Volume 12, Number 1, July-August 2008

Why Our Children Are Not Continuing the Faith

Not long ago, I was sorting through some of my older copies of The Journal (News of the Churches of God). I can no longer remember what I as looking for because I got sidetracked when I reread one article that was a report concerning a meeting that some Church of God people had attended sometime last year, in the Southern part of the country, not too far from CEM’s headquarters. I remember, that Ron Dart was one of the leaders who attended this meeting. It had been an interesting meeting, something that all C.O.G. people should have attended, because there discussion was quite revealing.

Apparently, they were having an open meeting to discuss why no one’s children continued to attend their parents’ church after they turned 18. What was especially noteworthy was the report that out of 50 people in attendance, no one had their off-spring with them! No conclusions were drawn by the time of the meeting’s end, but what they did note were two very significant observations in that all who compose the Church of God body today (particularly WCG descendants) were having a problem with:

1.     doctrinal differences – no one could agree on a general body of doctrines (much less a specific body of doctrines), and, next,

2.     the issue of the authority of the church – nobody had any concrete ideas for resolving this dilemma, either, nor could any agree on just who might be able to find an answer to these problems.

As I mulled this over in my mind (and remember, I am an ex-COG member) during Sukkot this past year, I had an “eureka” moment that cannot have come from anything other than Ruach ha-Kadosh (Holy Spirit). Thus, my present concerns are about the problems of not only those of us who are members or ex-members of this or that existing Church of God movement, but, I also now have concerns about potential difficulties that the development of another “Messianic Movement” will experience as more and more non-Jewish people join up with the new Messianic oriented groups of believers. In truth, it appears to me as if the problems I have mentioned that were discussed in the article in the Journal are a generational thing that extends across the board and they are problems that are so pervasive that very few sects, if any, will be left unaffected.

I know this article will not be read by the thousands or hundreds of thousands who seek the answer to what I consider to be this generation’s worst problem among believers, but, the real answer, as I see things, is not very complicated if we just simply remember our own experiences (at least for those of us who were not home-schooled.)

The Woodstock or Hippie generation that carried over into the seventies never really officially ended! We see that in our politics right now, but, also with our children. The reason our children, and, soon, grandchildren, either aren’t or won’t be attending worship services on Shabbat is not because they aren’t interested in religion or morality. Far from it! It is also not because children, particularly teenagers, are not rebellious. They are. It is simply because their priorities are different than ours and hardly any COG denomination sees this as an issue and addresses it!

The problems are, in reality, multiple, and maybe what I have forgotten (and maybe some of you in the 20-40 year old range, also, have forgotten or failed to realize) is that the “free love principle,” the overwhelmingly and almost universal acceptance of sexually expressive things that we were first exposed to during the hippies’ era did not end with the termination of the 70’s. It has now continued well into the 80’s, 90’s, and even into this present decade virtually unabated.

World Friendlier than Church?

Today, a young person can go almost any place where other young people gather—either physically or on the Internet—and make friends. For most of these young people, it is not hard for them to find a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, this young person will find selfish, evil, and unfriendly people out there. But he or she can learn how to avoid them, choose other friends, and move on. But in the church groups, someone can always say, “he plays basketball on the Sabbath”, or “her parents use a different Feast Day calendar”, or, perhaps, “they are members of that group”, and the person may be deemed unacceptable for close friendship. It is unfortunate that in the non-Christian world, with all its differences in beliefs and morality, that it is often more accepting of our young people than are the differing Sabbatarian church groups, with their comparatively insignificant doctrinal differences.            —NSE

Our teenagers are looking for a mate and a career, but not necessarily in that order. That is not the “new revelation” here. First of all, young people usually have to look for these two things outside of whatever congregation they have attended because, and we must face this issue directly and acknowledge it negative aspects: we split up into church groups so small because of the two major problems I stated earlier, that among Churches of God, our sons and daughters have few, if any, other believing children to socialize and fraternize with! Secondly, and as I addressed this issue in “Blueprints of the Kingdom”, we have sent our children to public schools and because they don’t have any other believing children to integrate themselves with, our children, therefore, seek to become included in the world’s social system!! Young people aren’t exclusive-minded, like all of us “righteous” Church of God people are; young people are inclusive-minded! They don’t care one whit about being separated from their peers. They want to be included amongst them so that, ultimately, they can find a mate!! Teens are not stupid. They can see that the Church of God system does NOT fulfill their needs, and, specifically, the need to, somewhere along the line, find a life partner. In the approximately 150 years of the “Church of God” denominations, the COG has always been more about separation (knowledge turned into “doctrinal differences”) and pride (“my knowledge prevents me from working with you and your lesser knowledge”) than service (knowledge put to work for others.)

The history of the COG is plain. Why our children aren’t perpetuating the Faith is as plain as the nose on your face. And like the Anabaptists and Waldensians and Catharists who preceded the modern Churches of God, you, too, will become a page in history because of the fruit of that legacy has now been born. There is a way out, but the question is, will we be able to identify with and accept that way. What will you, as parents, do now? 

(you may e-mail John Qavah at ykqavah@yahoo.com)     &

 

Doctrinal Difference Destruction

If church groups, in general, would acknowledge that we have all changed our beliefs at various times and that others can be serving God even though they do not see everything in exactly the same way we do now, we would have fewer problems, internally, ourselves. But, the more common approach is to say, “that this or that group has that doctrine wrong, so we have to meet and do our Christian work separate from them.” Young people see doctrinal difference as a means of exclusion and non-acceptance. So the very thing that the parents want their children to do—study the Bible to learn the best possible doctrine—becomes a thing that they now want to avoid. Young people do not want to convict themselves of a unique set of doctrines that nobody else believes in. If the young people continue to maintain any relationship with God at all, they want to be a part of a church that brings many young people together, that addresses their issues and that has some positive effect on the world. Even though they may acknowledge that “church people” are more truthful and kind than other non-Christians that they meet, they cannot accept that the entire purpose of God, as many of us presently believe, is “to teach right doctrine in only one of many tiny groups so that they will be protected from the tribulation”—especially when that group has neither the miraculous biblical power of God nor any significant influence on the world.  —NSE

 

 
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