Angels in the Pews – reprinted in The Aquila Report, November 2011

The topic of children in worship has a broad response these days. In one church signs hang above each sanctuary entrance directing parents to take their children to their “classes.” Being suspended by chains adds to the significance of the message. In another church a child disrupts an entire service. Grumbling and complaining extend the effects for days and weeks. Our proposition is that the worshipping community needs to incorporate families, fostering a spirit and life yielded to God in each member.

It will be helpful to begin with an understanding of God’s relationship to His people as outlined in Scripture. In Genesis 17:4-14 He changes Abram’s name to Abraham, father of many, and proclaims His promise. God makes it clear that the covenant He is making is for Abraham and his descendants, an everlasting covenant for all proceeding generations. In case there are any questions, children as young as eight days old are mentioned.

God develops the concept in Exodus 12:24-27, on the eve of the destruction of the firstborns in Egypt. Moses gives instructions to celebrate the Passover meal after entering the promised land. It is clear that children are expected to be integral members of the celebration. Adults are directed to give a specific answer to them when asked about the meaning of the ceremony. The Passover is to be an opportunity to share the salvation of the Lord with the next generation.

Children are also addressed by Moses in the renewal of God’s covenant promises at Moab. Deuteronomy 29:1-2,10-15 record that he summoned “all the Israelites,” reminding them of their unique position as God’s people and of His promises to them. Moses defines those “standing today in the presence of the Lord your God” as specific groups of men “together with your children and your wives.” This family inclusive understanding is reiterated in verse 15 as God’s covenant is confirmed to “you who are standing with us today” and those who are yet to come.

Lest we think the inclusion of children is an Old Testament phenomenon or a historic anomaly, let us consider Acts 2:38,39. Paul makes it abundantly clear that, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” God makes it plain that children are included in naming His people. Once again the continuity of Old and New Testament rings true.

Embracing children in the believing community is one thing, but what does God’s Word say about involving them in the corporate worship experience? There is a similar flow of understanding from the Old to the New Testament. We can begin at the point where the Israelites have conquered their enemies in the promised land. Jericho has fallen and atonement has been offered for the sin of Ai, Joshua 8:33-35.

Joshua called “All Israel” together for a worship service on Mount Ebal. An altar was built and sacrifices presented by the Levites. The covenant between God and His people was renewed through the reading of the words of the law. There may be those who would imply that such a lengthy and gathering only included adult males. Verse 35 makes it plain that “women and children” were present. God’s record says that children were part of the worshipping community.

Children were also included in a nation-wide prayer and supplication service proclaimed by Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:3-20. There was a great threat bearing down on the kingdom and Jehoshaphat knew that “all Judah” needed to appeal to God. Specific mention is made of “wives and children and little ones” in the list of those present (v. 13). When “Jehoshaphat bowed his face to the ground”, “all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord.” (v. 18)

Joel 2:15,16 may bring the most clarity to God’s explanation of the worshipping community. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.” The Old Testament makes it plain that those as young as nursing babies are expected to be intimately involved when God’s people gather before Him.

The New Testament does not contain such tidy lists. Rather, we need to consider referential testimony about the inclusion of children. It is as if God has already laid the foundation that families with children are an integral part of the worshipping community.

Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20 provide directions to children. Since these epistles were written to the worshipping community in Ephesus and Colossae. They were read as sermons to the gathered believers. It is reasonable to expect that the children would have been present to receive the instructions being sent specifically for them.

Matthew 18:1-4 and Mark 10:13-16 communicate the understanding that Jesus had a very positive view of children. He wanted them in His presence. He used them as powerful examples to those around Him. He offered special blessings on their behalf. It is important to consider why the children were nearby in these instances. How was Jesus able to literally reach out and touch them? The obvious answer is that they were there worshipping with their families.

John 6:1-15 contains the only parable that is contained in all four Gospels. (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:32-44, Luke 9:10-17) On this occasion a child is specifically mentioned as part of the worshipping community. Scripture reports that Jesus used the items “a boy” brought with him, five small loaves and two small fish, to feed those assembled before Him. A child was not only present, but served the gathered community of believers.

1 Timothy was written to a young man entering pastoral ministry. Verse 4:12 is, nevertheless, an admonition to people of all ages, especially young people. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” All members of the family of God have a place and purpose. We all need to be active, respectful worshippers and examples to others, both old and young.

We have opened this topic with a Scriptural foundation. We understand that there are related issues. 1 Corinthians 14:40, Philippians 2:5-11 and Ephesians 6:1-4 also come to mind. We will address these topics in coming articles as we seek to develop the proposition that one way to foster a spirit and life yielded to God in each member of the body is to seek to incorporate united families into the corporate worship experience.

This entry was posted in Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Angels in the Pews – reprinted in The Aquila Report, November 2011

  1. kathrine says:

    I loved Angels in the Pews, and can’t wait to see how you develop it. As the mother of two boys that I desire to be in church with me, I was encouraged by your premise and scriptural examples. The oldest was a breeze to train, but our second now in his toddling years, is proving to test my resolve! Thank you for taking on this topic


  2. ginger says:

    So thankful that at Rock Church Worship Center, Inc. they allow Children to gather with family for worship. we have 5 kids! we see such a difference in the two oldest compared to the three youngest. the three younger ones will raise their hands in worship because that is what they have “seen” for MOST of their lives our youngest has known no other way, he was ALWAYS included in the worship songs. In the past our two oldest were ushered to their “Classes” and now they have a hard time and rarely join in even singing at church. this was a concept(Children joining family) i have struggled with when we joined the church 3 years ago, but now i would have it no other way, I LOVE seeing, not only my children, but all the children in the church dancing and raising their voices and hands right along side the parents =0) ,

  3. Liz Gitonga says:

    When I read this article I immediately forwarded the link to our pastor. In our church meeting last week he shared how he had come to the realization that age segregated worship is not biblical and he would like the church to move towards family worship services. When our older daughter was younger we were part of a church that embraced family worship and we loved it.When we attended a family hymn sing service last Sunday, I heard our younger daughter (6) whisper to her friend, “we are so lucky today we don’t have to go to Sunday school”, and they went on to fully participate in the hymn singing Looking forward to the future articles on this topic.

  4. Derek Conrad says:

    I believe this is truly God’s design for things.
    Today while attending church with my family some thing interesting happened.
    We attend church where the children have separate services, so I sit in for the first half of the adult service then go for the second half with my daughter in the children’s section.
    During our time of singing, my two year old daughter walked out with my wife to go to the bathroom. When they returned I was on my knees singing and worshipping God right next to my eldest sister. When I opened my eyes I was surprisingly excited to see my child kneeling right in front of me! I’m sure she was simply doing what she saw being done by her father and aunty and that’s just the point! She was imitating me as I worshipped in song and prayer, I think that makes it easier for us when we eventually get to the point where we teach her intelligently about worship!
    To God be the Glory

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *