion God insisted they yield to each other.  (Love does not seek its own)  Yield to that person and “let the others judge”. (v.29)  Otherwise confusion would abound.

Sixth, they practiced little if any self control.  It seemed some were so eager to be heard that they would interrupt others and this also compounded the confusion of the entire service.  Therefore God said: “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” (v.32)

Seventh, the women were permitted to speak and ask questions.  This was not only confusing but shameful as well.  Such behavior was seen as unsubmissive and disrespectful.  Therefore God said: “let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but they are to be submissive as the law also says.  And if they want to learn something let them ask their own husbands at home for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” (v.34-35)

The first six points appear to be clearly confusing practices in any culture or in any age.  However, the last point seems neither confusing nor shameful to most folks today. 

Was this restriction of women’s silence given only to the Corinthian church?  If so, was it due to the fact that it had so many other serious problems?  After all, they were cliquish, immature and carnal minded; they winked at incest; some had no qualms about suing each other and, perhaps worst of all, they turned the Lord’s Supper into a common meal!

Or did this restriction apply at other churches as well?  Paul wrote to Timothy and commanded, “…let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Tim. 2:11)

Well then, where was Timothy preaching at the time?  According to 1 Tim. 1:3, he was working with the church in Ephesus.  Yet this restriction was not just limited to Ephesus and Corinth for Paul said: “For this cause I have sent unto you Timothy who is my beloved son and faithful in the Lord who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere and in every church.” (1 Cor. 4:17)

This was not an isolated practice.  Instead it was a universal restriction. Yet why was it deemed “confusing” for women to speak in church?  Why was it deemed “indecent” and “disorderly”?

Today it may not seem like it to some.  Instead most see it as “normal”.  They see it as an enhancement to their worship.  It is thought of as necessary; something that creates an atmosphere that is “worshiper friendly”.

Yet God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa.55:8)

Jesus made a similar statement once: “…For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Lk.16:15)  What we deem acceptable or normal or “trendy”, could be something that God deems an abomination.   I’ll admit, this practice is no where referred to as “abominable”; however, God does refer to this practice as “confusing”, “disorderly”, “indecent” and “shameful”. If allowed to continue unbridled and unchecked, it very well could one day become an abomination.

Therefore, I’m of the opinion that God means for women to remain silent in the church. (i.e. that time and place of assembly designated by the leaders of the congregation for the purpose of public worship)

Why then is silence required to show submission?  Why not require the woman to sit at the feet of her husband during the time of worship?  Or, why not have the women sit on one side of the building with the men on the other?  Or why not have them sit at the back or even lay on the floor prostrate with their heads covered?  Wouldn’t these work just as well to show their submission? 

Whether you are a married woman, a widow or a single young lady, your silence in public worship is God’s design whereby you demonstrate submission to God, “…they are to be in submission as the law also says.” (I Cor. 14:34)  In the same manner, God, by design, put restrictions on how the Ark of the Covenant was to be transported.  It was to be carried on the shoulders of the priests.  But when David attempted to move it by a more modern means, an ox cart, God showed his anger by taking the life of Uzzah.

When the law was nailed to the cross, it did not include a wife’s submissiveness, just as it did not include adultery, murder, fornication, lying etc. (i.e. the moral law was carried forward; only the laws of redemption and the ceremonies associated with them were “nailed to the cross”)  A wife’s submission was carried forward – “as the law also says.”  To do otherwise would be “shameful”. (v.35)

If we will just read we can see the reasons why a woman should still be submissive. “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” (1 Tim. 2:11-14)

Reason #1, “Adam was formed first then Eve.” (v.13)  Someone might say, “What’s that got to do with being submissive?”  Well, let’s just keep reading.  “For man is not from woman, but woman from man.  Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.” (1 Cor. 11: 8-9)  God said I will make for him a “help meet”, a “helper comparable to him”. (Gen.2:18)  She was, again by design, given a subservient position even before the fall.

Reason #2, “Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived fell into transgression.” (v.14)  Eve was deceived, Adam was not.  He was simply persuaded by his wife.  “He heeded the voice of His wife.” (Gen. 3:17)  After the fall, God reinforced her position of submissiveness by the curse He brought on the woman.  “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Gen. 3:16)  Therefore, “let a woman learn in silence, with all submission.”

The church assembled is more than just a collection of Saints and prospective Saints.  It is a type of our gathering together when Christ returns. (Matt. 24:31; 2 Thes.2:1)  If you will, it is a kind of rehearsal where we prepare together the praise and adoration that is due to Him when He, at last, will return.  Why do we think Paul admonished us to “forsake not the assembling of ourselves together”?  If we miss the assembly we’ve missed rehearsal!

The church assembled is more than just a time to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  It is an opportunity for both men and women to preach, in unison, the glorious Gospel of Christ without ever saying a word. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26)

The church assembled is more than just an obedient body responding to a lot of curious commands. It is, as well, a yielding spiritual Bride in submission to her spiritual Head.  In Eph. 5:22-33 Paul speaks of the Church metaphorically:  “The husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the Church” (v.23) and “as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands.” (v.24)

In part, it is by the silence of the women in the congregation that this submission is achieved.  The other is achieved when the men do their part to lead the congregation through the process of public worship as the New Testament directs.

When a woman willingly violates the Lord’s command (“if anyone thinks himself to be…spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” 1 Cor.14:37), and speaks from the floor, or even from the pulpit, and declares she is only “honoring” God, it reminds me of what King Saul once said.  After returning from battle and a great victory, he proudly declared to the prophet, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord” when he knew full well he hadn’t. (1 Sa.15:13)

The same can be said of Elders who allow such a practice as this.  It is as shameful for them as it is for the women.  And while it may not seem confusing to anyone else, have we ever stopped to think that the most confused person may be the Lord:  “Do they love me or not?  I can’t tell.  I told them, ‘If you love me you will keep my word,’ but I just can’t tell.”  Does He ever think, “I’m confused”?  “I clearly told the women to remain silent in church as a sign of submission; at least I thought I did. Why are they still talking?  I’m confused!”

Not content to abide by our Savior’s simple request, His bride, the Church, “pushes the envelope” as they say.  She tests the boundaries.  It’s like in the Garden of Eden; God said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…”(Gen.3:16-17)   Man and woman had access to an untold number of delicious fruits and yet the one most desirable was the one that was forbidden.  Women have ample opportunity to teach and preach in the private sector as much as they want.  They, as mothers, are more influential upon their children in the formative years than their fathers ever hope to be and yet despite all this, their desire to teach and speak publicly is the one command they try to get around.

Many congregations already have.  Therefore, what is keeping others from ordaining women as Elders, or Deacons or Evangelists?  Some congregations are on the verge of doing this as they look to the denominational world for their cues.  Once the church moves beyond what it sees as one “road block”, what is to prevent it from ignoring the rest of them?    Do we ever think about where the church will be in another generation, even two or three generations?  Will it have veered so far off course that when Christ returns the church will be unrecognizable?  Will he then say to those expecting an “enter thou in” to instead hear “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity, I never knew you.” (Matt.7:23)  Is this what Christ meant when he asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8)                      

…Danny Johnson

West Monroe, LA


Volume 31  -  Number 1 -  Jan/Feb 2012     BC is published every other month. Send all inquiries, address changes and subscriptions to the editor:  Scott Gage, PO Box 3425, Fayetteville, AR  72702-3425 Voice & Fax 479-521-6809  Email: Lsgage129@cs.com